Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rankin terminates autism program

Rankin parents are up in arms over the Rankin County School Board's decision to close a special program for children suffering from autism.  The Clarion-Ledger reported:

The Rankin County School District will abolish a key component of its autism program next school year despite protests from parents who say their children have thrived in the specialized environment.

Parents were told this week the two K-6 autism classrooms at the district's Oakdale Elementary School will close and their children will be moved into self-contained settings or transferred to institutions.

The announcements were made individually, at special education meetings scheduled with each set of parents, and came as a complete surprise to everyone.

"I was told just two weeks ago that Logan would have the same teacher next year," said Barbara Crawford of Brandon, speaking about her son. "Then this week they say they are not going to have the teacher or the program anymore."

The district's handling of the classrooms' closure might be in violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, said Joy Hogge, executive director of Jackson-based Families as Allies.....

District officials say they understand the concerns but insist the decision was made in the best interests of all children while also adhering to an increasingly limited budget.

The autism program itself will continue, said Assistant Superintendent Richard Morrison, but it will no longer occur in specialized classrooms. Instead it will be dispersed throughout the district with teachers getting extra training this summer in the area of autism.

That way, he said, all of the district's 149 children with autism can benefit from services instead of just this one small group.

Parents, though, say the whole point of the program is to place children with severe autism in structured classrooms where they get services tailored to their special needs. Once the classrooms disappear, they say, the program ends.

"You're taking away the whole of what they had and giving them just parts," said Olivia Moore of Brandon, whose 7-year-old son Kole Atkisson has been in the program for one year. "They don't even have a plan. They're just winging it."

Moore said she called the elementary school assigned to take her son next year. Special education staff there didn't even know the autism classrooms were being dismantled, much less that they would be taking her son, she said.

Morrison disagreed. All the schools know of the plan, he said.....

Rankin County launched its autism program in 2009 after the closure of the Mississippi Child Development Institute, a school run by the University of Mississippi Medical Center that provided intensive services to children with autism.

The Rankin County program started with four children in one classroom and since has grown to 12 students in two classrooms. They get behavioral-based learning, sensory therapy and other services not typically available to other special-needs kids.

It's so successful, Morrison said, that families are moving into the Rankin County School District just to take advantage of it.

"If it's so successful, why kill it? Why not expand it?" said Shelly Phillips of Brandon, who is Kole's step-mother.

The district cannot expand it due to lack of resources, Morrison said.

The two classrooms each are staffed by one special education teacher, one behavioral specialist and two teaching assistants. Personnel accounts for 90 percent of the program costs. The average teacher salary in Rankin is about $40,000.

Funds for special education come from the federal government, with Rankin County getting $8.7 million in 2012, according to the most recent figures available from the Mississippi Department of Education..... Rest of the article

Kingfish note: If any parents wish to discuss that matter, please send email to


Anonymous said...

I've been extremely disappointed with the RCSD's decisions over the past couple of years on many things, but this is one of the worst decisions they've made. This is one place these children go to have help, a regular schedule, and dedicated teachers and assistants.

RCSD needs to stop spending so much on administrative salaries and large administrative buildings, and remember why they are here - to help teach children, all children.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what cuts have been made to sports programs?

Anonymous said...

articles says 12 students in 2 full time classrooms with special staff. very costly Rankin County should never have created such a specialized unit when UMC dropped their program. the beef should be with UMC.

Anonymous said...

7:23, how is that any different from special ed in general?

Anonymous said...

7:23 - So, just because it costs more, those children should be thrown in with the other students?

Anonymous said...

Imagine Weathersby and company are just using this to show why everyone needs to vote for the MAEP amendment. If the school made budget cuts in areas that no one noticed, there wouldn't be any stories or outcries. Got to make the public feel the pain as much as possible. Anyone remember sequester or the gov't shutdown?

Anonymous said...

6:20 wrote- ..." This is one place these children go to have help, a regular schedule, and dedicated teachers and assistants."
Why doesn't the state develop a mental health program that would eliminate school districts from this task statewide.

