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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

November 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Wanted: Perspectives on special education in Seattle schools

Seattle Public Schools is looking for volunteers to weigh in on how the district serves — or fails to serve —  its more than 7,000 students with special needs.

The district is looking for anyone — especially principals and special education teachers — to be on an advisory committee that will make suggestions to district staff on special education issues. Wyeth Jessee, the district’s interim director of special education, said he hopes the committee becomes a place where the district can hear from a variety of voices.

The district’s special ed department has been under scrutiny in recent years. This fall, the state withheld $3 million in federal funds — about a third of the department’s federal funding but only a fraction of its overall budget — until the district can fix compliance and management problems. The district is in its second year of an improvement plan that was supposed to have been completed June 30.

Seattle’s top special education executive, Zakiyyah McWilliams, has been on administrative leave for nearly three months while the district looks into whether proper procedures were followed when it gave a $150,000 contract to a Louisiana-based consulting firm, which wrote a highly critical report of the district’s special ed department. When McWilliams was put on leave in August, the district said its review would take a few weeks. In September, McWilliams’ leave switched from administrative to medical, district spokeswoman Stacy Howard said. Howard would not provide any more details on the medical issues surrounding her leave, and said the district’s review was ongoing.

People on the committee will be asked to share their views about a number of topics, including: district special ed policies, future plans, proposed changes and how the district operates and manages its special ed programs.

The committee will take up to 30 people, which have to be approved by interim Superintendent Larry Nyland or a designee. At least two-thirds of the members must be parents of children with disabilities who are currently enrolled in a special education program in a Seattle public school.

The rest can be community members, teachers, higher education representatives or others. At least once a year, the committee will make recommendations to the head of the special education at the district.

Applications are due by Friday, Nov. 14, and can be found at seattleschools.org.

Comments | More in News | Topics: parent engagement, Seattle Public Schools, special education

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