PRESS RELEASE - September 29, 2003
New Mexico State Department
of Education

300 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2786

Ruth Williams
Public Outreach Director
(505) 476-0393

Focused Monitoring of Special Education in Espanola Scheduled to Begin on September 30

(Santa Fe, NM)--The New Mexico State Department of Education (SDE) and Espanola Public Schools announced today that focused monitoring visits will be conducted in the district from September 30 to October 3 in order to assure compliance with federal and state special education laws. A five to six-member SDE team will review test performance and participation by special education students, conduct interviews with district staff and parents, review files and make observations to determine any issues of noncompliance.

“Typically, the team will look at access by special education students to the general education curriculum to make sure appropriate modifications and accommodations are being provided; review the process, development and implementation of individual education plans (IEPs) for students; and issue a report outlining findings,” said Sam Howarth, director of the SDE’s Special Education Unit. “If areas of noncompliance exist, the district will be required to develop an improvement plan outlining the steps it will take to come into compliance.”

The SDE and district are working jointly to develop a plan for conducting an additional SDE-directed assessment of the district’s special education administrative structure and its links to the district’s upper administration, school administrations, the community and its special education programming. The plan is pending district approval.

“Both the state and district are concerned by the number of requests for due process hearings that have been filed in the district over the past two years. Although eight of the cases have been settled, there are still six open cases and we have a shared sense that this assessment would be greatly beneficial,” Howarth said.

Programs to be assessed include development and implementation of IEPs, delivery of IEP services, implementation of functional behavioral assessments and appropriate behavior intervention planning, implementation of multidisciplinary team meetings, qualifications and ability of staff to provide services, dissemination of information regarding parents’ rights, informed parent participation in the development of their children’s educational programs and other areas related to special education.

Based on the results of this assessment, the SDE will issue an improvement plan outlining the required steps that the district will undertake to remedy areas of noncompliance with IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and state regulation and to improve the health of the special education administrative system.