Mrs. Carrie Conrad, Special Education Director
Mr. Paul Haber, School Psychologist
Mrs. Elly Pisarski, Office Coordinator
The Penn Cambria School District is committed to identifying students with disabilities and providing them with a free appropriate public education program in compliance with federal and state regulations (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; PA Chapter 14). Penn Cambria provides a wide variety of programs to meet the needs of identified students with disabilities. Identified students are provided with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) designed to meet their unique educational needs. Special education programs are mostly operated by the school district while some programs are provided by contract with Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 or other local agencies.
Educational disabilities include:
Other health impairment
Specific learning disability
Speech or language impairment
Traumatic brain injury
Visual impairment including blindness
Screening and Evaluation Process
The Penn Cambria School District has developed procedures for screening and evaluating school-aged children living within the district who are experiencing academic or emotional/behavioral difficulty. If you believe your child may have an educational disability, you may contact his/her school guidance counselor or principal.
In the elementary schools, Student Support Teams are in place to screen students with suspected disabilities and provide interventions and supports in regular education for students with academic or behavioral needs. In the secondary schools, the responsibility for screening and intervention is provided by Child Study and Student Assistance Teams. If students fail to make reasonable progress with interventions implemented in regular education, a referral can be made for a special education evaluation which includes assessments conducted by a school psychologist. If the evaluation team concludes that the student meets the eligibility criteria for one or more educational disabilities and needs specially designed instruction, a recommendation is made for special education programs and services. The Penn Cambria School District supports an inclusive model, where students with disabilities are provided with opportunities to participate in the regular education curriculum to the fullest extent possible.
Learning Support services are provided to students whose needs are primarily in the academic areas. Most often, these are students with specific learning disabilities or mild intellectual disabilities. Students with other educational disabilities might also demonstrate a need for academic support services through a Learning Support program. Interventions and supports provided through this program can include, but are not limited to, direct instruction, re-teaching of concepts, accommodations, or modifications to instruction, curriculum, or assessment. The amount of Learning Support services varies in relation to individual student needs. Learning Support services are available in all buildings and are provided by Learning Support teachers who are certified special education teachers.
Life Skills Support
The Life Skills Support program is designed to meet the needs of students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, as well as some students with mild intellectual disabilities or multiple disabilities. This program provides services primarily in the areas of academic, functional or vocational skills necessary for independent living. Instruction emphasizes practical skills including functional academics, community-based instruction, vocational experiences, self-care, and social skills. Currently, Life Skills programs are housed in the Penn Cambria Intermediate and High Schools, but eligible students of any grade level can receive services in the program. Life Skills Support teachers are certified special education teachers.
Speech & Language Support
Speech and Language Support services are provided to students with communication needs (speech and/or language impairments) that interfere with educational performance. Communication needs include impaired articulation, stuttering, voice impairment, or language impairment. Speech and language therapists can also provide services to students who need assistive technology to facilitate development of communication skills. Speech & Language Support services are available in all buildings and are typically provided on an itinerant level.
Emotional Support services are provided to students with a disability who require services primarily for social or emotional skills development or functional behavior. Identified students are recommended for these services when their emotional or behavioral needs interfere with their ability to benefit from academic instruction. These services are most often provided on an itinerant level with Emotional Support special education teachers available in each building. For elementary students with more intensive needs, a full-time program is available in the Intermediate School. Other students with intensive needs for emotional/behavioral support can be educated in contractual programs outside of the local school district.
Autistic Support programming is provided for students with an identified autism spectrum disorder who require services to address varied needs in the areas of verbal and nonverbal communication, social skills, and behaviors that affect educational performance. Autistic Support services are available on an itinerant level in all buildings. Elementary students with more intensive communication and behavior needs can receive services in a full-time Autistic Support classroom located in the Primary School. This program utilizes a verbal-behavior model and positive behavior supports/interventions to enhance the development of learning and communication. Students with more intensive needs can also be educated in contractual programs provided by agencies located outside of the local school district.
Multiple Disabilities Support
Students with two or more disabilities, the combination of which results in needs requiring intensive and multifaceted service delivery, can be educated in Multiple Disabilities Support programs. Currently, Penn Cambria does not operate Multiple Disabilities Support programs within the district, but students in need of this level of support can be placed in contractual programs operated by other providers (including Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8) in area school districts.
Hearing Impaired Support
These services are provided on an itinerant level in all buildings for identified students with the disability of deafness or hearing impairment with needs primarily in the area of reading, communication, accessing public or private accommodations, or use of assistive technologies. Penn Cambria has a contractual arrangement with Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 to provide these services throughout the school district.
Visually Impaired Support
These services are provided for students with the disability of visual impairment, including blindness, who require services to address needs primarily in the areas of accessing print and other visually-presented materials, orientation and mobility, accessing public and private accommodations, or use of assistive technologies. Penn Cambria has a contractual arrangement with Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 to provide these services throughout the school district.
Special Education for Gifted Students
Pennsylvania Special Education Regulations (PA Chapter 16) defines mentally gifted as “outstanding intellectual and creative ability, the development of which requires specially designed programs or support services, not ordinarily provided in the regular education program.” Mentally gifted includes students who have an IQ of 130 or higher, or when multiple criteria as specified in state guidelines indicate gifted ability. The Penn Cambria School District has a process in place to screen students who may be mentally gifted. Teachers and parents may refer students for gifted screening. Students who are thought to be gifted are then referred for a Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation which includes information provided by teachers and parents, as well as an individual assessment of intellectual ability and academic skills conducted by a school psychologist.
Students meeting the eligibility criteria for Mentally Gifted are provided with a Gifted Individualized Education Program (GIEP) which is an educational plan developed to address the identified student’s unique strengths and needs. Gifted Support programming focuses on enrichment and/or acceleration and is facilitated by a Gifted Support teacher in all school buildings within the district. Instructional services are provided through direct instruction, classroom enrichment, and/or consultation.