The SELPA Administrators Association of California has launched the "Making it Happen" Podcast to help stakeholders better understand the role of SELPAs in California's education funding landscape for students with disabilities. This is exciting, as the work of the SELPA is often unknown... making this more transparent and accessible is very important , so I hope you will tune in to learn more!
The first episode is: "Making it Count: The Role of SELPA in Special Education Finance," featuring:
Eddie Davidson, Director of Fiscal Student Services for the Fresno County SELPA. Eddie has served for 25 years in Education Finance, 13 years in local school district finance and 12 years in the SELPA of Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. Fresno County SELPA consists of 31 LEAs serving over 8,600 students with disabilities, and their Charter SELPA has 15 LEAs with nearly 900 additional students with disabilities.
Dr. Robert McEntire, Director of Management Consulting Services for School Services of California. Robert is sought after as a presenter for many organizations including CASBO, USC’s School of Business, and CSBA. Prior to joining School Services, Robert served as an assistant superintendent and Chief Business Official in medium and large school districts in Southern California, and was a Chief Financial Officer in the corporate sector. He supports and advises school districts, county offices of education, and community colleges.
Anjanette Pelletier, Associate Superintendent of Special Education and SELPA for San Mateo County. Anjanette spent the first 10 of her 25 years in education as a school psychologist, later working in program specialist and director positions. She’s been the leader of San Mateo’s SELPA for ten years. Anjanette provides exemplary leadership to our state association as the both the Chair of the Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education and the Co-Chair of the State SELPA Finance Committee.
Of possible interest:
Fresno County SELPA’s Model SELPA Finance Website. The site includes information about funding sources, allocations, uses of funds, reporting, and providing an FAQ sheet. He has even built a library of instructional videos on SELPA finance for his SELPA's member LEA business officials and has made all available to the public. We are so grateful for what he has put together and is willing to share.
Overview of Special Education in California, produced by the California Legislative Analyst's Office in November 2019, provides comprehensive information about the state of special education finance in California.
Additionally, the LAO website features four short instructional videos that are a must-watch. Each of the following videos is less than two minutes in length and gives a solid overview of the structure of special education and funding in California.
What is Special Education?
Who Receives Special Education?
How is Special Education Organized?
How is Special Education Funded?
California's Special Education Funding System Creates Challenges and Opportunities for District and Charter Schools, Bellwether Educational Partners, May 2019
Visit the SELPA Administrators of California at www.selpa.info and check out our finance pages.
Like the SELPA Administrators of California on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SELPAStrong
Supporting Students with Mental Health Needs at School (as posted in the DREDF October Newsletter)
"Students with mental health, emotional, or behavioral needs, like all children, need to be understood, supported, and appreciated in their schools and communities. Specialized services and supports may be required to help these children succeed at school, and problems at school can create or increase mental health needs. As schools have resumed in-person learning for most students this year, it’s become clear that mental health is a significant area of need. United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently released a startling statistic in a report on school age children’s mental health needs. The report stated that before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1 in 5 students was struggling with their mental health--an already concerning number--but researchers now estimate it has increased to close to 8 out of every 10 students!
Students are returning to school after more than a year of isolation from their peers and other social supports. Many families are dealing with financial crises including housing or job losses. Many children have experienced their own illness or that of a family member. They may have even lost family members including parents or other loved ones. These traumatic events are likely to affect a child so significantly that they will struggle with school and learning. Students with disabilities went without or were provided very reduced school-based resources and supports during remote learning, including mental health services or other help that they need to learn. All these factors create significant risk of an increased need for mental health screening and services at a time when schools are dealing with the continuing risk of COVID-19 and shortages of school staff, including nurses, counselors, and teachers.
Problems with mental health can influence school attendance, academic performance, graduation and dropout rates, behavior and discipline problems and health and safety risks. Unmet mental health needs affect not just individual students but also families, schools and communities and need to be addressed as early as possible. And problems at school often increase a student’s needs for mental health support. It’s a two-way street.
