At the end of February, the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School's special education director became the latest employee to head out the door.
Les Kiehn resigned in February after restructuring and crafting the charter's special education department — an aspect of the school that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said wasn't serving students well in the school's first year.
But Executive Director Tony Blackman said Friday that the school's bringing on a new special education director in the coming school year, and will have the resources for a strong special education program.
Blackman said the charter school hired Kiehn last year, and said Kiehn had worked for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in assessing the school's special education programs.
Kiehn brought the kind of special education experience any school would want, Blackman added.
In its first year, 29 percent of the school's students had individual education plans, or IEPs. This year, Blackman said, that figure has been at 20 percent. The numbers, he added, fluctuate depending on enrollment.
Kiehn left to pursue opportunities with the DESE or in a larger district, Blackman said, By the time he had left, Blackman said, Kiehn had set the department on stable footing.
Kiehn updated the school's special education's data system, using the same platform used by Gloucester Public Schools. Kiehn left when the charter school sustained a $94,000 budget cut after the state altered the school's per student funding. That's on top of another budget cut from lower than expected enrollment at the start of last year. On a whole, he said, the school sustained $400,000 in cuts last year.
"Kiehn decided to pursue other interests at time it was also helpful to us at a budget standpoint," Blackman said.
When he left, Blackman said, the school's former special education director, and part of the current special education staff, Carol Kennedy, resumed her work as special education director for the remainder of the year.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, spokesman J.C. Considine said Friday, was notified of Keihn's leaving and of the school's transition plan. Last year, the department cited the school for not providing adequate special education services. The charter set up a summer program to provide compensatory services, according to the DESE's December review, and would continue trying to fill gaps through supplemental services to children who didn't attend the summer session.
In the school's first year, Blackman said, it didn't have the resources to meet every need, and had to try compensatory services over the summer. This year's additional resources, and next year's projections will provide the school the resources it needs, he said.
"When human sources are limited," Blackman said, "you have to find other ways to make sure those services get delivered effectively."
Last year, the school cut several teaching staff in the middle school programs due to budget constraints. The school, Blackman said, was able to keep up its educational program even with the cuts. The charter also lost its music director, Jeremiah Gallant, who moved to Vermont, Blackman said.
Projections for the school's 2013 budget call for the school to increase its personnel costs next year, from $992,567 to $1,265,250.
Blackman said the school is hiring two general education teachers for kindergarten and first grade, several special education inclusion specialists, an instructional coach, school counselor, and new special education director.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.