The Brownstown Central Community School Corp. special education department will take on a new look in the 2021-22 school year.
Due to Orange, Lawrence, Jackson, Martin, Greene Joint Services ceasing operations at the end of the current school year, programs and services offered through the special education cooperative will shift to the school districts.
Besides Brownstown and Medora in Jackson County, school corporations involved are Eastern Greene, Mitchell, North Lawrence, Orleans and Shoals.
“I think we’re going to be able to better meet the needs of our students,” Brownstown Superintendent Tim Taylor said during Tuesday night’s board of school trustees meeting. “It’s going to be a more personalized delivery, and we’ll be able to be more efficient with our funding.”
Trustees approved hiring Lindsey Goshorn as special education director for the corporation and Christopher and Associates for psychology services, but the other positions, including a part-time occupational therapist and a part-time physical therapist, recently were posted and hope to be filled by the next board meeting.
Goshorn has worked in the special education field for 16 years, including 14 at Brownstown. She was the multi-categorical classroom teacher at the elementary school from 2007 to 2020 and is the autism and behavior consultant and case conference coordinator for Brownstown and Medora schools this school year.
She said she is extremely honored to have been given the role of special education director.
“I am passionate about special education, and earning a chance to further my career in a position that will allow me to advocate for and support our students with specials needs in a greater capacity is a true blessing,” Goshorn said.
“As a local and a Brownstown Central graduate, this is home for me, and as the saying goes, ‘There’s no place like home,'” she said. “I am very fortunate that this opportunity also allows me to continue to work in the greatest community, which I am proud to be serving.”
She said the biggest change and what she will miss the most is not working directly with students on a daily basis.
“That is going to take some time to get used to; however, I do hope to be present in each school building often,” she said.
Her current position, which was added in the first phase of the transition away from Joint Services, came with some responsibilities that she didn’t have as a classroom teacher.
“I have learned a lot this year about managing the IIEP system and IEP compliance, data management, the evaluation process and have started to research and provide training opportunities for staff members,” she said. “A lot of those duties will carry over to this new position.”
This year, she has worked with students in kindergarten through 12th grade, so she has gained exposure and understanding of the programs and procedures at the middle and high schools.
“I will have responsibilities related to fiscal decisions regarding federal funding for special education, will need to be well-versed in laws and policies at the state and federal level and will supervise and evaluate our current programs to determine what changes may be beneficial,” Goshorn said.
“While I won’t be working directly with students every day, it is my hope that I can use my experience and strengths to implement effective leadership and collaboration with teachers that will have a positive impact on all of our students,” she said.
She is ready and willing to work with the other special education teachers and staff.
“I am looking forward to using supervision to gain a better understanding of teachers’ strengths and interests and use that information to encourage collaboration and allow teachers to learn new strategies or skills they may be lacking in experience from one another,” Goshorn said.
She also said she would like to increase participation in Crisis Prevention Institute nonviolent crisis prevention training and expose all teachers to the verbal intervention strategies that can be used to prevent crisis or risk behavior.
Taylor said the corporation’s attorney also is developing a memorandum of understanding for Goshorn to continue performing similar responsibilities for Medora.
“We’re sharing some services with them this year,” Taylor said. “We may share some more services with them next year.”
A big task for Brownstown will be filling four special education teaching positions. One is Goshorn’s role, behavior resource teacher, and the others are due to Deb Schwartz, Cindy Koop and Carolyn Ira retiring at the end of the school year. A speech language pathologist also will need to be hired with Pam Rodriguez retiring.
Along with the part-time occupation and physical therapists, some other consultant positions will be added, Goshorn said.
“The transition out of the Joint Services cooperative is not going to be easy and has taken a lot of hard work and preparation,” she said. “I am confident that by managing our special education department locally, we will increase awareness and understanding of disabilities, be able to provide more effective and efficient services and better meet the needs of our students.”
Outside of special education, trustees approved creating the positions of project-based learning coach for the corporation and an additional counselor at the elementary school.
“Within the next five years, every teacher in the state of Indiana must be trained in project-based learning,” Taylor said.
This year, he said the corporation has made great strides through its work with Five Star Technology Solutions.
“We’ll be hosting a three-day summer workshop for 25 teachers this summer; however, to ensure our teachers are fully trained and our students receive diverse instruction that includes project-based learning, we believe that designating a position to this initiative is needed,” Taylor said.
The salary and benefits will be determined by the master teacher contract, and the position will be funded from ESSER II funds that are coming to the corporation, Taylor said.
“The need for the position will be assessed when the ESSER funds run out,” he said.
Since Taylor started as superintendent in the summer of 2019, he said the need for a second counselor at the elementary school has been a topic of discussion.
“The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250-to-1 ratio for students-to-counselor,” he said. “The national average is 464 students per counselor. Brownstown Elementary is currently 635-to-1.”
The school’s sole counselor, Jill Miller, is retiring at the end of the school year, so the corporation will be hiring two counselors.
With students dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing need for social and emotional support, Taylor said he believes it’s vital to have two counselors.
“There has been a big focus on social and emotional learning lately, and then with the pandemic and any lingering effects from that, I think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Counseling is really important down there because if we’re proactive there, we don’t have to be as reactive as they get in the upper grades.”