Parent concerned with CMS evaluation tools

A concerned parent came before the Columbia School Board on Nov. 16, questioning how the district evaluates students thought to struggle with learning disabilities.

Angela McConachie said she fears the way the district measures evaluations leads to some students slipping through the cracks. In addition, McConachie said she does not feel parents receive a thorough explanation of what the evaluation results mean.

She also questioned the district’s method of choosing which students qualify for an evaluation. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act, a parent or school employee may make a request for an evaluation by writing a letter to the school principal.

The district must then follow up within 14 days of receiving a request with a decision on whether or not to evaluate the student. If the district determines not to do an evaluation, written notice and an explanation of the determination must go out to the parents.

A Columbia School District pamphlet explaining the IDEA evaluation procedure states that it will determine whether a child needs an evaluation through observation of the student, assessments for instructional purposes and a consultation with the individual making the request.

Parents can appeal the no-evaluation decision through the district or an impartial due process hearing. Once the decision not to evaluate the student is final, the parent can meet with the school to brainstorm how to improve success.

However, if the district determines the student needs an evaluation, a team of individuals — including the parents — will identify the proper assessment tools.

“The team will consider various domains of a student’s functioning or performance when determining which assessments to utilize for the evaluation,” the pamphlet reads. “These domains include, health, vision, hearing, social/emotional status, functional performance, intelligence, academic performance, communication and motor abilities.”

The parents must then give their consent for the chosen assessments in writing. After the student takes the assessments, the team will hold an evaluation meeting with the parents. Columbia school superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano said the district’s school psychologist and other certified and licensed staff conduct evaluations.

The team will then consider the evaluation and determine if the student meets eligibility requirements for disability services based on federal and state law. An eligibility report then goes out to the parent, and if it is determined services are needed, the team will create an individualized education program for the student within 30 days.

“There are specific guidelines and a wide array of evaluation tools that are utilized for eligibility purposes which vary according to disability,” added Segobiano.

Thursday’s meeting also included board approval of a preliminary 2017 tax levy. Taxes levied for the current school year came out to $15,101,380, and the school board will look to approve a 4 percent increase from that for a total of $15,719,406.

The district will only receive the amount it is requesting if the increase in the school district’s equalized assessed value matches the requested levy increase. EAV comes from applying the state equalization factor to the assessed value of the average property in a taxing district.

The EAV is multiplied by a taxing body’s tax rate — the school district’s rate in 2016 was 4.57 — to determine property tax bills. The board will officially approve the tax levy at its Dec. 18 meeting that starts at 6 p.m.

As the district is not requesting a levy increase above 5 percent, no truth-in-taxation hearing is needed prior to board approval. More information on the levy is at

“Since I’ve been here, there’s been no need for a truth-in-taxation hearing because I never request above the 5 percent,” Segobiano said. “The EAV doesn’t go down so there’s been no need to request a higher amount.”

Other board action included approving the retirement of district custodial, maintenance and transportation director Patty Robles effective Dec. 31. She will retire with 11 years in the district. Finding someone before her retirement date would be best case scenario, Segobiano said.

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