School board hears about evolution of special education


March 31, 2022

Last Thursday at the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors meeting, Chris Bettineski, who Superintendent Brent Freeman introduced as the special education director, gave a presentation on the special education program at Wahkiakum School District.

Bettineski said he was new to ESD 112, having spent the previous two decades in eastern Oregon working in a variety of roles in education before settling into special education administration in more recent years.

He said he got into special education because of a son on the autism spectrum and a wife who was blind.

“It’s had some impact on who I am as a person, it’s real personal to me, when working with disabilities,” Bettineski said.

Bettineski explained that special education programming is complex with a lot of moving parts, and that for small districts like Wahkiakum to have comprehensive programs, it was important that they have the available resources to do that.

The ESD 112 consortium allows districts to share staff, including speech pathologists and school psychologists and shared access to resources for behavioral intervention.

Bettineski said he was typically at WSD twice a week.

He broke down some of the numbers of students in the special education program, noting that it was about 16.5 percent of the K-12 population, while the national average is around 11-13 percent.

The special education model used to mean that students would go to a resource room, sometimes for part of a day, sometimes for the whole day. Now there is a more hybrid approach, Bettineski said, and research showed that students do best when they are in a classroom with their “typically learning peers.”

He explained that sometimes that meant para-educator support in the classroom, or that the student might go to a resource room for part of the day for one on one or small groups for specialized learning.

“My philosophy is to push kids into general ed settings as much as possible,” Bettineski said. “Oftentimes that comes with some real angst with general ed teachers because they don’t know how to differentiate instruction, and some are better than others.”

That’s when they will bring in support from a special education teacher.

“We try to help our students with disabilities to be as successful as they can,” he said.

“It’s great to have you here,” Freeman said. “He’s done a great job, he’s just come in seamlessly as part of our team. He’s been invaluable to us.”

In other business:

--The policy committee discussed their first reading of some of the district’s policies, which can be viewed on the school website, and are open to public comment. The policies are expected to be approved after the second reading.

--As part of the district’s lawsuit against the state to fund school infrastructure, Freeman said they would visit the Wahkiakum County Treasurer to set up a line item that will allow the district to receive contributions to the lawsuit in a transparent manner. The board approved a resolution regarding how the district would receive contributions to their lawsuit.

--Freeman gave a quick update on the bus fleet. He said that the bus they had ordered was expected to be off the assembly line soon, but he didn’t have enough details at that time.

--Directors approved Debbie Melton’s retirement, several resignations from coaching positions including Becky Dault as the assistant softball coach, Stephanie Johnson as the middle school assistant track coach, and Ryan Garrett as middle school head track coach. Gena Montgomery was approved as the middle school assistant track coach and Jamie Brown will step in as the middle school head track coach.


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