CMS helps parents navigate the exceptional children’s program, identifying resources for students

CMS helps parents identify individual education programs for students in the EC program.
Roughly 12,000 students in the district are in the Exceptional Children’s program.
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 4:52 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - More than 140,000 students fill the classrooms of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, each one with different abilities.

Roughly 12,000 students in the district are in the Exceptional Children’s program, some of whom have Down syndrome, are deaf, hard of hearing, have Autism, or have learning disabilities, and the district is working hand in hand with parents and these students in the EC program to make sure they are getting the extra support they need while also having a challenging curriculum.

Dr. Ann White is the Associate Superintendent of Student Services, and says parents need to be at the table when it’s time to make decisions for their children.

“They have every right to be there, and their input is critical,” White said.

One of the key pieces to navigating the EC program is getting students an individualized education program or IEP.

“It’s really about working together to figure out what the specific needs of each student are, and that absolutely involves including the parent and getting their input,” the EC High School Program Manager, Marianna Sartin said.

Parents are an important part of planning their child's education plan.

IEPs are designed to be specific for each child and create a roadmap for resources and their preferred classroom setting.

“That IEP needs to reflect how different that can be, some students have Autism, and that plan for helping address reading with that child or the behavior supports that go with it would be very different from a student who is coming with a specific learning disability,” White said.

Earlier this month, we introduced you to Endhaven Elementary School parent Glen Stephens. His 9-year-old son, John, is in the EC program.

“Fortunately for John, we do have a plan in place,” Stephens said. “We have a plan in place that goes through the fourth grade, goes into the fifth grade, and believe it or not part of that plan was as simple and as complicated as getting him a new pair of glasses.”

Sartin says parents and educators need to get started early - which starts with identifying the student’s specific needs and disability.

“That early intervention and making sure that students are on track early on is going to have way more bang for your buck than having to play catch up once they get to later grades,” Sartin said.

CMS says if parents suspect any development delays with speech, language, motor skills, academics, readiness, or self-help skills, they can contact their children’s home school or the EC department at 980-343-6960 or to request an evaluation for services consideration.

Related: Accessing EC services

In addition, CMS has an EC parent advisory council and connections with several different community organizations including Autism Charlotte, Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte, Cerebral Palsy Group, First in Families - Mecklenburg County, and more.

Click here to see more information on the parent advisory council and other organizations.

No matter their abilities, CMS wants to make sure all students can make the grade and be exceptional.

It’s a job EC teachers can’t do alone.

“In order to make the grade we need EC teachers working alongside their regular education colleagues so that a student not only gets the specially designed instruction but they also are not removed from regular ed. instruction,” White said. “They have full access and engagement with regular ed. reading content that’s on grade level.”

CMS is actively trying to recruit EC staff, as of May 10, CMS is down more than 170 EC assistants. The district is offering a monthly pay bonus of $200 plus a $2500 sign-on bonus. The district also has a new position in place to cut down the amount of paperwork staff need to fill out.

EC staff say closing tells achievement gap starts with recruiting and keeping quality educators.

“We really are working hard to recruit high-quality teachers so each student has a real live teacher in front of them that is certified to provide the instruction that they require,” Sartin said.

If you are interested in applying to work for the EC department, click here.

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