The K-12 education system at Augusta County required reforms and state funding for the optimal use of all the economic opportunities and providing all the learners with opportunities to receive a high-quality K-12 education. Dr. David Meyers, the superintendent of the county schools, invited the ideas from his colleagues for improving the existing state of affairs. Jessica Gavin-Leeds, Mark Gavin-Leeds and Hank Sorenson of the Beech Mountain Institute formulated their offers in a “talking paper” which, however, was not followed and became a failure. This paper sheds light upon the necessity of creating the least restrictive environment, main stages of development of the reform package, due process laws as the main preconditions for the failure of the project.
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Though the process of the development of the reformation package was rather prolonged, not all the due process laws were followed and it became one of the preconditions for the failure. The process of development of the reform package started in 1989 when Governor’s Summit on Education was conducted at Beech Mountain Institute. Jessica and Mark organized the summit, and several well-known educators were invited to it for discussion the problems of the Augusta County K-12 education system.
The achievement of the summit was offer of financial incentives to the local districts for strengthening the schools. In spring 1991, Jessica Garvin-Leeds and Hank Sorenson published a handbook for enhancing the community awareness on the importance of reforming the community schools. William Bauer, the former superintendent of the Augusta County schools reviewed a draft of the book before it was published. The authors distributed the handbook among the population of the county, and North Fork residents as well as South Fork residents demonstrated their interest in the implementation of the reform.
In January 1992, Jessica Gavin-Leeds and Hank Sorenson wrote the Description of an Alternative School System, the so-called talking paper on school reform. On January, 14, mark Gavin-Leeds met Governor Dwaine Arnold for the purpose of discussing the benefits of the reform package and the merits of a 4-day school week. The issues of collaboration between the Beech Mountain Institute and the Newberry School and the legislative waivers which were required for implementation of the reform package were raised at the meeting. The Governor demonstrated interest in the idea and promised to support the project.
On January, 15, Mark met Senator Evans to discuss the project and the deadline for getting the necessary waivers. On January, 16, the State Senator Arlene Cassette called Meyers to congratulate him on the new reform plan in his county. The problem was that Meyers knew nothing of the project and Mark called him to discuss the project later than the Senator. On January, 21, the Special School Board Meeting was held. 600 people were present at the meeting which lasted for 5 hours and ended with the withdrawal of the reform project from consideration. Not discussing the reform package with the current Superintendent and meeting with Governor and Senator, Mark violated the due process laws and broke the subordination chain.
Along with the violation of the due process laws and setting of the unrealistic deadline for the project, the implementation of the reform package was complicated with the particular local problems of the Augusta County which had impact on the state of affairs in the K-12 education system. Besides the issue of reformation of the school system, there were a number of other educational problems which needed to be handled in the first place. Among them was the issue of consolidation of the Stanford and Newberry Schools and closing one of them for the purpose of economizing the costs.
Still, the regional peculiarities of the County became a hindrance for implementation of this plan. “Dangerous and sometimes impassable 15 miles of roads in winter between Newberry in North Folk Valley and Stanford in South Fork Valley (“Memorandum of Dr. David Meyers”). Another problem of the County was creating the least restrictive environment for the learners with disabilities.
Though the specialized institutions for the learners with special needs, such as the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, for example, have flourished in Augusta County for more than a century, the appropriate measures were to be imposed for creating the conditions for the children with disabilities to attend the public schools, providing them with all the necessary supplementary aids and services for satisfying their special needs if they attend the same institution as their non-disabled peers. “Minority children comprise an increasing percentage of public school students” (“Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004”). Considering this changing demographics, the developers of the education projects should pay special attention to allotting funds to creating the least restrictive environment.
The violation of the due process laws, the unrealistic deadline for the project and the importance of allotting funds to other educational projects, such as the consolidation of the Stanford and Newberry Schools and creating the least restrictive environment, became the main reasons for the failure of the Garvin-Leeds’ and Sorenson’s project of reformation the K-12 education system at Augusta County.
“Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004”. Government Printing Office Website. 2004. Web.
Merseth, Katherine. Cases in educational administration. London: Longman. 1997. Print.
Sherris, Arieh. “Memorandum of Dr. David Meyers, Superintendent of Augusta County Schools to Jessica Gavin-Leeds, Mark Gavin-Leeds and Hank Sorenson”. George Mason University Website. 2000. Web.