By Marsha Sutton
Continuing with last week’s theme of school board agenda items concerning financial matters and policies and procedures, some decisions and actions taken in the San Dieguito Union High School District are mildly noteworthy.
SDUHSD’s special education costs will be lower this year, according to an Aug. 22 board report submitted by Mike Grove, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of educational services.
The number of students placed in non-public schools (NPS) dropped, from 52 last year to 48 this year. And the number of students placed by the district in residential treatment centers (RTC) dropped from 16 to nine this year. RTCs are facilities where students live full-time, and NPSs are privately run day schools that students are transported to and from by the district.
This decrease of 11 students previously placed in facilities outside the district resulted in a savings of about $1 million to the district’s general fund, Grove said. All 11 have been brought back into the district in district-created special education programs. These programs cost the district about $500,000, resulting in a potential decrease in encroachment on the general fund for special education of about $500,000 this year.
Another four or five students may return to the district later this year, he said, which would save more money.
“We believe we can serve those kids much more cheaply than a residential treatment center because those can be anywhere from $90,000 to $140,000 a year to place one student there,” Grove said.
Grove cited two primary reasons for the drop in special education costs: the district’s creation of newly-designed special ed programs and the return of some former NPS and RTC students who received appropriate treatment and can now be integrated back into the district’s already existing special ed programs.
San Dieguito’s new program to accommodate special ed students who formerly qualified for RTC or NPS facilities is called Seaside Prep and is housed at Torrey Pines High School.
Grove said the district worked closely with special education attorneys and advocates to design Seaside Prep, to ensure that the program would adequately serve students’ needs.
“As long as we can provide appropriate services, that’s the key – the right service for the right kid,” Grove said. “That’s why we still have large numbers of kids in non-public schools and in RTCs, because we can’t serve all kids.”
The district identified the students it felt could be well-served at Seaside Prep, and Grove said there was little resistance from parents. The alternative is sending their children to a distant residential facility that can be as far away as Texas or Utah, or having them ride a bus nearly an hour each way to attend an NPS.
“Most parents want their kids to be near home or school,” he said. “They want them to go to community schools if there’s a program that can support them.”
Title and salary adjustment
Also at that meeting, board members discussed a revision in title and salary for the position of executive director of curriculum and instruction. The district asked the board to approve a title change, to executive director of educational services, with a corresponding bump in salary to $144,772 from $137,009.