CMSD clears state SpEd audit

January 10, 2017 10:12:15 AM

Angel Coker - [email protected]


After coming under fire for its special education model over the past year, the Columbus Municipal School District has increased its efforts to make corrections and improvements. 


The CMSD Board of Trustees voted to hire a special education director to correct compliance deficiencies identified under the No Child Left Behind Act, created a special education advisory committee to submit recommendations to the board and allotted money from its fund balance as part of its district improvement plan to provide support to special education teachers. 


Special Education Director Donna Jones informed the board on Monday at its regularly scheduled meeting that all the hard work had paid off. 


Jones reported that CMSD received the results from its state audit on Jan. 3 and received the all clear. 


"The report states that all compliance areas have been verified and no further actions are necessary," she said. 




The audit 


The Mississippi Department of Education Office of Special Education conducted an on-site program monitoring review in October 2015. 


The review resulted in 21 non-compliances. 


"In accordance with the state and federal regulations, Columbus Municipal School District Office of Special Education had to correct those non-compliance findings as soon as possible, but we had no longer than 12 months," Jones said.  


The state conducted a follow-up review in May 2016 to verify the school district was actually making corrective actions. CMSD received a report in June 2016 that 17 of the 21 non-compliances had been corrected. 


From November to December 2016, the state did a final follow-up review and cleared CMSD in a report on Jan. 3. 


Jones said the state will audit CMSD every four years. 


"We did clear this audit, but we still have a way to go," Jones said. 




Next steps 


In the process of correcting non-compliances, Jones said policies, procedures and programs were put in place to make sure the identified deficiencies will not reoccur. 


Jones said the next steps are to continue monitoring students, provide teacher support and professional development and to improve communication with parents about the policies, procedures and programs that have been put in place. 


The school district also created a special education advisory committee late last year that has begun to meet and determine what role it will play in support of special education. 


Superintendent Philip Hickman said now that the special education teachers have been trained on the technical side of filling out paperwork, "now the overhaul is to change the actual practices within the classroom." 






The board of trustees unanimously approved the acceptance of a $35,000 State Systematic Improvement grant at Monday's meeting. 


The grant will assist CMSD in its plan to train teachers in an effort to better the school district's special education programs. 


"The purpose of this grant is to provide literacy training, coaching and modeling for K-3 teachers, especially those special education teachers," said Assistant Superintendent Pam Lenoir. "So, this goes along with what Dr. Hickman was talking about being in the classroom and providing support for our special education teachers."