The Park City School District hired a new Special education Director who started August 1. Most recently, she’s coming from an academic job as a professor of psychology at Weber State University. Carolyn Murray has this:
Jacklyn Knapp said she wants to be in the Park City School District because there is so much opportunity with seven schools and an active community that includes the contributions made by the Education Foundation.
“I’ve always been in special education. You know, I started out as a para professional. In college I worked with children who had severe autism doing ABA. Moving on, I’ve worked for the University. I’ve consulted with the state office of education. I’ve worked doing educational consultation in private practice. And, I came from a charter co-op where I helped re-organize that special education program. So, I’ve had my feet wet in a number of areas that encompass special education.”
Knapp said it can be difficult to identify kids who need Special Ed resources. She said the K through 3 literacy programs, in Park City help identify and track disabilities so children can stay in the classroom if possible.
"So, this is a process of child find and it starts at a global level in the school where we are giving everybody good instruction. We identify at risk groups and there’s an uncomfortable conversation and sometimes we just have kiddos who need support all the way through school. But, it’s not necessarily special education. It’s just this fine balance sometimes. And, that’s looked at through historical information as they grow. We keep good records, we look at intervention trends and at the point where they’re just not able to make it themselves, that’s when we begin to serve them.”
The district has about 345 designated Special Ed students and she watches the data closely.
“We want to make sure we are not over-qualifying minority students, we are not over-qualifying students who are learning disabled, that they are getting appropriate instruction. So, I’m seeing the numbers currently hold true to what they should be on the state level. Our minority classifications are not out of hand. Our numbers are where they should be. And, I watch those monthly to make sure we don’t over exceed what we should.”
There’s a lot of research, she said, that shows Special Ed students do best if they remain in their classrooms as much as possible.
“Every time we take a child out of a classroom or pull them out because they’re at risk or need specialized instruction, that’s restricting their environment. And there’s a long history of federal law to show that we need to let them be with their peers as long as possible and talk them out as little as possible and that’s a balance we always work with.”
She said the school district website is updated with details, FAQ’s, contacts and information that can help parents and guardians understand how to navigate the resources for their students.
Knapp agrees it is expensive to staff the kind of Special Ed program found in Park City but she said the program serves other students as well.
“We actually have 20 special education teachers and we have about 40 para professionals so we have some of the paras on the site. Given our…and I’ll tell you why it’s good there are a lot of professionals because that means a really low student to teacher ratio. It’s the lowest I’ve ever seen in the state. WE train well. Our teachers are right on pace with he district initiatives with Wilson programming and other things. Our kids are getting good services. Also, people don’t realize we can help serve that at risk general ed population as well so it’s not strictly special education.”
Knapp wants to make sure all children with disabilities are served appropriately and said the website, pcschools.us has many details about special education services in the school district. She can be reached at the school district 435-645-5600.