GARY | The Gary Community School Corp. hired a special education compliance clerk to meet a variety of needs in its special education department, school officials said.
The School Board approved the new hire last month, and LaRanza Carson began working Nov. 21. Her responsibilities include managing the special education files and records, interfacing between the school district's student information system and the state's database and complying with student individualized education programs.
A late-year hire, Carson's salary is prorated, listed at $35,380 from November to June.
Marianne Fidishin, executive director of special education and student services at Gary, said Carson's skills match the district's needs.
"We also needed someone with background and skills and knowledge in human services and experience in working with state and federal grant compliance and oversight," Fidishin said, adding Carson has many years experience from working in a child service agency and background in human services.
The Indiana Department of Education has been working with the Gary Community School Corp. since 2008 to resolve compliance issues in the special education department, the most serious being a high rate of suspension and expulsion of students in special education, poor record keeping and low numbers of special education students included in the general education population.
According to the law, students should be educated in the least restrictive environment along with nondisabled peers as much as possible.
"We have benchmarks that we need to meet," Fidishin said. "There are three main areas of oversight: initial evaluation, least restrictive environment and student discipline. We are making improvements in all of those areas. We provide evidence to the state on a regular basis."
A year ago, the state assigned Barbara Butcher, a school psychologist with more than 20 years experience in special education, to work with the Gary schools for two years to help resolve issues.
The compliance clerk was mandated by the state to update student files, put data input processes into place and assist with state reporting for special education, Butcher said.