— The Livingston Parish School Board has taken steps to strengthen its special education department and to gather all its pupil appraisal staff under one roof.

The School Board voted unanimously at its May 19 meeting to create a new special education project coordinator position and to establish a pay supplement schedule for educational interpreters.

“We continue to see an increase in the number of students in our special ed department, and the needs of those students are becoming more complex and time-consuming,” Superintendent John Watson told the School Board’s Athletic/Staff Committee on May 18, in asking for the new personnel position.

The special education project coordinator will serve as a liaison between the district’s director of special education and both the special education department and the pupil appraisal coordinator, according to a draft job description presented to the board.

The new coordinator also will provide guidance to special education teachers and develop programs and long-range planning based on student data, federal and state legislation, personnel and the budget.

The position will be paid, “benefits and all,” through federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grant funds, Watson said.

Qualifications for the job include a master’s degree, special education certification and 10 years of teaching experience in the field of special education or pupil appraisal.

The interpreter pay supplement will provide an incentive for the district’s 10 educational interpreters to remain in the public sector while also reaching for higher levels of certification, Watson said.

“There has been a need for a long time to make some adjustment salary-wise from the standpoint of being competitive with the outside market,” Watson said.

The salary for educational interpreters, who provide services for students with hearing impairments, is about $1,000 above the pay rate for a highly qualified paraprofessional, he said.

“We want to have them ready to take the EIPA (Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment) exam,” Watson said. “Right now, there’s zero incentive for someone coming in at Level 1 to move up to the next level.”

The new supplement schedule would provide an extra $1,000 per year — as long as federal IDEA funds are available — for each new level an interpreter reaches, from Level 1 to Level 3.

At Level 3.5, the highest level possible, the annual supplement would be $5,000, according to the schedule.

The district has two Level 3.5 interpreters, said IEP Facilitator Anna Broussard, who oversees the interpreters. Most of the rest are Level 1 interpreters.

In other business, the School Board unanimously approved Watson’s request to enter negotiations with a Livingston property owner for the rental or lease-purchase of a building where the district can house all 55 members of its pupil appraisal staff.

The pupil appraisal staff work with the special education department to identify children in need of that department’s services and help them get started on the right foot as they enter school.

Pupil appraisal personnel are spread among several locations, including Pine Ridge School, Pathways Pupil Appraisal Center and Southside Junior High. But the 10,288-square-foot space district officials are eyeing would allow those employees to work under the same roof for perhaps the first time ever, Watson said.

The district will have the building inspected before finalizing a contract and price with the property owner, he said.

“Pupil appraisal definitely needs this,” said board member Jan Benton, who previously served as an administrator and principal in the school system. “I watched for years as they had to work with whatever was given to them. They absolutely deserve this.”

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.