ESE manual update draws praise in Hendry

CLEWISTON — Hendry County School Board members approved an update Jan. 15 of their Exceptional Student Education Special Policies and Procedures (SP&P) document that will be effective for the current school year through 2020-21.

The 135-page document lays out state ESE requirements, adds some district policies and states that together, they all are adopted by the school board as official regulations. They include wording preprinted by the Florida Department of Education that has not been altered. Also, “Any district-produced policy and procedures documents that meet the following criteria have been submitted to the Florida Department of Education with the SP&P.”

Though it was included as part of their consent agenda and Superintendent Paul Puletti explained it was a routine, required refresher, a couple of school board members commented specifically about it. The document, more of a manual, is meant to detail all the information parents could need to navigate the system if their children are determined to need special help.

Board member Stephanie Busin, parent to a child on the autism spectrum who’s gone through the district schools, wanted to make a statement about the update.

“My area of ‘mom’ expertise leads me down that pathway a lot, and I just want to say that I appreciate the leadership of that department and the time you’ve taken to put into this document — and to say that once before, I struggled with that department, and I’m very quickly building confidence in how well it’s run and the response that they’re showing students, not just in my own case but with other parents as well.

“And I would like to say that, you know, I understand these programs and procedures after being an engaged person for so long,” Mrs. Busin continued. “But I know, like, a lot of, especially your younger students and their parents, I mean it would be a great help to the district as well as the families if we help in trying to relate this information on how things work with parents so the contention between parents and school, parents and district, it helps with mending that. And otherwise I think it was a well-put-together document.”

Board Chairman Dwayne E. Brown thanked her for her comments, and asked, “So who wrote the document? Please tell them that we appreciate the job that they’ve done.”

Superintendent Puletti, with some surprise, replied, “Thank you, Mrs. Busin!” and then singled out those responsible in response to Mr. Brown’s question, saying, “That would be Dr. Angela Staley (the ESE director) and Kristi Durrance (ESE administrator).”

Mr. Brown thanked Mrs. Busin for the show of goodwill.

“When credit’s due, credit’s due,” she demurred. “I think we could always do better, and just to be able to help inform parents on the processes and procedures and help them learn how to help their kids and … work well in their school with the district will have a great return on investment for, most important, the students, but as well as the parents and schools.”

At their meeting, the Hendry School Board also:

• Observed a moment of silence in memory of Maria Olmedo, who was employed as a bus driver from 1988 through 2015.

• Recognized EES teacher Deborah Gwyn, who is retiring from Eastside Elementary School and was given a plaque “in appreciation for 30 years of faithful service to Hendry County.” Mr. Puletti asked what was next for her after posing for a picture. “Well, I’m just kind of debating what I’m going to do, taking it day by day. I may look for another job,” Mrs. Gwyn said to laughs. Mr. Puletti also noted that her husband was Teacher of the Year this year at Clewiston Middle School.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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