History: In the early part of the 20th century, parents formed advocacy groups to bring the educational needs of children with disabilities to the public’s attention. However, during the early 1970’s, only a relatively small number of children with disabilities were being educated in public schools. In 1975, two federal laws were enacted which changed this: The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) establishes a right to public education for all children regardless of disability and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. Common special needs include learning disabilities, communication disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disabilities.
Primary Focus: Student Support Services’ primary focus is supporting Portland students.
Special Education Role: Student Support Services ensures that the Portland Public Schools are in compliance with the above federal mandates. The department’s role is to identify and educate students with special needs in a way that addresses each child’s individual differences and needs and meets those needs in the least restrictive setting. Student Support Services is responsible for ensuring that teams develop Individual Educational Plans for students identified as needing special education services in order to successfully progress through the general curriculum. Special Education is highly regulated by the Maine Unified Special Education Regulations (Chapter 101). Compliance with Special Education regulations involves an extensive amount of documentation, reporting, and strict timeframes. Student Support Services provides support in the regular education classroom and resource support as well as several self-contained and day treatment programs. Student Support Services also ensures that teams address, document and meet students’ occupational, physical and speech therapy, social work and other related needs. Supplies and the latest technology are purchased to meet students’ needs. Student Support Services provides support, supplies and professional development for all special education staff.
Other Department Roles: Student Support Services also has a myriad of other key roles and responsibilities surrounding support for our students. Accommodations for 504 students, serving home-schooled students, coordinating services for the homeless, School Health Services, Gifted/Talented and oversight of 3 day treatment programs are a few examples. This department is also instrumental in bringing in State Agency and Mainecare revenue which benefits the entire school district and our taxpayers.
Student Support Services collaborates with regular education and community programs such as Learning Works, Portland Recreation and Title 1A to bring an array of summer services to Portland students. A partnership with Child Development Services allows for a smooth transition from preschool services to Kindergarten services. Increased collaboration with Multilingual enhances services for ELL students.
In summary, the department’s title STUDENT SUPPORT says it all.