From Transportation Noncompliance to Compliance: Collaboration for Success

Written by Linda F. Bluth, Ed.D. I

n my position as a transportation consultant at the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), Division of Early Intervention and Special Education Services (DEI & SES), I was assigned responsibility

for the oversight of an urban school district “Transporta- tion Corrective Action Plan” (TCAP). This TCAP addressed long-standing systemic non-

compliance at Baltimore City Public Schools that was brought to the attention of the MSDE, DEI and SES by a prominent Maryland advocacy group that is dedicated to serving families of children with disabilities. The original transportation complaint was submit-

ted on behalf of several children with disabilities, who were allegedly denied transportation services to or from school, resulting in missed special education and related services. I asked myself what it would take to support this urban school district to eliminate systemic transporta- tion noncompliance, which has resulted in the denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for children with disabilities. The children identified by the advocacy group had individualized education programs (IEPs) that require the related service transportation. The Maryland DEI & SES, under the Individuals with

Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) general supervision requirements, acknowledged its responsibility for monitoring and correcting transportation noncompli- ance. The TCAP was an appropriate process to correct noncompliance.

In my opinion, the first step in the process of correct-

ing noncompliance was to establish a collaborative team with decision-making capacity. It was essential that all team members were committed to succeeding, rather than focusing on hurdles as an excuse for blockages. Reforming the existing urban school district trans-

portation structure was not an option but a necessity. The transportation system was plagued by well-known failures that had received advocate and media attention. The first and foremost activity was to take inventory

of existing special needs transportation problems. This could only be accomplished with the assistance of the school district TCAP team. A system of accountability that would be transparent and measurable was key if change and progress were to occur. From the start, I never doubted the capacity and com-

mitment of the personnel assigned to the TCAP. I had confidence in the leadership and commitment of the team to make a difference. Trust was established early-on. What concerned me the most was the blatant shortage

of personnel and training resources to bring about trans- formation and the confirmed scarcity of monetary funds to support system reform. Most would say that it was improbable to realize success, but the group was resilient and aspired to make a difference, myself included. A total of five school district offices were involved with

the development, implementation and monitoring of the TCAP. Fortunately, leadership to facilitate the TCAP was

From Noncompliance to Compliance The details of the six TCAP goals and team collaborative efforts successfully used by Baltimore City Public Schools will be presented on March 22 during the panel discussion “From Noncompliance to Compliance: Collaboration for Success,” at the TSD Conference in Frisco, Texas. The session is facilitated by Linda Bluth, and includes Dr. Jennie Wu, director-executive strategy and operations in the Office of the Chief Executive Officer; Jacinta Hughes, director of pupil transportation; and Angela Parker, educational specialist in Special Education Support Services.

54 School Transportation News • MARCH 2020

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