The Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education on Thursday heard Owensboro High School's 30-60-90-day plan for improvement having been identified by the Kentucky Department of Education as an ATSI school.

Schools that are identified for ATSI, or additional targeted support and improvement, according to KDE, are schools that have at least one student group performing as poorly as schools in the bottom 5%.

In Owensboro High School's case, that would be the students with special needs population.

Anita Burnette, OPS interim chief academic officer, updated the board on what officials at Owensboro High are doing in order to move forward, and hopefully out of ATSI status. For starters, she said, a group of individuals visited Meade County Schools in November. Meade County has been recognized by the state as a school district that has been instrumental in serving their special needs populations, and its assessment scores are "very, very impressive," Burnette said.

"They are doing a different service delivery model than we are doing, and we are very interested in implementing those models next year," she said. "So we went and saw that. It was a worthwhile trip. We came back and Mr. (John) DeLacey put together a needs assessment team, and they put together the 30-60-90-day plan."

The first thing the needs assessment team did was invited KDE to do an academic audit on the entire school.

Board Chairman Jeremy Edge asked what the audit would tell the school, and Burnette said it would allow them to see what is working well and where areas of improvement were found.

"(OHS) has taken those recommendations and those suggestions and they are implementing those now," she said.

In particular, the school is focused on 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students who are assessed in reading and math, and transition-readiness. Also, every special education teacher was given a core group of students to specifically coach and mentor. They are also looking at the IEPs, or individual education plans, for each student to make sure intervention strategies and accommodations are there for students who need them.

"The other part of that coaching and mentoring is to talk to kids about taking the test seriously," Burnette said. "Teenagers don't take things like that seriously, they don't see how it affects them directly. So we are going to coach those kids on that."

Matthew Constant, OPS interim superintendent, said with what OHS has done so far, they look to be "on par to be fine and not have this status again."

"John and his team are really to be commended," Constant said. "They have just dug in."

Burnette said this is has been a difficult task because if any group of students is not going to perform well on an academic test, it's students with special needs, and OPS has a board range of kids with special needs, from mild disabilities to multi-disabled students.

Board member Dan Griffith asked if students with special needs were spread evenly across the district, and Constant said that there are some buildings that lend better to students than others. For example, Foust is the most physically accommodating school so students with mobility issues are often taught there at the elementary level.

And, Burnette said, the high school has all of those students with special education needs so they have to be accommodating to all.

"But they are a part of who we are," she said.

Constant said the educators who visited Meade County were encouraged by what they saw and noticed several things that OPS could emulate.

"I think it's always good to get a fresh perspective, and I think we have done that by virtue of this action that we had to take. I think it's all going to come out really good."

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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