Special education contracts get Cocalico board OKs

By on July 27, 2016

The Cocalico School District approved eight contracts Monday for providers of special education and mental health services.

The agreements covering evaluations and therapy reflect an ongoing shift toward providing support services within the district or closer to a student’s home when possible.

In recent years, the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit has scaled back some programs and reduced locations as local districts began bringing special education back in-house.

Superintendent Dr. Ella Musser said that’s encouraged Cocalico to bring in its own consultants or bus students to closer districts to save money.

“The IU (county intermediate unit) doesn’t have as much available as in years past, or, if they do, we might have to bus students to Columbia for some services,” she said after a school board meeting. “It’s a trend across the county with districts looking at the cost benefits.”

Three of the contracts are with the Ephrata Area School District, which will provide Cocalico with elementary-level life skills support at an annual cost of $20,835 per student; emotional support at the middle school level at a cost of $23,955 per student; and a high school special education program at a cost of $16,732 per student.

Cocalico’s board also approved contracts with a third psychologist to evaluate students at cost of $700 per evaluation when two staff psychologists are busy, and a reading specialist trained in a specific instructional program who will work up to 20 hours a week at $40 an hour.

The final three contracts are with Community Services Group, or CSG, which works in Cocalico schools but bills insurance companies for the costs of mental health assessments and therapy.

In other action, Musser gave board members an overview of the district’s recent audit.

The three-year review by the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s Office focused on contracts, school safety, administrative buyouts, and bus driver requirements between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2015.

The auditor had “no findings or observations,” meaning the district met all of its financial obligations and reporting requirements. Musser said the report, available in its entirety at PAauditor.gov, “paints a very positive picture of the district.” She added that after two consecutive audits without findings, the district may face time-consuming reviews less often.

Board member John Lorah praised the district’s small business office for its hard work leading up to and during the audit process.

“This makes us feel good about what’s going on here and our staff,” he said.

The board also approved the resignation of former high school assistant principal Christine Gehring, who accepted a job closer to home.

Members also approved the one-semester expulsion of a student who was found in violation of a school policy last semester. Musser said the student was not charged with a crime; board President Allen Dissinger said he could gain readmission to the district as soon as next winter.


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