Ammon charter school violated eight special education laws, according to state investigation

        

The State Department of Education says a public charter school in Ammon has violated several state and federal special education laws.

Monticello Montessori Charter School is “out of compliance” with eight of nine special education requirements outlined in formal complaints filed by both the parent of a local special needs student and the SDE, according to a March 22 report signed by Mont Hibbard, who contracts with the SDE to conduct complaint investigations, and SDE Dispute Resolutions Coordinator Jeff Brandt. The student’s mother last week shared the report with Idaho EdNews.

Erica Kemery

Issues at the school include violations of both the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Idaho Special Education Manual. The report outlines a range of “corrective actions” for the school in the coming months.

The SDE’s report surfaces amid a months-long investigation into the embattled charter school’s finances by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, which includes questions over some $11,500 in unexplained payments and purchases at the school.

The report also follows a recent decision by the school’s governing board to drop its current head administrator, Erica Kemery, and the abrupt resignation of board chair Ken Glodo, who solely opposed Kemery’s ouster last month.

Neither Kemery nor Glodo have answered multiple questions from Idaho EdNews about issues at Monticello, including a range of unexplained credit card purchases.

Issues with special education

Special education compliance issues flagged by the SDE revolve around the creation and implementation of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a Monticello student with a diagnosed developmental delay who qualifies for special education services.

One of those issues follows the school’s failure to hold IEP team meetings, despite multiple requests from the student’s parent, a member of the IEP team. Under IDEA, public schools are required to hold team meetings following a team member’s “reasonable request.”

According to the report, the school’s administrator followed up one of the parent’s requests with an email to the student’s general education and special education teachers stating that “the parent can disagree, and the school can remain unmoved.”

The administrator also suggested limiting meetings with a school psychologist to 10 minutes to avoid being billed for services, according to the report. In the school’s opinion, time with the psychologist is “not critical” because the school already “paid a hefty sum” for such services.

“Such a determination is not based on the resources of the (school) or the cost of services,” the report states of a federal requirement.

The administrator’s actions conflict with a state requirement to grant reasonable requests for IEP team meetings and a federal requirement that the district “consider the student’s academic, development, and functional needs,” the report states

Other issues outlined in the report include the schools failure to:

  • Consider information provided by the parent to determine the content of the student’s IEP,
  • Develop an IEP in accordance with regulations,
  • Provide the parent with a copy of the IEP in a timely manner,
  • Convene a “legally constituted” IEP team in determining the student’s location of services,
  • Ensure that the parent was a member of any group that makes decisions about the educational placement of the student.

The report absolved the school from an allegation that it did not implement the IEP as written. Still, the investigation spurred a range of corrective measures for Monticello, including requirements that:

  • The school convene the student’s IEP team no later than April 16,
  • The team include eight members, including the school psychologist,
  • IEP team members be present for the entire duration of meetings,
  • The school receive “IEP facilitation” from the SDE.

Other issues at Monticello

Since March, the Idaho Public Charter School Commission has investigated a range of issues at the school, including over $11,500 in unexplained payments and purchases.

Idaho law requires school districts and charter schools to post their monthly expense reports online, along with descriptions of purchases that aren’t “self-describing.” Most of Monticello’s 2020 expense reports either lack purchase descriptions or are missing from the school’s website, an EdNews inquiry found.

Kemery’s contract with the school expires June 30 and it will not be renewed, according to a board decision.

Monticello is located in Ammon, serves some 200 students and employs 11 certified staffers.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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