The Louisiana School for the Deaf suffers from low morale among students and staff, is implementing changes without a clear plan and some staff members lack the skills needed to help students, according to a report released Wednesday.
"Student and staff morale at LSD is low due to a lack of agreement in and collaboration around developing a unified school vision," the study says.
"There is insufficient communication and effective problem-solving between and among administrators, students, families, staff and community stakeholders," it says.
The review, which also faulted state oversight of the schools, was done under the direction of the state Department of Education.
The state Department of Education issued a request for proposals Friday aimed at improving three special schools, including the Louisiana Scho…
It covered all three schools that make up Louisiana's Special School District – Louisiana School for the Deaf, Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired and the Louisiana Special Education Center.
A total of 233 students attend the schools, including 128 at the School for the Deaf.
The schools for the deaf and visually impaired are in Baton Rouge.
Officials of both schools were briefed on the report Wednesday, and more than 50 parents, school officials and advocates gathered at LSD to get a rundown on the review late Wednesday afternoon.
Donna Alleman, director of LSD, was at the gathering and said she was not authorized to comment on the report.
Leslie Bello, director of LSVI, could not be reached for comment.
The special education center is in Alexandria and serves students with mental impairments and serious orthopedic problems.
Jamie Wong, special education policy director for the state Department of Education, said the findings will be discussed on Monday at the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Wong said the study is part of a wide-ranging dialogue "with a lot of different people and lots of different topics on students with disabilities."
"And we have heard a lot of different perspectives, opinions and visions on how these things should move forward," she said.
The Louisiana School for the Deaf, which is undergoing a review, needs significant changes to improve its performance, a member of the state B…
The review said LSD officials should conduct surveys every few years with students, families and staff to pinpoint concerns.
In another area, the study said school officials are implementing an American Sign Language/English bilingual philosophy without any clear strategic plan for expectations.
Some of the LSD staff working with students who require visual language access lack the needed proficiency to communicate, reviewers said.
Part of the problem stems from the leadership of the Special School District, according to the review.
The district itself "has significant issues that, if not addressed, present potentially insurmountable barriers to the improvement of each individual school," the report says.
Instructional decisions are often improperly removed from school leaders in favor of district officials, the review team concluded.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, a member of the House Education Committee, said Wednesday school officials have to be able to intervene when it is in the best interests of the child.
Kathy Edmonston, a member of BESE who lives in Gonzales, praised the 17-page study.
"They pretty much report the things those of us who listened to advocates, parents and students had already found out," Edmonston said.
LSD and LSVI are rated "F" by the state in annual public school ratings.
The report said academic rigor was not evident in all classrooms at LSVI.
School officials need to find ways to to engage families, including feedback on school operations, according to the study.
The report was done by Education Development Center Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit that studies school policies and procedures.
The review team included officials of the American School for the Deaf, Perkins School for the Blind and others.
They visited the schools, reviewed data and talked to students, parents and others.
Smith said she plans to sponsor a bill in the Legislature that would be a first step toward helping children who are hard of hearing up to age 5 with language skills.