ISD

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HCDE lowers tax rate, continues services to CyFair ISD

For the sixth consecutive year, the Harris County Department of Education board of trustees voted unanimously to lower the tax rate.

“During these unprecedented times, I think it is important for residents of Harris County to know that we are in this together,” said HCDE Board President Eric Dick in a press release. “Many businesses are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Harris County Department of Education is going to tighten its belt and lead fellow school districts by example.”

Board member Mike Wolfe was not present for the first in-person meeting held on Sept. 17.


The county-wide education agency launched a “Because We Care” initiative distributing hand sanitizer, masks, and food supplies to residents. Dick also said they reinvested in teachers and their staff by increasing the minimum wage to $13.50. Their plan is to raise that to $15 in 2021.

“We’re also using record low bond rates to reinvest approximately $50 million in adult education,” Dick said, “including music therapy and additional services.”

Some of those services may feel the pinch of local districts budget cuts next year when fallout from the coronavirus expenditures are realized. No school districts have announced any cuts for the next school year, but HCDE staff is prepared to meet the challenge should it occur.

“I’m a little bit worried about school districts budgets next year,” said Carie Crabb, senior director of school-based therapy services for HCDE.

“We’ve lived through budget crunches and crises before. It happens pretty regularly in education. We’ll figure it out,” she said.

That meant picking up additional tasks and hours to meet the needs which lasted for a couple of years until things were back on track again.

“We’re pretty lean as we are, but if we have to reduce the number of therapists, we look at our processes and how we can make things more efficient to get the same amount of work done with fewer people,” she said.

While those services are subsidized by HCDE, they come at a rate much cheaper than what districts would pay for it in the market.

Currently Cypress Fairbanks ISD is the largest district with the most HCDE therapists at work for the district.

Crabb said they’ve been serving CFISD continuously with no break in service since 1978.

“Our business model is pretty efficient. I serve as the director and I have nine managers and we oversee more than 150 therapists who serve 33 school districts,” she said.

The management team stays on top of the best practices for their profession and any changes in the law which occur almost annually.

“If districts were left to do it on their own, it would take considerably more personnel. Our districts count on us to do this,” Crabb said.

Therapists are trained in the medical environment to work in hospitals and clinics. In a school district, the difference is enormous between an educational and medical model.

Therapists became necessary with the passage of the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

“With

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health

Conroe ISD board highlights dyslexia’s impact on learning

For hundreds of students and parents in the Conroe Independent School District, dyslexia and other reading and learning disabilities have had a significant impact on their education. As part of Dyslexia Awareness Month, the CISD Board of Trustees included a special recognition of dyslexia at its Tuesday meeting.

A group of parents with students with reading disorders has been in conversation with the district for a while now about how dyslexia services are conducted, which programs are being used, what they want the district to put more resources into, and the funding that the district dyslexia services receive.

“The Texas Education Agency and the American Institutes of Research identify dyslexia as “the most commonly diagnosed learning disability” affecting the education of children. Students experiencing dyslexia may also struggle with related disorders such as dysgraphia, dyscalculia, developmental auditory imperceptions, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability,” according to the special recognition that the board included. “The most recent data available from the Texas Education Agency indicates that only 3.5% to 4.0% of Texas students are identified as dyslexic. Peer-reviewed research indicates that up to 20% of the student population may suffer from the difficulties associated with dyslexia.”

Board member Scott Moore, who recommended the recognition, read a special proclamation to be included in the official meeting minutes.

Nicole May is a district parent with two sons, both diagnosed with dyslexia, and a member of the parent group. She has addressed the board several times to talk about dyslexia services and what the parent group thinks the district could be doing better. At Tuesday’s meeting, she brought her younger son to say hello to the board, and thank them for the special recognition. But she also took the opportunity to continue her advocacy.


“My goal tonight is to continue keeping dyslexic students in our district a focus and to continue addressing the need for more for our population,” May said. “The questions I ponder often are ‘Do the decision-makers in our district see the need for more for our population? And do you see the potential of our population in society?’”

While looking over STAAR data for the district from the 2019-20 May said she found the dyslexia population identified in some of the scores for writing and reading tests that did not meet the state average. She questioned why the district started a new dyslexia program last year, asking directly if it was because there were students in the district that were no thriving under the old program.

“My insight, it was not the previous program that failed these students,” May said. “Rather, it was the lack of commitment to execute the program to the level required to gain success.”

In her previous addresses to the board, May encouraged the district to use the maximum time allowable for dyslexia services instead of the minimum and to keep dyslexia services classes to the smallest number of students each to allow for more personal instruction.

May was not the only

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