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Bemidji, MN: 20% of students are SPED; 13% increase in seven years

Sept 10, 2019, Bemidji (MN) Pioneer: School Board hears update on special education In the face of a growing need among students, administrators at Bemidji Area Schools are taking another look at how they handle special education services. Special Education Director Lexi Wilde gave a presentation to the Bemidji School Board on Tuesday morning, explaining what changes they have started to make and what strategies they plan to implement to further the department's goals. Wilde took over the role of special education director in August 2018 and spent the year getting a pulse on the position. Of the 5,230 students in the district, more than 1,000 are in special education. Not only does that number represent roughly 20 percent of the student body, but it’s also a figure that has grown nearly 13 percent over the past seven years. … As part of workforce development, the district hired a special education coordinator, Tiffany Palmer, to help Wilde lead the department. Palmer was at the meeting Tuesday and helped Wilde give the presentation to the board members. Palmer has been working in the district in various roles for two decades. Palmer will specifically help in the areas of early childhood special education, which includes children up to five years old; transitional services; and some of the district’s alternative programs. Also part of workforce development, Wilde said they need to help their educators and para-educators achieve their own educational goals. Wilde said 47 percent of the district’s special education staff is not fully licensed. With the help of a grant, the district is able to reimburse the tuition of teachers and para-educators who go on to further their education. …


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