News from the Director

 Hello Ashland Community: It is with mixed emotions that I share with you that today I announced my retirement to members of ASHPAC and my team of staff and educators in special education and English Language programming.  I have been so fortunate working here in Ashland. Eleven years ago I started on my birthday and I have always felt it was the BEST gift ever! Working together with all stakeholders I have been able to help support the growth of new specialized programs keeping students in district and providing for all students an education which is responsive to their unique needs. The School Committe led by Ms. Laurie Tosti has been incredible in advocating for the needs of all students and accepting the responsibility of working with other town leaders and the Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Jim Adams, in making sure Ashland strives to be a model of education for our students including those with unique profiles and needs. The district leadership has worked collabortively with me t

Tiered Focus Monitoring Exit Interview English Language Learners

 On Friday, November 19th Ashland completed the ELE portion of the DESE review for Tiered Focus Monitoring. David Valade was overall pleased with the district's upload of files and documentation, although he did ask that we edit a couple of forms because we were using outdated language on them (FLEP instead of the more recent FEL designation of a student who no longer receives English Language Instruction by an ESL teacher) and a reference to ACCESS 1.0 when we use ACCESS 2.0. Finally he suggested that the district take a more active role in trying to get all teachers SEI Endorsed.

Tiered Focus Monitoring Exit Interviews-Special Education and Civil Rights

 On November 17th Ashland completed this phase of the Tiered Focus Monitoring and participated in an exit interview with our DESE reviewer, Michelle Hennessey Kowalchek. Overall,  Ashland is a high performing district and there were many things that Ms. Kowalchek celebrated. She highlighted our relationship with ASHPAC, our overall strong IEPs, our relationship with families of students, and our involvement of students at age 14 and thereafter in the transition planning process. She did say that we missed some timelines by a couple of days in two of the files reviewed, and that there were some inconsistencies in how well certain areas of the IEPs were written that she felt we could do better. This of course leads me to believe we will be focusing some PD time on IEP writing to make sure we keep up the exemplary work we do with this vital piece of educational documentation.  She also suggested we may want to improve how we assess assistive technology needs, track technology given to stu

The Role of Parent Advisory Councils for Student Services

Did you know that every district must have a special education and a bilingual parent advisory council assisting the district to make good decisions which benefit special education students and students who are identified as English Language Learners? In 1986, Massachusetts state law required all public school districts to maintain a Parent Advisory Council. The purpose of the group is both advisory and participatory. Specifically the law states:    "…. The school committee of any city, town, or school district shall establish a parent advisory council on special education. Membership shall be offered to all parents of children with disabilities and other interested parties. The parent advisory council duties shall include but not be limited to: advising the school committee on matters that pertain to the education and safety of students with disabilities; meeting regularly with school officials to participate in the planning, development, and evaluation of the school committee&#

Administrators of Special Educators Conference 10-29-21

I am so happy and honored to sit and watch a virtual conference offered by ASE today. John D'Auria is presenting on keeping one's balance during a time of divison, complexity and controversy. It certainly is much needed for educators and for those who focus on unique learners. Covid and issues that are taking the forefront in our society (equity, racism, gender, immigration, the economy) are exhausting our emotional reserves. Dr D'Auria suggests we turn our challenges into a question and become an educational scientist and try to set about finding the answer to the question. For example, "What can I do to support unique learners when resources are changing and limited?" (This in response to my fear that I cannot support our unique learners in the manner they should be supported during the Covid crisis). Hopefully my question allows me to become curious, creative and energized to try to learn more and bring forward ideas that will help. I become "a scientis

Observations of Staff

I have been rather busy observing staff with students this past month. These observations are part of the evaluation process for staff, but more importantly they are a time wherein I can see all the good work going on in the district! I have been energized by the careful planning, expert execution and commitment to delivering the best services possible to the students in each and every interaction shown by staff. I have observed speech, OT, PT, psychological services (counseling and testing), teaching and interactions with parents in team meetings. I have watched staff new to the district, and staff who have many years here in Ashland. While I might also offer ideas to staff, I more often steal ideas to then share with others. I am not the only one doing these observations, all administrators are in full swing of observations and discussion with staff about teaching and learning. It is exciting to be having these conversations! It is also affirming to be working with others who value l

Upcoming District Review

  The Office of Student Services is trying something new...a blog! While I consider myself to be both an old dog (meaning it is hard to learn new tricks) and a technological dinosaur (I am not proficient in any technology), I want to make sure my office is able to get out information to the parents whose students are identified as having a disability and needing special education services or 504 accommodation supports, or who are not yet English language proficient. This blog might be a better way to communicate with families about topics which are meaningful to them. Topic: Tiered Focus Monitoring Ashland Public Schools, like ALL public districts, charter schools and private day and residential, 766 approved schools, undergoes a review of our special education, civil rights and English Language Learner processes and programming. We are in Group A, Year 2 of a six year monitoring system which is intended to help districts maintain the highest level of compliance with regulatory directi