By Meg Dickens
FREELANCE WRITER

With the start of the 2019-2020 school year only weeks away, members of the Johnson County School Board had a long list of topics to cover during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting held in Mountain City, TN, last week.

While all of the topics on the roster merit equal attention, one specific agenda item, namely Special Education, received some much-deserved consideration, especially since the program and what it should accomplish is often misunderstood.

Special education is the practice of educating students with a focus on their individual differences and needs. The program is for students with mental, physical, or emotional functioning ability issues as well as gifted students. These students do not fit with the pace of the established curriculum. This specialized care is part of the education system and comes at no extra cost to the families.According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 14 percent of the public school population is in some form of Special Education.

The Tennessee Department of Education states, “Special education is not a place. It is the most intensive intervention along the continuum of service defined by individual need, services, and placement.”

Special Education can be broken down into six major categories: Push-in Services, Pull-out Services, Inclusive Classrooms, Exclusive Classrooms, Specialty Schools, and Residential Programs. Johnson County Schools focuses on the first four categories that can be classified as Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

“Individualized special education services allow the majority of our special education students to earn a regular high school diploma, and many go on to college and other post-secondary programs,” said Special Education Supervisor Paula Norton. “There are several other diploma options for special education students who are not candidates for a regular diploma. The ultimate goal for our students with disabilities is to be a fully functioning member of the community, just like their typically developing peers.”

There are a few changes in Special Education staffing for Johnson County Schools’ 2019-2020 school year. Kim Laws will now work with children at Mountain City Elementary, and Allen Trivette will work with children at Roan Creek Elementary. Trivette worked in the Johnson County School system for a brief stint previously but resigned due to family illness. Both of these staff changes became effective on July 1, 2019.

Mountain City Elementary is still looking for a new Special Education teacher. The previously hired individual found a job closer to home and resigned. Anyone interested in the position should visit https://jocoed.tedk12.com/hire/ for more information or contact Special Education Supervisor Paula Norton at pnorton@jocoed.net.