Marsha's Mindset

AT Buzz

posted Dec 20, 2018, 9:32 AM by Google Apps   [ updated Dec 20, 2018, 9:35 AM ]

There’s been an AT buzz around our Inter-local for a while. What is AT? How do I determine if a student needs Assistive Technology? These are questions that many of our staff wonder when considering the individual needs of students. Let’s dive into AT. 

Assistive Technology is, “any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device “ (Georgia Department of Education). 

Every public agency must make available assistive technology devices and or services to a child with a disability if deemed necessary as part of the child’s individual education plan. Almost any tool can be considered assistive technology. 

The term Assistive Technology device is very broad. This allows IEP teams to make determinations that are appropriate for an individual child. An assistive technology device could be a computer program that has been determined to meet the needs of a child in mathematics or spelling if the team determines that it is necessary for educational support.  Another assistive technology device could be a simple pencil grip if the student’s team determines that it will fulfill the assistance the student needs to allow for academic success. 

Here is a list of some types of assistive technology: 

Academic and Learning Aids– calculators, spellcheckers, computer-based software

Assistive Listening Devices and Environmental Aids– electronic and non-electronic aids such as amplification devices, closed captioning systems and environmental alert systems

Augmentative Communication– electronic and non-electronic and software that provide a means for expressive and receptive communication for those with limited speech and language

Environmental Control– electronic and non-electronic aids such as switches and adapted appliances that are used by disabled students to increase independence across the curriculum

Mobility Aids– wheelchairs, walkers and scooters to increase mobility

Pre-vocational and Vocational Aids– picture based task analysis sheets, adapted knobs, times and watches to assist students in completing pre-vocational tasks

Seating and Positioning– adaptive seating to provide quality access to curriculum

Visual Aids – magnifiers, talking calculators, Braille writers, screen reading software

 If you need assistance with assistive technology, please review the newsletter for monthly updates and/or fill out an AT referral and send to Deb Sparks( for assistance with assistive technology.


Creating Independent Students

posted Nov 26, 2018, 12:21 PM by Google Apps

Creating independence for our students is our obligation as special and general education staff. The extent for services will change due to the needs of the student over time. With the use of assistive technology, quality instruction, differentiated lessons and specific programming, paraprofessional support should be faded throughout a student’s educational career. “Paraprofessional support decisions shall be based on student and classroom need, as determined by educational teams” (Kansas State Department of Education, “ Considerations for the Effective Use of Paraprofessionals in Schools, 2018, p. 6). 
What does this mean for the future of our students? The individual needs of students are our obligation, but how we approach those needs will be determined by good decision making. There are many ways to support students in English/ Language Arts, Math, social emotional support and more with peer interaction, specific technology apps, software, access to digital text, and much more. We continue to find ways to provide support for our students and help them become more independent. The intent from the beginning of services should be to best support the student and provide FAPE. Our goal for students is to make progress in the general education curriculum. 
Let’s meet the independence pathway with positive intentions. Annually, IEP teams should determine the level of support and type of modification of services needed to allow the student to be as independent as possible. This may be a paradigm shift for many in the field, but will fall in accordance with the Kansas Can Vision, Kansas State Department of Education and IDEA.
Here are ways to foster independence …
Watch before assisting
Can the problem-solve on his/her own?
Have high expectations for what the student understands or can do independently
Start with the least intrusive prompts
Prompt, then go back to independent time
Be aware of proximity. Sit with the student only when necessary
Utilize self-monitoring checklists for students
Break big tasks into steps
Use backward chaining 
As you consider the implications of learned helplessness, think about how this shift in thinking will be proactive in a student’s life. It’s time to foster independence. 

Commit to Public Education

posted Nov 26, 2018, 12:14 PM by Google Apps   [ updated Nov 26, 2018, 12:18 PM ]


November 6, 2018 is the general election in Kansas.  Do you have 15 minutes to look up your ballot? How many times have you gone to the ballot and really not known much about a candidate, probably too many, if you are like many of us? Consider this, democracy is like a garden. “If we don’t work in the garden, the weeds and insects take over”from theLeague of Women Voters. It is very easy not to vote. Much easier than taking time to gain more information about those who are running for office. However, if we do not vote for the candidate that we believe has our interests in mind, who will make the decision about public education, gun control, immigration, and health care? 


If you’d like to be more informed, log into This site was created by the League of Women Voters and asks specific questions of the candidates from the role of public education to gun control. You can actually see who responded and what their stance is on these issues. If you go to www.ballotpedia.comthere is more information on candidates. Both sites will load an example ballot like the one that you will receive when you vote. You can click on each individual candidate. This will take you to that candidate’s information. You will see previous election results, who they previously have run against, if anyone, how many people voted for that person, and campaign themes. 


