By Kalea Hall
Jack Zocolo is proud of the special-education department he heads for the Boardman School District.
The department went through an on-site review during the 2012-13 school year by the Ohio Department of Education and passed with a 100 percent compliance report.
“For a district this size, we are very proud of the department,” Zocolo said.
There are about 705 students enrolled in the special-education department out of 4,460 in the district.
By comparison, in 1996 there were 320 students enrolled in special education. “We have more than doubled,” Zocolo said.
There are a variety of reasons, including an increase in students receiving a diagnosis, that leads to a need for special education.
The district was chosen by ODE to be evaluated in 2012. The last time the district was selected was in the 2001-02 school year. Part of the evaluation involved talking with parents of students in the department.
“[We have] really supportive families. I really cannot remember a negative comment that was shared,” Zocolo said.
Another part of the evaluation was randomly checking 43 student files. The errors found were “procedural” and minor, but still needed to be corrected, Zocolo said. After correcting the procedural errors, the state found the department in compliance.
Next, the department had to ensure the errors would not occur in the future. The district had to put a corrective-action plan together. “It was truly a team effort,” Zocolo said.
Now, the department has teachers continually checking everything to make sure signatures are where they need to be and paperwork is filled out properly.
“It opened my eyes that it needs to be an ongoing process,” Zocolo said. “This one, I felt [the state] wanted to help.”
Zocolo said the state told the department exactly what needed to be done and how the department could accomplish that.
“We try to remove that stigma that special education is different,” he said. “It’s a service, not a place.”