Audit shows strong special ed support in Southington schools



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SOUTHINGTON — Southington Schools are offering a high standard of special education programs compared to surrounding districts, according to a recent audit presented before the school board.

The audit, put forward by School Superintendent Steven Madancy, evaluated the state of the district’s special education services. It was conducted by the Capitol Region Education Council in the spring. 

“The reason we engaged with the audit is that it represents a significant amount of our budget,” Assistant Superintendent Frank Pepe said. “We’re doing an excellent job with what we have.”

Annually Southington allocates around 26% of its budget to special education services, higher than other districts and the state overall. 

The audit found Southington maintains the highest level of enrollment of special education students compared to demographically similar districts of Milford, Shelton, and Wallingford, while also having the lowest per-pupil expenditure of the group — $15,706. 

Compared to similar districts, Southington pays significantly less on tuition to send special education students out of the district for instruction, according to the audit. 

 “The dollars for Southington have largely remained in Southington,” said Dana Corrivau, managing director of Professional Learning at CREC. 

CREC reported a high number of respondents to its parent surveys during the audit, among the highest the agency has seen. A vast majority of parents expressed a high level of satisfaction with the special education programs offered by the school system. 

“The fact we’re able to keep these kids in town and to be building these relationships is phenomenal,” Board of Education vice chairman Joseph Baczewski said.

However, the audit found there is room for improvement, specifically in developing Individual Education Programs or IEPs, which are meant to tailor an education program to the student’s personal needs. CREC classified Southington schools as “emerging.”

There remains a large gap between special needs students and the rest of their peers in subjects like math and English, something that Corriveau notes is natural, but there may be need for further evaluation to improve Southington’s existing programming. 

“There’s still work to be done, but there’s also some good things going on that should be looked at in terms of scaling up,” said Corriveau.

Despite weaknesses in individual programs, CREC did find pockets of strong IEP development that the agency recommended the school board implement throughout the rest of the school system. 

“Everybody is ready, they’re eager, and they have a growth mindset. Despite coming out of years of disruption from COVID,” Corriveau said. “That is prime opportunity for growth and development now.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Terri Carmody expressed a desire to increase the staff for special needs students, which has been leaner than other districts for the past several years. 

Corriveau recommended the board continue with its current trajectory, noting that over time the district could save a significant amount of money keeping children in the district rather than paying tuition to send them elsewhere — and much of that comes down to strong integration and engagement with the curriculum.

“You’re looking at an investment in time,” she said. 

cmetzger@record-journal.com



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