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March 20, 2018

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Accuracy of report disputed

Some special educators are questioning the validity of a scathing Clark County School District audit, alleging a number of inaccuracies.

Judy Miller, coordinator of the Child Find program -- which the auditors recommended be shut down -- said information regarding her department is "less than accurate."

Miller said there "seems to be the perception that students assessed through Child Find are currently enrolled in the district. They are not. The children that come through our program are from out of state.

"The assumption that we were seeing the same kids that were attending schools in the district was the most glaring error."

Miller said the report overstated the number of personnel in the program, which identifies and places special ed students.

"They said we have 24," she said. But she said her department has only three full-time employees, including three teachers and two nurses. Child Find also has five part-time psychologists.

Consultants Ed Sontag and David Rostetter said they understood and appreciated the functions of Child Find. Their criticism focused on the program for creating what they called a "bottleneck, an inordinate waiting list for services."

"We're saying, 'decentralize the resources. Move the services closer to neighborhood schools,'" Sontag said.

Judy Moseley, assistant director of speech-language therapy at the Seigle Diagnostic Center, said the consultants painted an inaccurate picture regarding her department's attendance of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association convention in Orlando, Fla.

The department was criticized for using third-party billing funds to send 13 employees to the ASHA convention, at a cost of $13,000.

"I'm very upset," Moseley said. "The report mentioned on four different pages that 13 staff members went to Florida, as if we were sent on vacation. The fact that they mentioned it four times says it was an important issue to them," yet she says neither Sontag nor Rostetter spoke with her regarding the trip.

Moseley said Sontag met with her on two separate occasions, once before the conference and once after the conference.

"They never mentioned it when they met with me, and they had plenty of opportunities to call me since then. Had I known this was going to be an explosive issue, I would have made it a point to bring it up with them.

"This is the first time we ever got staff development funds to go to something like this, and then we get stabbed."

Angry at the report's portrayal, Moseley has prepared a presentation for the School Board's 10 a.m. Friday meeting to defend the ASHA trip.

"The ASHA convention sets the standard for practice in the country in speech pathology," Moseley said. "(Staff) applied directly what they got (at the convention) to instructing children."

In addition, Moseley said staff members who attended the convention presented a "mini-ASHA conference" on Feb. 26 for those who were not able to attend the four-day conference in Florida.

The multi-session conference covered topics ranging from computer applications, to developmental motor speech disorders, to facilitating friendship between children with and without special needs, to targeting articulation and phonological goals in the preschool classroom.

Moseley said the audit report also misrepresented the origination of funds for attending the conference. "I think they're comparing apples to oranges, because this was money that was meant for staff development. It had nothing to do with money for supplies."

She also maintained that the cost for the trip was much lower than what was reported, and believes the auditors arrived at the $13,000 figure by using estimated costs for attendance at the conference.

"We tried everything we could do to keep down the cost. Four people shared a room, and the room only cost $29 a night. Another woman used her frequent flier miles for her air fare, and there were three other people who stayed in a private home. I don't think there was any padding of the bill."

In an effort to counter the consultants' findings, a group of specialists for hearing-impaired students reportedly met during classtime Tuesday to formulate a response at Friday's board meeting.

A district source, who asked not to be identified, said the group totaled about 20 instructors.

"Who was working with the kids while this was going on? We don't know," the source said.

The instructors could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, special ed staff received an internal district memo requesting their help in drafting an overall response to be presented by Special Education Services Director Tippy Reid at Friday's meeting.

According to the memo:

"Volunteers will be needed to talk to the board. Issues include:

* "1. Medicaid dollars should go to students, not to send staff to ASHA conference.

* "2. No change or improvement in the department."

Moseley disputes the auditors' assertion that there is no innovation in the district.

"When I was in that first interview with Dr. Sontag, I spent a lot of time telling him about the things we had done, things that were somewhat innovative, and I was surprised that nothing of that was shown in the report. We have done some really outstanding things."

She cited one program that takes children with severe disabilities and puts them on a regular campus, "giving them inclusion with their peers. They don't even mention that in the report, and that's a very innovative practice."

"Just the tone of the audit, it seems that they had a model they wanted to recommend we use, and I think they selectively interviewed people they wanted to interview, and avoided interviewing people that would give them information they didn't want."