I urge you to take a few minutes out of your schedule. Look up these sites, become an informed voter. Your voice does matter. There are 41,243 teachers in public schools across Kansas. Do they all vote? If not, why not start now?  Remember, a non-voter is silent. Your voice cannot be heard.  Be a part of the solution and vote on November 6! 



Headed In The Right Direction

posted Jan 30, 2018, 11:30 AM by Google Apps   [ updated Jan 30, 2018, 11:40 AM ]

The Center for Innovative School Leadership (CISL) Survey was completed for SCKSEC at the end of the 2016-17 school year. During our SCKSEC pre-service, I had shared some of the information found in the CISL report, but would like to explain more findings to you pertinent to some of the changes that are taking place in the Inter-local. Overall, this survey was very complimentary and shared much information that was positive concerning programs, administration, staff and delivery of services. There were also some much-needed findings that I will share with you. Several of these findings were already in beginning stages and some have come from the survey itself.

As a brief introduction, the Center for Innovative School Leadership survey was created in 2004 to review school and special education entity efficiency and effectiveness. This process was created to identify best practices, cost savings and to develop effective programming in human resources, organization, leadership and delivery of services.  The CISL report compared SCKSEC to five peer organizations across the state that matched similarly in size.

SCKSEC is currently comprised of 15 school districts in South Central Kansas, which are spread across eight counties and cover 6,205 square miles. SCKSEC is one of 39 inter-local and cooperative agencies that serve special education students in Kansas. During the survey, SCKSEC employed 268 paraprofessionals and 120 licensed staff and served 1,139 students with exceptionalities.

Compliance indicators and delivery of services were an integral part of this survey. The State Performance Plan (SPP) collects data on 29 compliance indicators to determine whether compliance was met in each indicator area. SCKSEC had four of fifteen districts that met 100% compliance on all 29 indicators. This indicated that continued information, concrete expectations and compliance processes should be strengthened so that all districts would be 100% compliant.

This information was shared with the Inter-local Superintendents, Board of Education, school psychologists and compliance team to continue efforts to strengthen compliance in Early Childhood, least restrictive environments and graduation rates. Staff communications referring to compliance and IEP expectations were also developed and ongoing.

It was found that 22% of the students in SCKSEC districts were identified as needing special education services. The Kansas state percentage is 16.3. As you can see, this is quite a bit higher than the state average. Again, information was shared with the proper personnel to gain knowledge in SIT processes, eligibility indicators and special education least restrictive environments.  

Many commendations and recommendations were brought forth from this survey pertaining to delivery of services. Several of the commendations and recommendations are as follows:


·      All districts with state reported data met compliance indicators in Math and Reading ages 6-21.

·      No evaluations took more than 60 school days.

·      The cooperative analyzes categories of students to track trends across districts in an effort to spot discrepancies.

·      Survey respondents were complimentary of SCKSEC administration.

·      Survey respondents were generally complimentary of cooperative office staff, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, itinerant staff, district principals, general education teachers and parents of students with disabilities.

·      There was a general agreement that the cooperative staff assigned to the district was a “part of the team”.


·      SCKSEC evaluate the two-Day School Programs to determine student needs and whether those students could be served in their home districts in a less restrictive environment.

o   SCKSEC re-established Entrance/ Exit Criteria to the day school programs

o   SCKSEC administration trained on the Entrance/ Exit Criteria

·      Co-teaching was recommended as an effective delivery model to assure highly qualified content and services to students in the least restrictive environment.

o   Assistant Director, Cris Seidel is a Co-Teaching Trainer for TASN and continues to advocate for this model

·      Review the General Education Intervention process for effectiveness and make necessary changes.

o   GEI information, SIT processes, eligibility information was communicated to district personnel

·      SCKSEC develop a three to five year strategic plan

o   Strategic Planning process – initial phase

Human Resources were also a priority included in the survey. Here is a list of some of the findings. I think that you will find this interesting and hope that it will answer some questions that you may have.


·      Paraprofessional handbook is detailed and comprehensive

·      Negotiated agreement is thorough and complete

·      Additional compensation for paraprofessionals working in high impact positions is provided

·      Some regular education teachers do not feel they are adequately trained or informed on how to best serve students with IEP’s

·      Skyward was implemented to improve efficiency, effectiveness and savings to the cooperative

·      Itinerate staff, administers, board of directors, and central office staff recognize the implementation of vision throughout the cooperative and feel that moral is improving

·      Cooperative administration is viewed as transactional and supportive

·      Attrition rates: there is a 20% teaching staff attrition due to the salary schedule perceived as being low and 30% paraprofessionals attributed to low salary schedule

·      Currently 19 waivered special education teachers

·      Appears that SCKSEC is adequately staffed as compared to three other cooperatives of like size.


