Batesville, IN – The special education increase at Batesville Community School Corporation (BCSC) this year is part of a series of adjustments to the program since these services returned under the umbrella of the school corporation several years ago. Prior to the 2020-21 school year, BCSC’s special education services were shared with several other local colleges through cooperative programs. Now in its third year of full in-house private education services, BCSC continues to improve and develop its capacity to meet the needs of these students with its own dedicated staff.
“Our first year of dealing with special education at home was at the height of COVID,” explained Lynn Gosser, BCSC’s director of special education. “My transition to BCSC was made easier because of the great team of employees around me. This year we spent a lot of time organizing, looking at what seems to be in our offices, and helping full-time and part-time therapists. By the 2021-22 school year, we have added a school psychologist and will put more formal processes in place. I was considering this year, our third year, as the last year in our transition. We’re smoothing out any kinks in the system and expanding our staff to better serve our students.”
Staff in new positions on the team this year include an assistant director of special education, an educational consultant and an administrative assistant, as well as an occupational therapist. Other staff members include a special education teacher in non-public schools, as well as one part-time and two full-time speech therapists, and part-time positions for physical therapy, blind/low vision students, and deaf/hard of hearing students. hearing Hillary Timonera, who began her career at BCSC as a school psychologist, is now the assistant director of special education, while retaining her former role until a replacement is found.
“My role now as a school psychologist is primarily spent, due to time constraints, doing evaluations for students in need of special services, to determine if they are in control,” Timonera said. “Special education services help with a variety of concerns, including autism, blind/low vision, cognitive ability, deaf/hard of hearing, developmental delays, emotional disabilities, language/speech impairment, to name a few. Additionally, as the new assistant director of special education, he worked with I have worked with our educational consultant, Kindra Moore, to improve our assessment processes and services. Her input is integral to our success, as is the support our entire department receives from our administrative assistant, Barb Greene.”
The staff includes Brandi Hofer (occupational therapist), Elaina Beach (physical therapist), Brandy Westrick (special education teacher for non-public students), Kelly Spencer, Rachel West, and Megan McKinney (speech therapists), Mindy Koehne (teacher for students who are blind are or have low vision needs), and Lori Trimble (teacher for students who are deaf or hard of hearing). Therapists who work for BCSC’s special education department offer their services to students from the age of three. Therapists develop their schedules based on the number of students in each building who call for services. The special education staff works closely with general education and special education teachers, as well as building principals, to provide a comprehensive, but child-specific, educational plan for each student.
Roughly 15 percent of BCSC students qualify for some special education services. Some, such as the youngest learners, who often only need speech therapy, can receive help in a short time. Others require more long-term help. The goal of the special education department, in general, is to provide support so impactful that the majority of students can eventually move out of the program.
“This is one of the great advantages of bringing a special education department under the umbrella of a university school,” Gosser said. “They were expected to have merit, they had worked through cooperative work, now we have familiarity with each student. Our therapists are available and we can build a cohesive school community with our staff by providing personalized services to the Bovista family.
“Another benefit of having a dedicated team is the sense of camaraderie and rapport that has developed in the staff,” Timonera added. “From being able to provide feedback to building principals on special education issues on a regular basis
With new monthly meetings of special education teachers and therapists, we are really starting to see our plans bear fruit.”
In addition to meeting each student’s education plan that addresses their special needs, the department emphasizes that, as much as possible, special education students feel that BCSC is an environment that promotes inclusion. To that end, efforts to reduce
Many times a student is pulled out of school for services, for those right next to their peers. Services, such as occupational or speech therapy, are also offered on the occasion of the whole class, since all younger students can.
benefit from speech supply or fun occupational therapy-based activities.
“When you look at the percentage of special education day school students with equal grades separated, BCSC ranks at the top of the state in Indiana,” Timonera said. “We want our students to get the services they need, but not wasted.”
It is important to us that they integrate into school life and experience what other students are doing. Our special education teachers are phenomenal at exposing students to activities in the general education classroom, then returning to special education.
Review the classroom itself and spend some time applying it. The purpose is: to help those who are in need, not to take away from the daily number of school attendance.
The next challenge for BCSC’s special education will be when Gosser retires at the end of the 2022-23 school year and Timonera steps into that position. Once a new school psychologist was hired, other services such as collaborative programming with the school
advisers, may be added.
“We’re in a good place,” Gosser concluded. “All of our positions are filled by special education teachers, we have a full staff of therapists, and we enjoy a good student/teacher ratio.” We know that developing our own special education department will be a challenge;
but I leave this in the capable hands of a talented team. The staff members in Batesville’s special education department are as special as the students they serve.”
Batesville Community School Corporation