09 Apr State Examines Mitchell Co. Spec. Ed. ClaimsApril 9, 2010
By: Jennifer EmerSource: WALB News
A whistleblower says a south Georgia school system is violating special education guidelines.
The complaints prompted 12 Georgia Department of Education field representatives to conduct a surprise inspection of the Mitchell County School System. They’ve been there the last three days.
The Mitchell County Special Education Coordinator said it was her responsibility to alert the state to compliance issues. She claims students goals aren’t be set or met and she’s leaving the system because of it. Now the state’s looking into the claims.
Special education state monitors are observing classes in Mitchell County to make sure the system is meeting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act guidelines. The program’s supervisor says they’re not.
"I told them then in the presence of my boss that I was not being allowed access to special education records and teachers," said Mitchell Co. Schools Special Ed. Coordinator Susan Gainous.
During visits to the high school, Susan Gainous was told to leave twice. The system has more than 200 students who fall under IDEA guidelines, but she worried those guidelines are not being met.
"In a substantial amount of cases their goals are not being addressed, the students have a record number of failures over two or three years," said Gainous.
Federal grants and money that comes with strict guidelines on how it can be used are also in question. During the visit a fiscal audit for appropriate use of federal funds was also conducted.
"Professional are hired from those fund and some of those professional support personnel were not being used in special education they were being used for regular substitutes," said Gainous.
Superintendent Beauford Hicks was out of town, but over the phone said he’s unaware of any personnel being used incorrectly. He said it’s not unusual for a school system to be monitored by the state. Gainous insisted she doesn’t have an ax to grind. She says she’s just concerned for the students.
"The students with disabilities in this county and the parents are not getting a fair shake or what they’re required by law," said Gainous.
She’s anxious to see what the state monitors find. The state will make their report available to the schools once it’s complete. State officials tell me if the system is out of compliance, it could lose federal funding.
This isn’t the first time the Mitchell County School System has been monitored by the state. In 2008, they were ruled out of compliance for these same issues.