RACINE — Some of Racine Unified’s special education support staff will have their jobs combined starting in the coming school year; they’ll also be assigned to specific schools instead of floating around the whole district.

The change means slightly fewer staff will be needed but, according to district officials, better support will be provided in school buildings.

“We reorganized the support staff to push it out toward the schools where it needs to be,” Unified Chief Academic Officer Rosalie Daca said.

Right now, special education diagnosticians help evaluate students to determine if they need special education services. Special education program support people then teach classroom teachers to properly engage those students, explained Jamie Syvrud, Unified’s special education executive director. Both diagnosticians and the program support people also help write individualized education program plans, or IEPs, for special education students, said Julie Paulson, a Unified diagnostician.

The diagnosticians and the program support people are not assigned to specific schools or classrooms; instead they float around as needed, Syvrud said.

For the 2014-15 school year, that will change. Each diagnostician and program support person will become a diagnostician/program support person. And each diagnostician/program support person will be assigned to a specific cluster of about five schools, Daca said.

The new diagnosticians/program support people will be able to evaluate students and then follow them as they get support in classrooms, for a more seamless transition. The staffers will also become experts at working within a few schools, Syvrud said.

There will be less staff time spent traveling among buildings as well, Daca said. 

“It sounds like that would be a better method,” said Peggy Foreman, executive director of the Arc of Racine County, a disability rights group. “You would think the staff and that cluster of specialists (will) have a smaller group to serve and could be more aware and accessible.”

But “it’s going to be very challenging for these individuals because they’ll be balancing two jobs at once,” Paulson said.

It will also be challenging because Unified plans to use less people to do the same amount of work, Paulson added.

“It looks like they’re not replacing the ones that are retiring like me,” she said.

Syvrud confirmed there will be a “couple” fewer staff members, but said their workload should be manageable. Daca said the reductions do not come from layoffs.

There are 37 diagnosticians and program support people employed by Unified this school year, according to Syvrud.

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