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In the news: Office of Education awarded grant for special ed teachers

Office of Education awarded grant for special ed teachers

SALINAS — The Monterey County Office of Education along with a consortium of nine school districts in the county announced Tuesday it will receive a Local Solutions Grant to assist special education teachers.

A grant for $729,900 will help recruit new special education teachers and support the 236 special education teachers who serve 4,117 students with disabilities across Monterey County.

“Receiving a grant to support special educators is very much needed to enhance our efforts countywide to provide mentoring and professional development for teachers who work with students with special needs,” said Monterey County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Kotowski. 

Others to receive the funds are Alisal Union, Greenfield Union, King City Union, Monterey Peninsula Unified, North Monterey County Unified, San Ardo Union, San Antonio Union, San Lucas Union, and Soledad Unified school districts.

Craig Chavez, assistant superintendent of Human Resource at North Monterey County Unified, said the school district aims to focus heavily on supporting current special education teachers on their career paths and in the classroom.

“North Monterey County Unified looks to fund the cost of a two-year induction program for seven teachers to ensure these teachers receive the support they need to clear their credentials for long-term service to our students,” Chavez said.

Chavez said the school district also looks to provide a robust professional learning community for 10 of its newest teachers involving in-classroom, Individualized Education Program, behavioral management and progress monitoring support.

“We are excited to receive the additional funding, to support the needs of existing teachers, so that we may work to retain their service for our students into the future,” Chavez said.
The Local Solutions Grant from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is aimed at helping improve teacher preparation and reduce costs to enter the profession. The grant was also made to increase teacher compensation, provide quality mentoring and induction for all beginning teachers.

The funds can be used for assistance and incentives such as teacher service scholarships, student debt payment, living stipends, signing bonuses, service awards, mentors for existing teachers, professional learning communities, teacher career pathways or other solutions that address the need for special education teachers.

Christie Kieffer, director of Teacher Residency and Retention at Monterey Peninsula Unified, said she was excited to get the grant, but wasn’t sure if the school district was going to receive the funds.

“We’re really thankful to MCOE for providing us with the consortium,” Kieffer said.

Kieffer said Monterey Peninsula Unified will receive $1.4 million over the next five years, which will award $20K per special education teacher. She said special education teachers are hard to recruit and retain just like many other schools in the state.

“There’s a severe shortage right now,” Kieffer said.

Monterey Peninsula Unified currently has 80 special education teachers and 20 of them are on short term staffing permits. Kieffer said the grant will help significantly in drawing in more special education teachers into the district.

“Part of this grant will go to providing our current awesome special education teachers with more leadership opportunities,” Kieffer said.

A lot of schools in California are facing a severe teacher shortage in special education, mathematics, science and bilingual education. The 2018–19 state budget includes $130 million to address teacher shortages and strengthen the teacher workforce through three grant programs, one being the Local Solutions Grant.

“We were thrilled to hear the news. Special education teachers are in high demand and this grant will help us attract and retain more of them,” said Dorianne Owens-Ramirez, interim special education director for Alisal Union. “We’re thankful to the Monterey County Office of Education for putting this consortium together that allowed us to maximize our chances to get the grant. Our special education students will be the direct beneficiaries of this award.”

According to the Office of Education, educators face a myriad of barriers to meeting the growing need for qualified special education teachers. The high costs of living, changing demographics, the regional economy and budget shortages all affect the ability to recruit and retain highly-qualified teachers, especially special education teachers.

“No two students enrolled in Special Education have the same needs and abilities, and as such, their teachers must be trained to manage a classroom of students with multiple and competing needs, and be empathetic to the challenges students are facing,” Kotowski said. “Becoming a special education teacher requires rigorous training, a supportive structure in the workplace, and ongoing professional development.”

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