Special Education In Focus: Stockton Unified Seeks Solutions Amid Staff Shortages

Yellow Line

STOCKTON, CA – At a recent town hall meeting, the Stockton Unified School District acknowledged the need for improvements in its special education program. The gathering, which included district administrators and parents, was held at the Walton Special Center to address concerns and brainstorm on enhancing support for the district's 5,406 students with disabilities.

Despite a notable increase in graduation rates for students with disabilities from 43% to 66% over three years, a critical shortage of paraprofessionals remains a significant challenge. Paraprofessionals provide essential support to special education teachers and students, yet many positions are part-time and without benefits, contributing to the staffing dilemma.

A parent at the meeting expressed the distress her nonverbal son experiences due to insufficient staff, emphasizing the urgency for action. The shortage not only affects the quality of education but also poses safety risks in the classroom setting.

Kasey Klappenback, the assistant director of educational services at Stockton Unified, stated the district's efforts in hiring new staff and contracting with outside agencies to fulfill immediate needs. The district has made strides by hiring 56 special education teachers, 23 paraprofessionals, four speech language pathologists, and two school psychologists since the school year began.

To combat staffing shortages, Stockton Unified has hosted career fairs, with the promise of more to come. The latest fair resulted in on-the-spot interviews for applicants, reflecting the district's proactive stance in attracting qualified professionals.

The district is determined to continue its work with a sense of urgency, as communicated by Klappenback. He confirmed plans to reallocate resources to support classrooms with greater needs and to maintain the momentum in addressing systemic issues within special education services.

This report highlights the ongoing efforts and challenges faced by Stockton Unified in providing equitable education to all students. For more detailed coverage on this topic, readers can reach out to Hannah Workman at The Stockton Record.

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