County's ESE among state's best

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By Claude Lewis

BRONSON - When it comes to providing services and meeting the needs for Exceptional Student Education, or ESE students, Levy County grades out among the tops in the state.

Levy is one of 16 school districts in Florida notching a perfect score of 8 in the latest State Performance Plan/Local Education Agency findings. There are 67 school districts in Florida.

The 2008 scores were based on information from the 2006-07 school year.

Levy has 1,400 ESE students spread among its schools.

Deserving credit for coming up with the successful formula serving those special-needs students is Dr. Rosalind A. Hall, director of Levy's ESE and Student Services.

A modest individual, Hall is quick to give praise to all involved.

"It's a total team effort," said Hall, who has five people in her administraive staff and 20 teachers. "I have excellent people working with me. It's all about the children - providing them what they need at their schools."

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires all states to develop State Performance Plans. The SPP evaluates efforts to implement the requirements and purposes on IDEA.

In compliance with that, the Florida Department of Education began gathering ESE services information on each school district.

Scores are based on data from 20 specific indicators.

This was the second year that performance rankings were compiled. Levy scored a 6 the first time around. That information was based on info from the early 2000s up through 2005.

The point system equates to four levels. A score of 7 or 8 means that a district meets the requirements. A score of 5 or 6 means that a district needs assistance. A score of 3-4 means a district needs intervention. Less than three means a district needs substantial intervention.

Hall was able to pinpoint why Levy scored 6 the first time.

"The auditor's findings were based on data from 2004 and earlier - prior to when I got here," she said. "We had to make sure teachers documented the services they were provided."

Falling under the 5-6 range meant that Levy qualified for assistance.

"The state offers training and resources," Hall said. "We had someone come in and train in proper documentation of services provided."

With all the other ducks in a row, that was all Levy needed to catapult it to a perfect score of 8.

Of the 67 school districts in Florida, 35 scored a 7 or 8. Thirty one ranked in the area of needs assistance and one needs state intervention.

Hall came to the Levy Schools in 2004. She is a graduate of P.K. Yonge High and the University of Florida. Hall received her Doctorate from Nova Southeast and has taught and served ESE programs in Alachua County for a number of years before coming to Levy.

Hall serves on a FDOE State Advisory Board representing small and rural counties.

"I couldn't be happier," said the always upbeat Hall.