Comstock's magazine 0219 - February 2019 - Page 31

Considering your office serves both school districts in cities like Roseville and rural areas like Colfax, how are the issues or needs within these various districts different or similar? A lot of the growth in our population is in our suburban areas: Roseville, Rock- lin, Lincoln — they’re seeing increased enrollment [and] there’s a space issue … Whereas, in the foothills, in Auburn and Foresthill and Colfax on up, you see the exact opposite — you see a decrease in student enrollment. With that, the issue becomes whether or not they can main- tain the type of education they have. One of the things they have in com- mon — which is something every public school in California has — is the drastic increase in the cost of special education. About 8.8 percent of our expenditures come from the federal government to fund special education; it was supposed to be 40 percent. We’ve operated around 17 percent historically. Another issue is the rising cost of CalSTRS and CalPERS. A couple of years ago, [then] Gov. Brown changed the for- mula and required school districts and county offices to pay more for individuals’ retirement — school districts and county offices now have to pay upward of 22-23 percent. The burden that has put on the school districts across the state has been phenomenal. So with those two com- pounding factors … we could see a lot more county offices and school districts become insolvent unless there’s some sort of intervention. Why has the cost to provide special ed- ucation services increased? In the state of California, we’re seeing an increase in the number of students qual- ifying for special education. In the last 10 years, there are many more children being diagnosed with autism. In order to provide a free and appropriate educa- tion, which is what we’re required to do for special education students, there are a lot of services you have to put into place — academic services, behavioral services, occupational therapy services, physical therapy services. How are Placer County schools doing in closing the achievement gap, and what tools or practices have shown to be most effective? We’re one of the top-performing counties in the state of California. There are three counties that consistently score at the top — Marin, and then Santa Clara and Plac- er fight for second and third. Currently, I think we are second for English/language arts and we are third for math. “ In the foothills, in Auburn and Forest- hill and Colfax on up ... you see a de- crease in student enrollment. With that, the issue becomes whether or not they can main- tain the type of education they have.” Special education, that’s an area of growth. We realized about three years ago we had a gap. Education sometimes is very siloed ... [We decided] to tear down the walls [and have] general education talk to special education — and I should be pro- viding the same staff development to both teachers — because special education stu- dents are regular education students first, and special education students typically spend great periods of time in a general education setting. So general education teachers need to know how to modify in- struction for special education students. The last couple years, we’ve made that a real goal throughout our county. … so col- lectively, as a team, your special education teacher, your regular education teacher and any other support services that a child February 2019 | comstocksmag.com 31