Despite high costs to pay private day schools to educate some Higley USD special education students, the district comes out slightly in the black when balanced against funding from the state, district officials said.

Higley USD Special Education Director Shauna Miller showed the figures to the governing board at a work-study session Jan. 29 after a brief board meeting. Those figures showed the district pays 10 schools $2.37 million to educate the students.

Districts must by law provide a free and adequate education to the students. However, Miller said in an email a small group of special education students' needs require a more restrictive environment, with more specialized services, that can be better met by specialized Private Day Schools. Districts must continually work within their budget and state and federal allocations to ensure these necessary services can be provided within the districts' given allocations.

Because of the high costs of educating these students, however, the state uses a multiplier in the funding formula to accommodate districts’ extra costs.

With all revenue sources considered the district comes out $18,355.30 ahead, according to Miller’s presentation to the board.

“We don’t do this to make money,” board member Scott Glover said. “It’s about doing what’s right for the kids.”

Restorative justice

Student Services Director Jennifer Corry also presented to the board information on restorative justice programs, which address repeat behavioral issues by directing conversations for offending students to see how their behavior affects others.

Data showed that schools that have adopted such programs have seen less referrals and suspensions, less disparity in suspensions by race and higher graduation rates, Corry said.

However, Superintendent Mike Thomason said data shows HUSD has no great disparity in suspension by race and that the district’s graduation rate is 96%. He said any adaption of such a program requires fidelity to the program and consistency in applying it for the program to succeed.

Other items

  • Human Resources Executive Director Mum Martens updated an earlier presentation to the board about administrative and educational salaries, which the district hopes to push to the 45th to 50th percentile when compared with peer districts. A multidistrict salary study showed Higley to be in the 30th to 35th percentile at present. Martens said her team expects to have a salary schedule to present to the board in February.

  • A field trip for Sossaman Middle School’s advanced fine arts students to attend a Disney Workshops event in Anaheim, California, specific to their class won approval 5-0. The board rejected the trip 3-2 Jan. 15 over concerns about how many chaperones were on the trip and what that might mean for the district’s liability. The trip remained as proposed for its second appearance before the board with Thomason, who had approved the trip, assuring the board that the district would bear no additional costs for the extra chaperones.