Clear Creek Independent School District officials have hired an Austin-based consulting group to help review its special education services, but a group of parents argues it should have had a say in the decision.

“We wanted to be included in the selection of an investigator,” said Jane Kline, a founding member of Parents for CCISD Special Education Reform. “We didn’t want the district to be able to cherry-pick someone they could influence.”

The district’s trustees last week approved a $149,500 contract with Austin-based Gibson Consulting Group to review all aspects of the special education program, officials said.

“The district developed minimal expectations to gather perceptions of parents, students, teachers and administrators, in addition to examining program quality and student achievement,” said Steven Ebell, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

District officials have been searching for an independent consultant since announcing their intention earlier this year in response to a growing number of parents who accuse officials of covering up abuse and misdeeds in special education programs.

The district’s announcement was apparently in response to leaders of the Parents for CCISD Special Education Reform calling for an independent investigation of parent accusations.

The parent group is concerned because they weren’t involved in the selection, and they fear it won’t be truly objective, Kline said.

But district officials since the time of the announcement said the administration ultimately would decide on the group it hired.

Gibson Consulting Group provides internal audits, research and evaluation, data visualization and improved efficiency suggestions to school districts and has done work in 27 states, officials said.

School districts across the state have come under increased scrutiny over their handling of special education programs in recent months after a 15-month federal probe found that the Texas Education Agency had effectively instituted an 8.5 percent cap on special education services.

More parents have filed complaints with the Texas Education Agency over issues with special education at Clear Creek Independent School District than any other county district in the past five years, according to agency data.

The district, which is the largest in Galveston County with more than 41,000 students, has had eight complaints filed against it since 2013, records show.

Representatives for a group called Parents for CCISD Special Education Reform, which is accusing district officials of covering up abuse and misdeeds in special education programs, pointed to the data as evidence for their claims.

District representatives, meanwhile, said the raw-number comparison wasn’t fair because of the district’s size and that they were making moves to improve special education programs.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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(1) comment

Jane Kline

The other important piece that the reform group wanted was for the investigation to include looking at past allegations, including students that may have been in the special education program previously but are not there currently. Some students have been pulled by parents due to negative experiences in CCISD SpED. Not including these past incidents excludes some of the worst of the worst stories. It is discriminatory not to review past allegations. Ignoring the past also impedes the ability to identify problems and the appropriate improvements necessary.

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