Anonymous said...

"Why doesn't the state develop a mental health program that would eliminate school districts from this task statewide."

And ponies for everyone. Don't forget to wish for ponies.

Anonymous said...

@9:21: Because they won't be living in a world of mental health buildings, they will be living in a world around people doing everyday things as they grow older.

Anonymous said...

the money pot is only so big, and when the rankin board looked at it all: academics, sports, arts, special education, autism, and so forth--they decided to cut this program. Why should the government pay for every special need? what's next: a left-handed school? a school for kids with adhd? let the parents of kids with autism band together and do their own homeschooling--whatever. don't rely upon the government for your happiness, or you will be let down time and time again.

Anonymous said...

There has been gross overspending in the district for years and it seems to be catching up. Approximately 1/2 of your tax bill in Rankin County goes to one entity (The Rankin County Schools) the other 1/2 goes to the county for roads...jail..sheriff...etc basically running the county. With all the growth in Rankin why in the heck can't they make that money work for them? Fire the contracted layer Freddie Harrell who makes in the $300K to $400K range just from the School District and Hire one for $150K.....That would be just a start. Lynn Weathersby has got to go and the up coming elections wont get here soon enough. We need a personal audit of the RCSD

Anonymous said...

11:23, you don't have a problem with fully funding sports when academic programs have to be cut in order to do that?

Anonymous said...

"don't rely upon the government for your happiness, or you will be let down time and time again."

Looking forward to your old age, when you make do without Social Security or Medicare.

Anonymous said...

Don't people pay into SS and Medicare their entire lives and then collect? Kind of different...

Anonymous said...

for 1:03, where do you think the SS and Medicare money comes from?
It is our money the govt is giving back to us idiot

Anonymous said...

omg, go to the corner. You don't collect SS or Medicare out of an "account" you've built up.

For that matter, the autistic kids' parents paid school taxes, no?

Anonymous said...

Ya'll are crazy. These kids are entitled to an education just as all other kids in the district are. Just because they need special help, you think they should be homeschooled? How the hell can parents do that when they need to work? Get real.

Regarding cutting sports, they won't even build one of their newer schools a football field, so I think that train of thought is moot.

Anonymous said...

It's true that 'they are entitled to an education'. However, it is NOT true that special needs students are 'entitled' to specially designed, exhorbitantly expensive programs that cripple budgets and have questionable outcomes.

One ever-present reality in developing well-intentioned programs is that one day they might come to an end for good reasons....and then the shrill pissing and moaning begin as if an entitlement is being eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Some morons posting here are ignorant of the SCOTUS ruling several years ago that school districts are OBLIGATED to provide an "appropriate" education for every kid in the district. For these kids that means a much mnore expensive program, and that's the way it is.

If you don't like paying for it you can move and find a school district that doesn't have any autistic kids to educate. Good luck finding that.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but if a school district has a program for gifted students, then it needs to have a program for special needs students. Otherwise, the district is treating students unequally.

Anonymous said...

"Some morons posting here..." should read more carefully.

The autism program itself will continue, said Assistant Superintendent Richard Morrison, but it will no longer occur in specialized classrooms. Instead it will be dispersed throughout the district with teachers getting extra training this summer in the area of autism.

That way, he said, all of the district's 149 children with autism can benefit from services instead of just this one small group.

Anonymous said...

3:44, "liberal" Supreme Court decisions are ignored by some here, being obviously illegitimate.

Schools Are Not Miracle Workers said...

There is nothing in any court directive stating that 'such children' must be enrolled in programs that somehow, in order to please their parents, equals in every respect the curriculum available to students not affected by disabilities and that, in the view of the parents, these programs must have outcomes pleasing in every respect to those parents. In other words, there ain't no miracle programs, regardless of school district. Life is sometimes harsh.

Anonymous said...

4:20, you cannot honestly believe that a program such as this can be replaced by a few hours of teacher training over the summer break. That is an insult to the intelligence of anyone who understands what it takes to have a good special education program.

