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updated: 6/23/2014 7:35 PM

District 25 looks to improve special education

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Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 school board members got their first look last week of a new strategic plan to improve services for the district's more than 800 special education students.

The plan is the result of more than a year of studies and meetings by a committee that also addressed parents' complaints about inconsistencies among schools, transparency and lack of communication from the special education program.

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The 30-page plan includes a new mission, goals, ways to measure progress and timelines for that progress from 2014 through 2018. The District 25 school board could vote to approve the plan at its July 17 meeting.

One of the major changes is a name change for the special education department, which would instead be called the Department of Student Services.

"One of the most important changes was the name," said department director Aimee LeBlanc. "This shows that we serve all of the students of District 25."

The plan outlines four major strategic initiatives: Engage families and district staff members in educational opportunities and training that promote student growth; foster collaborative and transparent communication to strengthen relationships throughout the educational community; utilize a collaborative problem-solving approach to support high expectations for student growth; and embrace innovative and effective practices to support student growth.

Each of those goals is broken down further, with critical success indicators established to monitor progress, specific initiatives, key people and timelines for when the work should be done.

As soon as the school board approves the strategic plan, administrators and teachers will start meeting to implement it. That work will include creating a new training plan for staff members by June 2015 and a new communication plan for the department by June 2016.

"This is two years of work from the Futures report to now," LeBlanc said.

The Futures report is an analysis of the district's special education program prepared by the firm Futures Education. The report, presented to the school board in February 2013, received much criticism from parents who said it focused mainly on ways to cut costs instead of improve services.

The report pointed out that the district had a lot of work to do to improve its consistency across buildings and grade levels in dealing with individualized education plans and teaching for special education students, all goals officials said the strategic plan looks to address.

To improve transparency while creating the strategic plan, LeBlanc said, officials reached out to parents and created a website that provided frequent updates about committee meetings.

"It is an opportunity for growth," LeBlanc said of the communication efforts.

Under the new plan, the district will be using new ways to communicate with families including list serves, email blasts and events, she added

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