The Union School District special education program was given a pat on the back through the state of Missouri’s performance review, which is carried out by the compliance department of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

DESE reviews the individual school districts and the federal government is tasked with reviewing each state.

The district received an overall rating of four out of four, the highest ranking possible.

“This is a good reflection on the dedication of our school personnel who work with the special education students,” said Steve Bryant, district superintendent. “They are doing a good job. It’s a challenging job, but they’re working to meet the needs of all of our kids.”

The district is in its first year of evaluations in a three-year cycle, explained Gary Vogel, director of special education. Each year, various reviews are performed.

This year was a file review, which consisted of 11 categories. Those categories were special education audit findings, timely and accurate data, graduation rate, dropout rate, assessment participation, assessment performance, disproportionality, initial evaluation timelines, Part C to Part B transition time lines, secondary transition planning and correction of noncompliance.

The district received a four out of four on nine of the 11 categories.

“(The scores) say that we have a lot of teachers who are working very hard in maintaining the services and the communication, time lines and providing services and testing,” Vogel said. “I think it says we have a lot of folks working very hard.”

Two of the elements the district scored low on are assessment performance and graduation rate.

“We have some work to do within our at-risk programs to help raise the (graduation) level,” Vogel said.

The Union School District has approximately 280 students who have Individual Education Plans (IEPs). That number varies throughout the year as families move in or out of the district, Vogel said.

There are about 40 special education teachers and paras throughout the district. The district also employs psych examiners and speech pathologists.

“I am very proud of our teachers,” Vogel said. “We have a lot of tremendously passionate and hard-working teachers who do a great job in looking ahead and filling the needs of our students.”

Standards are provided by the National Office of Special Education to states, which are then given to the individual districts.

“Our goal is always to be four out of four in everything,” he said. “Our goal is to meet all timelines and all of the needs of all of our students, all of the time — to go above and beyond.”