September 27, 2023

Board members, teachers attend discussion on special ed

Work session led by lawyer and former educator

Eighteen teachers were among the participants in Monday evening’s forum meeting about special education.

Perhaps as important as the information shared was the way the meeting was structured, allowing teachers, parents, administrators, school board members to gather in small groups and discuss specific survey-type questions about how special education looks and should look at each Newton Community School District campus.

The one-hour meeting, held in advance of the NCSD’s regular board meeting, was led by Miriam D. Van Heukelem of the law firm Ahlers & Cooney, P.C.

“Special education is defined as specially designed instruction offered — at no cost to parents — to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability,” said Van Heukelem, as a prelude to the discussion. “This presentation and the work you’re doing tonight has to do more to do with instruction and methodology and not on the related services as much.”

Van Heukelem spent a few minutes discussing the acronym FAPE — free and appropriate education, as it pertains to U.S. public education in case-law legal terms.

NCSD superintendent Bob Callaghan praised the 18 teachers who came to the forum. The attendees were broken up into small groups so that a special education teacher, campus administrator, parent and school board member were at each table.

Many of the group members talked about how their campuses were set up. Newton High School Assistant Principal Dave Kalkhoff discussed the importance of balancing the term “least restrictive environment against the needs of a larger group of students.”

One longtime Newton High School special education teacher, Tina Stanmeyer, said she feels personal development time would be best served with special education teachers together.

Cody Muhs, the parent of an NCSD student, said it’s important to make sure the transition from year to year goes as smoothly as possible, especially when special education students must get to know different staff members.

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or