·      Health insurance is funded at 95% for paraprofessionals

·      Continuing to look at technology that can improve efficiency and effectiveness, the cooperative will save resources and money

·      Teacher and para advisory councils provide an avenue for employees to voice concerns

·      Human Resource Director has done a good job of taking care of procedures and policies

·      Leadership members are effective communicators, courteous, and knowledgeable of staff skills and talents


·      SCKSEC develop a procedural manual and distribute it to cooperative and district administrators

o   District administration is currently working toward this endeavor

·      SCKSEC properly train regular education teachers and paraprofessionals as to their specific role and how to best serve IEP students

·      Create ways to recruit paraprofessionals

·      Replace one sick day with a personal paraprofessional day

o   Implemented August 2017

·      Complete a district salary schedule comparison

o   Strategic planning

The last section of the CISL report was looking at the Organization and Leadership of SCKSEC. This piece of the study pertains mainly to the budget, board communication and Inter-local agreement. Here several items of interest that were found.


·      There is a need for local capability to address challenging behaviors

·      Principals in two day schools are called upon to respond to other schools when there is a crisis

·      Inter-local maintains an IMC that may or may not be viable


·      Inter-local agreement is updated

·      Addition of an Autism Coordinator is regarded as successful

·      MST team is seen as a great support for staff in crisis

·      Board reports a need for improved communication they feel “light years” ahead of where they had been

·      Coop is viewed by principals as providing excellent in-service opportunities


·      SCKSEC continue to insure budgetary figures are reported accurately and reflect revenue and expenditures

o   Implementation of Skyward

·      Districts do not call day school principals away from assigned duties

o   Entrance/ Exit Criteria followed by districts

·         Review and staffing allocations and increase or adjust as needed to meet requirements specified under IDEA

o   Ongoing through SCKSEC administration

As I reviewed this information to share I realized how much we are doing so well and how much progress we have made in the past few years. There is always room for growth in every organization. I hope that you have clarity on why we are expanding our efforts in data collection, SIT team processes, continued compliance expectations and improved curriculum and programs for students. What we do is not easy. How we serve and treat students is top priority! I believe that we at SCKSEC believe in Fostering HOPE, JOY and PURPOSE for ALL! If you would like more information about this report, please connect with me, I’d be glad to go over this in a more detailed format with you. 

Let's continue to Fly!

posted May 9, 2017, 7:40 AM by Google Apps

As I look back over the past year, I want to focus on the accomplishments that we have made at SCKSEC. As you may remember, I ended my first presentation of the year by asking everyone to “Fly Like Geese” meaning that when the leader becomes tired or unable to fly, that someone will take the lead for a period of time. We are all leaders in our own positions. All of us need others to help support us in the classroom, on the playground, in the lunchroom, or in a meeting. Wherever we are, we need others to take that lead so that we can rest, recover and rejuvenate.

I have seen and experienced this many times over the course of this year. I believe that the SCKSEC Playbook and the values that we uphold as the essence of our organization, allow us to “Fly Like Geese”. We are and will remain student focused, solution oriented, and strengths driven! It takes all of us to support our students in the best possible avenue.

Thank you to everyone that has uplifted a student’s spirits, calmed a troubled situation, created a better path for communication, and guided another with an anabolic attitude. You do make a huge difference!

Looking back, we have the SCKSEC Playbook to guide this organization in a success oriented manner, developed and strengthened practices to become more efficient, and have turned the corner to empower students with assistive technology. Together, we will continue to support students in powerful ways. Continue to support those around you, be willing to take the lead, and inspire one another!

A Special Tree signifies HOPE

posted Mar 26, 2017, 7:15 AM by Google Apps

You may remember the weekly update that I sent in early December describing the SCKSEC “Happy Tree” and how much effort and care Nathanael, Adam, Cris, and I put into the tree for it to take root and grow into a beautiful tree. Our Happy Tree held much significance, at that time, in working together to create a welcoming, uplifting and solid organization. We looked forward to watching it’s first buds break forth in the upcoming spring.

Then, the ice storm happened in mid January. It left many without power for a few days with a quarter inch icing that covered power lines, streets and tree branches. When I arrived at the SCKSEC office and looked out the front door, our Happy Tree had been destroyed by the ice. The top of the tree was snapped in two, with barely a thread of life, yet it sparkled amazingly in the sun. Several people commented on how sad our tree looked and what a disappointment to lose such a beautiful tree.

I thought about the significance this tree had for our organization and the hope that we have for each one of our students, which is to create the very best path to life’s journey, then decided to attempt to save the tree. I consulted with Arborist, Rod Seidel, who came out to view the damage. Cris and I felt that if anyone could save our tree, it would be all of us working together. It took Rod’s expertise to straighten the tree, prune the smaller branches, brace the main trunk, and then wrap the damaged area with black tape. This type of damage was significant to the tree; the top branches had a small chance to survive.