For children with disabilities or suspected disabilities, it’s important to determine if and how mental health challenges might be creating difficulties at school. Sometimes the signs of a problem are obvious, but they can be hard to see. A student may withdraw, act out, struggle to learn, resist going to school, or show other signs of stress through their behavior. They may put all their energy into getting through the school day, only to fall apart at home because they are so stressed. A child who did not previously qualify for special education or a 504 plan may need to be evaluated to determine if they are now eligible for that help. Teams may need to adjust existing IEP or 504 plans so that mental health support can be added, increased or provided differently.
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires that an IEP (Individualized Education Program) be created in all areas of need for an eligible student, regardless of disability category they are in. Often, the mental health needs of disabled children and youth are overlooked because school staff assume that whatever problems or needs occur are the result of their known disability or problems at home. They may tell a family that “all children with autism struggle with that behavior” for example, when parents try to explain a new issue. A child’s needs should never be determined based on stereotypes about their known disability or assumptions about their home situation and can only truly be assessed by reviewing available data and the evidence collected as part of an evaluation. Regardless of the source of the problem, if it is so significant that the child is struggling to attend, participate, learn, and behave at school, an evaluation is the only way to determine whether they qualify for services and support under existing education and disability laws. The process involves testing as well as input from parents, the student, educators, and outside professionals and direct observation and timelines apply for how quickly it must be done. Both formal and informal data helps the team determine what kind of services, supports, and help will best benefit a student in achieving their education goals. An evaluation should be whenever concerns arise, regardless of whether the student is in preschool, high school, or somewhere in between.
When requesting a mental health evaluation, make sure you document your concerns and give examples when you request the evaluation. Here is a sample letter to use as a guide: Requesting an ERMHS (Educationally Related Mental Health Services) Assessment. Different states and school districts may use different terminology for this type of evaluation but our sample letter gives you instructions about how to describe the problems you’re seeing. Another resource is our School Reintegration/Transition Plan Sample Letter for students who are struggling to return to school after a health, including mental health crisis: And our free online training this month focuses on mental health needs, behavior and discipline—find complete details in the training information provided below.
It is essential that schools, healthcare providers and families work together to ensure that students get the mental health support they need to attend, participate, and succeed at school. Recognizing the increased need, extra state and federal funding is going to schools to address it. Parents and other stakeholders need to weigh in on how these funds are used. There are many ways to do this, including writing to the superintendent and school board, attending public meetings to speak, or participating in budget and funding decision making committees. Contact your school leadership to learn more about these opportunities.
Disability is part of human diversity, and mental health is an important consideration for all of us. We hope these resources assist you in making sure that all students get the help they need to learn and succeed at school."
Although many schools have returned to in-person learning over the past month, we know that the pandemic is still with us. We await vaccines for those under 12yo and we know that some parents and students have chosen not to be vaccinated. Safety measures are in place at schools, as they have been for the past year, but cases and contacts have forced many students into quarantines for safety.
There has been some confusion about how learning is to continue in the event students must suddenly be off campus for 10 days.
I have been gathering information about how districts are working through this issue, how instruction is continuing, and what impact this is having on our students -- as well as on parents & teachers.
If you have experienced a quarantine in the past month and are willing to share your experience, I'd be grateful to know what's happening in your district.
Please feel free to contact me or share my contact information (firstname.lastname@example.org / 415.531.0508) with anyone you know who might be willing to share how their school is navigating emergency quarantines.
Welcome to the Learning Together Podcast. The first episode explores what a "SELPA" and "CAC" are & why they are important for our education system. Enjoy!
As a member of the San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities, and as Chair of the Youth and Family Committee, we are do a lot of work to engage with the community, listen to the needs that exist, and share & connect our community with the amazing resources that exist and are continually being developed. Find out more about the Commission and our meeting times here. Join us!
I was recently interviewed by Elise Holtzman of The Lawyer's Edge. We discussed how I became passionate about equity and inclusion & an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities; trends occurring in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) realm in and out of the workplace; how we distinguish diversity, equity, and inclusion; and the concept of ableism and how it needs to be embedded in DEI practices.
You can listen at: https://thelawyersedge.com/podcast/chelsea-bonini-interview/