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Valparaiso Community Schools begin special education restructuring

screenshot from school board meeting YouTube video
Valparaiso School Superintendent Dr. Jim McCall speaks to the Valparaiso School Board members during their May 19 meeting.

Restructuring of special education is moving forward at Valparaiso Community Schools. The school board Thursday officially hired 34 special ed teachers who already work in the district's schools but are technically employed by the Porter County Education Services cooperative.

Superintendent Dr. Jim McCall said it's not just a change in employment but an evolution. "Certainly, they are new employees, but they are familiar colleagues and friends, people who work with our students every day and have been Valpo in everything but who signs their checks," McCall told board members.

Next, Valparaiso Community Schools will go through a similar hiring process with the district's special ed paraprofessionals. Then, the school will start recruiting for more teachers and aides, to "bolster the ranks."

But the restructuring will also require administrative changes.

Dr. Erin Hawkins, currently the director of social emotional learning, will be promoted to assistant superintendent for support services. And Chrissy Giraud, who currently serves as the district's special ed director through PCES, will also become a Valparaiso Community Schools employee.

Meanwhile, McCall said Valparaiso's elementary principal positions will be expanded from 210- to 260-day contracts. "The liability, the protections, the need to do things the right way the first time on behalf of our students and our families — that necessitates a presence and a presence and availability year-round," McCall explained.

Most changes will officially take effect at the start of the next school year, but teachers will begin training in June.