Beginning this fall, Carroll schools will begin a more comprehensivesearch for qualified substitute teachers for special-education classrooms.
The administrative procedures, outlined in a report to the school board in July, come in response to national concerns about theeffectiveness of substitute teachers not certified in special education.
"We're being proactive rather than reactive," said Harry T. Fogle, assistant supervisor for special education.
"We're responding toa situation practically. We haven't had any problems here in Carroll."
The staff, he said, is responding to a case that went before the Office of Civil Rights in Philadelphia.
In that case, a parent complained that a child's individual education plan wasn't met in the absence of a regular classroom teacher because the substitute wasn't certified in special education.
The Office of Civil Rights sided with the parent. The matter was brought to Fogle's attention in March,and he subsequently drafted new procedures.
The procedures call for staff to make every attempt to find certified special-education substitutes in both short- and long-term teacher absences.
If certified special-education
teachers cannot be found during a long-term absence, a state-certified teacher will be used (until a certified special-education teacher can be found) and parents will be
In addition, school staff will meet with the substitute teacher,to explain each child's individual education plans and related education needs, and will closely monitor and support the program.
There are about 150 special-education teachers, including speech and language therapists, in the district's infant through high school programs.
One of the problems facing Carroll and other districts, Fogle said, is the shortage of special-education teachers. Carroll draws from the same pool used by school districts in Frederick, Howard and Harford counties.
In an effort to increase the pool, the district will advertise at least four times a year in newspapers, radio and television for substitute teachers certified in special education.
The district also will establish a separate listing of substitute teachers certified in special education. Previously, all substitute teacherswere listed by degree and non-degree candidates.
Robin Farinholt,Carroll County Education Center principal, said substitutes are needed at the school at least twice a week to cover for teachers out because of illness, personal business or professional activities.
She said she supports the new procedures, but she said finding qualified substitutes has not been a problem at the school, which has about 70 students and 15 teachers. The school relies on about five substitutes. While some are not certified, she said, they are effective in behavior management and knowledgeable about special-education pupils.
"As long as we stay in that core of people, I'm pretty confident," shesaid.