FARMINGTON — John Jones, director of special services for Regional School Unit 9, told directors Monday night the program is facing ongoing challenges due to the number of students and their needs.

According to Jones, there are 388 students with disabilities with 27 more in the referral process. From August to October 46 students have transferred to the district, he said, with roughly a third of them having significant needs in many areas.

Jones said meeting their needs has been an “extraordinary challenge this year in particular, which I’m not entirely surprised to see, to be honest with you. We may be in the wake of the pandemic, but it is still a wake nonetheless.”

Compared to last year, RSU 9’s special services program has grown in terms of staffing with six new educational technicians and two more in the onboarding process. “Where we were to where we are now, it has vastly improved,” Jones said.

However, staff versatility has been key in the strides the programs have taken. Superintendent Christian Elkington commended the staff for their ability to switch functions based on the needs of the students. “We very much appreciate any and all staff that have made the move to better support the kids,” he said.

According to Jones, the need to move people around has been included in the hiring process for greater transparency to potential new hires.


Jones also highlighted speech-language pathologist Liv Gloede and Victoria Peterson, along with Mt. Blue High School social worker Anna Peterson, who will be presenting at the Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities annual fall conference Friday in Portland. They will be presenting around the peer’s program, which is designed to aid children with development in social skills as well as help with scenarios like how to join a group.

“It was piloted last spring and it had some great success,” Jones said. “There were kids exchanging phone numbers and things like that that they don’t do much. It was really very exciting.”

Jones hopes to expand the program to Mt. Blue Middle School in Farmington.

Board Chairwoman Carol Coles questioned Jones about the 15 out-of-district placements that are occurring.

According to Jones, there were 20 when he took the position and he has managed to reduce it. He said his primary concern is the “pressure that is on special purpose private schools in Maine to help our neediest, most vulnerable kids that need help beyond what we can provide in the public school.”

Jones has taken this concern to the state and has been placed on a sustainability work group with the intent of making changes to regulations to ease the pressure. “Part of it is a staff issue and a resource issue,” he said.

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