It looked mangled, but we held on to hope that it would survive. When disaster happens, it makes us reach out to one another, to work together to support others and have faith that we will overcome and never give in. Our now “Special Tree” signifies just that as we look at ourselves in special education. We look at imperfections as uniqueness, celebrate differences, and look for growth potential and NEVER GIVE UP on our students! When you get the chance to drop by the SCKSEC office, take a look at our “Special Tree”. It now has buds all the way to the top branches. It stands tall to signify what we do best, provide HOPE, JOY and PURPOSE for all!

Sage - The Therapy Dog

posted Jan 17, 2017, 11:15 AM by Google Apps

It’s the little things in life that make the most difference. This is the most wonderful time of the year to notice the littlest miracles. Everywhere you look, a miracle is just about to unfold. You can find the miracles in children’s faces, the spirit of the season. I recently asked my two-year-old granddaughter, Lana, what she wanted for Christmas. She replied so seriously, “a piece of candy!” So small and simple; yet pure and amazing. I would imagine she’ll get her small gift, but the look on her face will be the gift to those around her.

Our office staff received a gift also when Casey’s dog, Sage came by to visit. She is a past-certified therapy dog and very well mannered. Her gift to us was her presence. She charmed everyone in the office!

Take a few moments to embrace the miracles in your lives and those of your students. Play with your students, create great learning opportunities and they will be successful! Never give up and look for the smallest differences. Small success is a miracle. Don’t forget to notice and embrace your “inner child” this season and the miracles will abound.

Election Day

posted Nov 18, 2016, 12:24 PM by Google Apps   [ updated Nov 18, 2016, 12:26 PM ]

There are many high stakes positions at the community, state and federal levels that need your vote. For some people, this brings a feeling of excitement and empowerment. For others, it creates tension or confusion. I’d like to help alleviate some of the tension and confusion if you are a person who is wondering how to sift through the propaganda.

Being the best informed voter allows each one of us to go to the polls and make our mark knowing that we have selected the most qualified in our mind. John Quincy Adams made a statement years ago that resonates with me, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost”.

Here are several websites that may help you make an informed decision. -- This voter guide will give you candidates in your particular area at a local level,_2016
-- Provides information on senate positions in your area.

Also, another hot Kansas topic is whether to retain the Kansas Supreme Court Justices. There is much at stake from school finance to the death penalty. A plethora of information is at our fingertips. Make the most informed decision by searching and digging a bit, then go out and cast your vote.

Happy Voting!

“Positive relationships are key to student success.”

posted Oct 4, 2016, 10:58 AM by Google Apps   [ updated Oct 21, 2016, 7:43 AM ]

A key factor in student success is the relationships that are formed between all stakeholders. One of the five R’s that is part of the accreditation process is Relationship. Special educators have had relationships at the top of their radar for quite some time. Yearly, we gather as a team to discuss student achievement, behavior success, social-emotional strides and any needs pertaining to identified students. We believe that relationship is at the heart of every student’s progress. We work closely with parents, related services providers, outside agencies and even community support to give every opportunity for growth. We are committed to relationship growth potential and will continue to strengthen this component of the five R’s.

Here are some of the great things happening in our cooperative. Noni New, our Early Childhood specialist and social worker is now presenting information on Positive Parenting. This six week parenting program offers parents positive and effective techniques to bring out the best in every child! Please connect with Noni to help parents enroll in these powerful classes. Her email is Our MST team continues to support students, teachers, and parents through the Multi-disciplinary team to find resources that will positively affect students and family. Tele-medicine services through KU Med Center provide medical, psychological and behavioral support for students and families, as well. SCKSEC continues to seek ways to benefit families through additional outside agencies and strengthen relationships in the each member community. We believe the key to student success is through positive relationships, which bring hope, joy, and purpose for all involved!

Be a "Cup Filler Upper"

posted Sep 11, 2016, 2:26 PM by Google Apps

Welcome back to the 2016-17 school year!  This should be the best year yet. Our Pre-Service theme this year was “Cruising to Student Success”! As you can see from the photos, we began the year with fun and excitement. Our keynote speaker, Steve Martinez inspired us with his heroic story. He is a man with inspiration, integrity, and love for life.

Our leadership team rolled out the new SCKSEC Playbook to guide us in decision-making, hiring practices, and organizational strength. True leaders display enthusiasm for what they do, work together as a team and take the lead when others fall back.  

Adam Maloney, our SLC Coordinator termed what we do best in special education as “Cup Filler Uppers”. We all work hard each and every day to fill someone else’s cup with encouragement and positivity. Doing so with trust and integrity creates positive relationships and a successful path to organizational pride.

Here at SCKSEC, we intend to be someone’s Cup Filler Upper! Have a great year supporting others.

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