Honorable Judge Ochoa
Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Santa Barbara County Grand Jury Foreperson
1100 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Dear Judge Ochoa and Ms. Corlett:
As requested by the Grand Jury, this letter contains responses to the findings and recommendations included in the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report, Special Education in Santa Barbara County Schools.
On behalf of the school districts that make up the Santa Barbara County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), I would like to thank the Grand Jury for the thoroughness with which they reviewed the federal and state requirements for provision of services to special education students. I would also like to commend the Grand Jury for acknowledging the complexity of the programmatic and funding issues associated with special education. Responses to the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations follow below.
Improvements could be made in the delivery of special education services in the county, regardless of funding shortfalls.
The school districts comprising the Santa Barbara County SELPA are continually seeking ways to improve the delivery of services and the educational outcomes for all students. Part of the role of the SELPA is to provide opportunities for district special education administrators to share and become familiar with new and promising educational practices designed to enhance the achievement levels of our special education students.
The Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) Joint Powers Agency should:
a) Improve assessment and intervention to enhance compliance above the minimum
As explained above, the Santa Barbara County SELPA undertakes continual efforts to seek out and implement innovative assessment practices and intervention techniques designed to improved educational outcomes for children with disabilities.
b) Redesign the appeal process to make it understandable and usable
The special education appeal process is outlined in federal and state law and is administered by the California Department of Education. The Santa Barbara County SELPA does not have the power or authority to redesign it. The SELPA is required to include in its Notice of Parental and Adult Students Rights and Responsibilities a description of the procedural safeguards that make up the appeal process. These legal
requirements are complex. Each time parents meet with special education staff to review and revise the educational plan for their child, they are given an opportunity to have a complete explanation of all of their parental rights, including those related to the special education appeal process.
c) Require a strategic improvement plan from each school district
The California Department of Education is currently developing guidelines for use by local school districts in improving the educational outcomes for students enrolled in special education programs. A new state system for monitoring the implementation of special education is also being piloted by CDE beginning in 1999-2000. This system of "Focused
Monitoring" will be carried out at a district-by-district rather than at a SELPA level.
d) Form a consortium for special education to improve the delivery of services
The Santa Barbara County SELPA is a consortium of school districts that has been formed pursuant to state requirements to assure that all children with disabilities residing within the SELPA receive appropriate special education services regardless of their category of disability. Children with low incidence disabilities, such a visual or hearing impairments, have access to special education services provided through "shared programs". These programs are available to children with such needs regardless of whether the service is provided by the district in which they reside.
I would again like to thank the members of the Grand Jury for their thoughtful report regarding Santa Barbara County’s special education programs. As the Grand Jury pointed out in the Commendations section of the Report, the special education teachers in our schools are indeed "dedicated, creative and effective educators." We appreciate the Grand Jury’s recognition of their efforts.