At a Glance
Lancaster County Career & Technology Center, its sending school districts and the Lancaster/Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 focused on improving their collaboration and communication practices so that they could better serve students with diverse needs. As part of this process, they delineated specific responsibilities among themselves and increased their transparency when working together.
Lancaster County Career & Technology Center (LCCTC) strives to meet the needs of all its students, including those with diverse needs. The diversity of its student population continues to increase, including an increase in the number of students with individualized education programs (IEPs). Coupled with this changing student demographic, the lab instructors, special education teachers, and various support staff assigned to the multiple LCCTC campuses also continue to change over time due to staff turnover. These two factors prompted the leadership at LCCTC and the IU13 to reexamine current practices and improve upon existing structures in order to ensure quality programming to the school districts/students they serve.
The leadership focused its efforts on reducing the occurrence of miscommunications and misunderstandings among school districts administrators, CTC administrators, IU13 administrators, CTC lab instructors, and IU13 special education staff. Although all parties were well intentioned in how they supported students with diverse needs, there was a definite need to more clearly articulate the roles and responsibilities assumed across teams.
As such, LCCTC identified three goals:
- Achieve greater communication among all stakeholder groups;
- Provide targeted professional development for CTC lab instructors regarding the needs of diverse learners; and
- Develop a support structure to bridge the work of LCCTC and Intermediate Unit 13 (IU13) staff.
LCCTC and IU13 leadership began planning how to address these targets in the summer of 2019, and then implemented changes throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
To begin the process, LCCTC leadership first identified an individual at the CTC – the Supervisor of Student Services – through which all special education issues would flow. The Supervisor of Student Services initially met with every sending district Special Education Director so that there could be one point of contact, and she now serves as the liaison between the sending districts, the CTC, and the IU’s Supervisor of Special Education.
After designating the Supervisor of Student Services as the main point of contact, LCCTC and IU13 leadership next solicited input from CTC building principals and from the IU13 special education supervisor assigned to support special education staff at all LCCTC campuses. During this step in the improvement process, they examined current practices to identify what was working, what was not working and what evidence supported these findings. They also generated practical ideas for how best to move forward and better serve students with IEPs. Throughout this process, the executive leadership from both the CTC and IU13 set a tone of positive collaboration and strongly encouraged a culture of “same team” across staff from both organizations.
As a result of the feedback received from these conversations with administrators, LCCTC and IU13 leadership identified the need to create intentional collaboration across teams. To do this, leadership focused on three efforts. First, the IU13 special education supervisor would be invited to all principal meetings and have an opportunity to add items to the meeting agenda. Previously, there was an open-door policy for her attendance at those meetings, but it was neither required nor planned. Second, IU13 teachers would be given a new role at the monthly building faculty meetings. They could either share a new support strategy they used or showcase an example of a diverse learner’s success in a lab area. Lastly, the CTC Director and the Director of Special Education Programs at IU13 maintained a commitment to be proactive in their communications and to problem solve the inevitable growing pains resulting from these changes in practice and policy.
The focus of the leadership teams from LCCTC, its sending districts and IU13 on how best to serve diverse learners produced two additional changes. Moving forward, CTC lab instructors would receive targeted professional development related to best practices in supporting diverse learners. Additionally, LCCTC and IU13 administrators developed a chart that outlines the unique roles and responsibilities of the CTE instructor, special education instructor, and the special education paraprofessionals. They believed that refining and clearly communicating each person’s role and responsibility could result in positive outcomes for learners, an increase in timely and consistent communications to the sending school districts, and improved staff morale and collaboration. LCCTC and IU13 staff received training on the new roles and expectations chart, during which they reviewed the chart, asked questions, and provided their input.
Throughout the ongoing efforts to strengthen partnerships between LCCTC, IU13 and the sending districts, the leadership teams had to address a few challenges. They needed to secure common dates for administrators across all the organizations (LCCTC, school districts and IU13) to meet within an established time frame. Executive leadership also needed to create a “safe zone” wherein administrators felt free to be candid without fear of criticism or blame. Veteran CTC and IU13 staff were challenged to rethink past practices and to be open to new approaches in their support of students with diverse needs. Lastly, all stakeholders needed reminders of the new collaboration framework and their need to incorporate those expectations into their daily practice.
The LCCTC and IU13 leadership teams consider their work around serving diverse learners to be ongoing. They recognize the best practices used to meet the needs of diverse learners will continue to evolve over time, and they remain committed to updating the roles and expectations chart as new considerations and challenges emerge. Most importantly, they remain committed to maintaining a culture of collaboration in meeting the needs of diverse learners.
Lancaster County Career & Technology Center
Darla Gettle, Supervisor of Student Services, LCCTC
Gina Guatta, Supervisor of Special Education, IU13