Manteca Unified School District serves more than 23,000 students from age 3 to 22. Out of that number are some 2,800 students enrolled in the district’s Special Education program.
In addition, the district also has some 240 students in the same age range enrolled in county programs.
These students are residents of Manteca, Lathrop, French Camp and Stockton’s Weston Ranch plus the unincorporated San Joaquin County surrounding areas which, all together, make up the school district’s jurisdiction.
The district’s Special Education offers a range of programs and services. First off, though, to get rid of some confusion while reading the rest of the story, here is a glossary of sorts for some of the bureaucratic acronyms.
• SELPA is Special Education Local Plan Area.
• RSP is Resource Specialist Program.
• SDC simply means Special Day Class.
• And LEP stands for Individual Education Program.
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MUSD Special Education services
Special Education programs and services provided by Manteca Unified range from Speech, Adapted Physical Education, Occupational Therapy, Counseling, Resource Special Program (RSP) pull-out and push-in services, Special Day Class (mild) self-contained classes, and SDC (moderate) self-contained classes.
“We also have available to us as part of being in the San Joaquin County SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) SDC moderate/severe classes for students who have a high level of need that we cannot meet their needs within the district programming,” explained Roger Goatcher, Manteca Unified Director of Special Education.
There is a team process involving teachers and parents that help determine into which programs special students should be placed. That team is called the IEP.
“In all cases, the services and programs are discussed at the IEP (Individual Education Program team) meeting,” Goatcher said.
From that discussion, the IEP team will come up with the decisions on what level of services are needed by the students “so that they are placed in the Least Restrictive Environment and (have) access to same-age peers as much as practical,” he said.
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Special Education teaching staff
There are two levels of teachers who make up MUSD’s Special Education teaching staff. There are the credentialed teachers, and then there are the paraprofessionals.
As with every teaching-position hiring in the district, Special Education teachers are required to provide appropriate teaching credentials which is based on the class that they will be teaching. A Resource Specialist teacher, for example, has to show a valid Educational Specialist-Mild/Moderate credential, Goatcher explained.
“The Commission on Teacher Credentialing defines the different levels of certification and authorizations a teacher must have in order to teach a particular class and/or student,” Goatcher said.
There are separate credentials needed for a Moderate/Severe Education Specialist, and another for a Mild/Moderate Educational Specialist, both of which require specific training and specific areas of instruction.
What happens when there are not enough credentialed teachers available? Goatcher said that in these rare cases, “the district will hire interns that must complete the credentialing obligations within a three-year period of time. We follow the mandates as given to us by the California Credentialing and Education Code.”
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Who are the special Ed paraprofessionals?
Working in tandem with the credentialed Special Education teachers are the paraprofessionals who play a big part and a significant role in maintaining the program and providing the special services.
By definition, paraprofessonials are trained workers who are not members of a given profession but assist a professional in the field. The school worker who reported Leo Bennett-Cauchon’s alleged “inappropriate touching” behavior toward one of his students was, according to information provided to the Bulletin, a paraprofessional who was working with him the day the reported incident allegedly happened.
According to Goatcher, all paraprofessionals are required to have the following: either an Associate in Arts (AA) degree – or higher, or take a test which purpose is to demonstrate their academic subject knowledge competence. This is a mandate from the No Child Left Behind legislation.
“Furthermore, if a 1:1 (one-on-one set-up) is employed and the IEP (Independent Education Program) team feels that this person will need to have special knowledge on a certain aspect on the child, then the district would provide that training to the paraprofessional either through the classroom teacher or through other trained personnel,” Goatcher expounded.
But before this step is taken, the IEP team needs to give its blessing since it’s the team members who are most familiar to the situation and to the needs of the student concerned.
In some cases, the district also steps in to help would-be special paraprofessionals become ready for the rigors of the profession. Most recently, on Feb. 13, the district conducted such a training event for elementary professionals. Later this year, plans are under way for the district to hold a similar training for high-school level paraprofessionals.