District Needs Additional Special Education Teacher

Bourbon School District special education director DiAnna Thompson said at the board’s January meeting an additional teacher was needed based on the growing number of class sizes and referrals.

Thompson told the board the administrative team had been discussing the need for one more teacher throughout the year. Around Christmas, she saw the number creeping up and felt it was time for additional help.

There are 21 students in the kindergarten and first grade special education class, plus nine referrals. Based on preliminary data, Thompson said she believed those referrals would qualify for services, giving one teacher 30 students.

“That is no longer what’s best for the kids,” Thompson said, noting that general education classrooms have fewer students. “It totally eliminates the idea of small groups and specialized education.”

Thompson told the board she had a candidate lined up but was waiting on a second reference. The board was supportive of a hire.

“I know it’s difficult to think about hiring a special education teacher in the middle of the year,” Thompson said, but added that if the students qualify, it’s not in their best interest to be in large classrooms.

The students have needs that go beyond just reading, writing and math. Thompson said special education teachers must address issues that extend to their home lives.

“We’re having to be moms, dads, caretakers, counselors and therapists for our kids,” she said.

Before the next school year, Thompson wants to look at a better way to distribute the students. In the second grade alone, there are 18 special needs students for one standalone teacher and three referrals in the works. “It keeps going on and on,” she said. “Next year we have to look at how we divide up children to do what’s best.”

In the fifth and sixth grade, there are 29 special needs students; 23 in seventh and eighth grade and 46 at the high school.

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