Anonymous said...

Oakdale has a special needs class, the autism classes are in addiction to that. The program served 12 students. What about the autistic students in Star? Their parents can't get them across the county to Oakdale. Should the 12 students in the program have a special setting that isn't available to the rest of the students in the district? Starting this program in the first place may not have been wise, but I can see there is sound rationale in making a decision to close it. Take emotion out of it.

I agree on the point that the administration of the RCSD is a train wreck. With the amount of money they have, there is no reason that NWR doesn't look like Germantown.

Anonymous said...

As a grandparent of a child on the autism spectrum, and having early contact with RCSD when autism was suspected, I am not surprised at this development. RCSD evaluated my grandchild at less than 3 years old and was very candid in stating that while they strongly suspected autism, they had NO resources to offer other than special education, and then only when the child was old enough to enter kindergarten. Thankfully, this family investigated other options, including early intervention and a difficult out of state move to a school district less likely to push bright kids into special education just because they learn differently. My grandchild is now benefiting from a school environment that seeks to teach to a child's strength rather than focus on their 'weakness.' Autism spectrum kids can LEARN and are typically very bright, but their brains are wired differently and they learn differently. The 'neuro typical summer school taught teachers' will be overwhelmed this fall, and that's not fair to the teachers or the ANY of the district's school children.

Anonymous said...

7:41, if the program is working, then why not expand it to offer spots to other kids who need it, like the kids in Star? Why is it a sound rationale to close the whole thing rather than expanding it? You seem to agree that there ought to be enough money to do those kind of things if the money was being spent wisely.

Anonymous said...

There's only so much money people.

These tards consume more than they will ever give back.

Home school them.

The above is the exact sentiment which is expressed by the people who just made this decision.

Parents should demonstrate to the public how these services help and what sort of return the public can expect.

God bleed all who manage and cope and strive despite the extra difficulties.

Anonymous said...

4:10,I understand they have eliminated gifted(Venture)programs at NWR. Mark Twain was right.

Anonymous said...

9:49 am is apparently very young or else Mississippi, unlike other states never pooled their resources to help those with special needs. Of course, the schools for the deaf and once for the blind seemed to indicate they did.
With vaccinations for measles , children are less likely to be deaf or blind.
Now Autism is epidemic.
A local school system is not likely to be able to keep up with the latest advances .
We need to be able to take advantage of economies of scale as well rather than continue to duplicate.
And, the families of autistic children need to be able to take advantage of the political clout that comes with numbers if we are going to get government resources focused on finding the cause and , one day, prevention of autism.
I can't imagine that many autistic children would not be worse off with the stimulation found in a regular classroom setting.
I know some of you don't like government. But, I would remind you that there are things in life you can't do by yourself. You lack the resources. The magnitude of the problem dictates the resources needed.
Autism is a national problem and MS can't address it alone anymore than Alabama could have built the bridge across Mobile Bay without outside resources.
We needed horses, then cars and the roads and bridge to progress and compete, so yes,so as to be as independent as possible. That's not a dog or pony show. That's a society making sure it survives.

Anonymous said...

Schools Are Not Miracle employed by RCSD, I would wager. Just hope it's not one of the teachers who, after 36 hours on the Gulf Coast at an educational 'summer seminar' on how to teach to an ASD kid, takes their SH***TY attitude out in the classroom...pity the ASD kid and butt-hurt sorry for the kid's parents.

Anonymous said...

Lynn Weathersby is the best example of why we need appointed superintendents.

Anonymous said...

7:25,Ditto, it is a rigged system, the best manager in the world without a Masters in School Admin cannot be a super? elections are staggered so the entire school board cannot be voted out, unlike our US Congressmen. Saw the words, 'morons' and 'tards' in this string, words I never hear, only used by those hidden via the internet.

Anonymous said...

" Saw the words, 'morons' and 'tards' in this string, words I never hear, only used by those hidden via the internet. "

You seriously claim you have never heard anyone called a moron except for on this blog?!?

You should get out more.

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