Coppell Independent School District
- Coppell, TX
- PreK-12 Enrollment
- Frontline Special Programs Management
- Section 504 Program Management
- Special Education Program Management
- RTI/MTSS Program Management
- English Learner Program Management
Coppell is a unique district serving a diverse community. The staff takes pride in being forward-thinking in the many ways they provide services for learners. Coppell thrives on the relationships they’ve built with each other, students, parents, and the community. Their goals are simple — to be the best at what they do, be legally compliant, and always go over and beyond the minimum.
Coppell did not have a consistent Section 504 compliance system throughout the school district. There was a paper process in place, but it wasn’t supported with a manual or guidance. Legal changes to Section 504 over the years had not been accounted for. Debbie Gauntt, the Director of Intervention Services, wanted to train campus coordinators on a more contemporary approach to 504 evaluation and service protocols.
Director Gauntt needed a user-friendly product that would help address those issues. It had to be a platform that allowed staff access to learner records, no matter where they were in the district. And she wanted to be able to monitor compliance.
Having the ability to audit her programs would allow Director Gauntt to identify the district’s professional learning needs. With a bird’s-eye view of the data, she could analyze student 504 plans and make sure they followed all legal requirements. That knowledge would drive her decisions on how to train the campus 504 coordinators.
Director Gauntt discovered a 504 compliance system developed by experts on disability law issues, Texas attorneys Dave Richards and Jose Martín. That model became SuccessEd 504 and is the foundation of Frontline Section 504 Program Management.
When they first subscribed to the 504 management system, Debbie made local customizations to the generic features. She created drop-down boxes and put suggested verbiage in the system that she wanted her team to use.
Debbie created step-by-step guidance documents for every single process required in Section 504. And from that, she developed an entire local guidance protocol. With written guidelines, new and inexperienced 504 administrators had a consistent protocol to follow. It allows Coppell ISD to meet its goals of legal compliance and quality decision-making.
“We were able to take the 504 product and make it our own.”
In Coppell ISD, assistant principals at every school serve as the 504 coordinators for their sites. Many of them transition from the classroom into administrative roles with limited experience in developing 504 plans and require substantial training. The guidance documents that Debbie created spell everything out, from where to find the forms they need to how to prepare for a meeting, how to run it, and what to do afterward.
“We didn’t just purchase the product. We built a whole system of compliance around the product.”
Make the system work for you, not the other way around
Debbie offers this advice to any district considering the Frontline Section 504 platform, “Don’t go into it thinking that it’s the end-all-be-all. Let that be where you start. Let it do what it does. And it does a lot. It gives you a lot of guiding verbiage on each of the forms. The forms provide you with a legal understanding of your process. But don’t stop there. What you need to do is customize, tailor it to your district’s needs.”
Every district uses different materials and resources for their students. It’s a simple process to store them in the system so teachers and administrators at the campus level have easy access. A specialist at the district office sends out monthly reminders for meetings due at each site to help school 504 coordinators stay on top of their schedules. Notifications include the learner’s name and student ID number, and if it’s an annual, their areas of eligibility.
Debbie has worked hard to streamline the process, making it efficient, well-managed, and user-friendly. Having all of that information available within Frontline’s system makes that possible.
Increase student support
When Debbie first started working with Section 504 some years ago, around 250 students had a 504 plan. With the implementation of the 504 management program, the district started broadening its understanding of who might be considered for Section 504 eligibility or service. With that knowledge, evaluations, identifications, and services for students increased.
Now almost 900 students receive additional support. That would not have been possible for Coppell without expanding their interpretation of eligibility or having a system to manage the program. Enrollment of students on 504 plans is close to the number of students eligible for IEP’s through Special Education. After the district conducts dyslexia screeners for kindergarten and first grade in the spring, it’s likely that the Section 504 and Special Ed Enrollment will be almost equal.
While some might wonder if that’s a cause for concern, Debbie sees it as a success story. Because now their staff can better understand their learners’ needs. Consider that the perception and understanding of diabetes, asthma, ADHD, and especially dyslexia has completely changed in recent years. It can be hard to determine if a student with dyslexia would benefit from having a 504 plan or an IEP, or in some cases, even both. Having the tools to help make those determinations provides more support for Coppell learners.
Don’t let anyone fall through the cracks
A primary benefit of using Frontline’s software for Section 504 program management is that nobody falls through the cracks. Services the 504 committees have agreed to are documented within the platform. Everyone involved has input and access to service plans. Even the students have a voice. They know what allows them to be most successful in school.
No more having to take a hard copy of a 504 plan to each teacher and hoping they read, understand, agree to provide the services, and sign off. No one can say they didn’t receive a copy of the plan or know that the student was entitled to shortened assignments or extended time. Teachers can’t claim they didn’t understand the expectations because they weren’t at the meeting. Now the communication is all done electronically with Frontline. There’s simply no opportunity for failure.
Keep parents in the loop
The Frontline system allows the district to easily communicate in writing with parents. Parents receive notices of all meetings. That notice lets the parent know the purpose of the conference and topics to be discussed. 504 coordinators share resources with parents in advance so that they can come prepared to be involved in the conversations.
In the past, that happened only if the campus coordinator took the time to do it. Now, the system doesn’t allow the team to move forward if those steps haven’t been completed. It’s important to know that the 504 system documents everything entered into the system to maintain compliance allowing district staff to easily verify that records have been sent or received and follow up when needed.
It’s a collaborative partnership
Before SuccessEd transitioned to Frontline, Debbie had built a strong partnership with her company representatives. Fortunately, those reps transitioned with the program and continue to provide training and support as new applications are added to the system.
That relationship works two ways. Because Debbie is a skilled system user running a successful program, she often serves as a resource to Frontline. When she contacts Frontline to talk about considering an update or finding a soft spot in the system, they pay attention. If she sees areas for improvement and Frontline makes them, it’s a win for everyone who uses the system.
“It is a collaboration. We respect one another’s expertise. I respect their programming and their technological expertise. They respect our practitioners. We’re the ones on the front line using the product. And they regularly solicit our opinions on things. It makes us feel valued. That goes a long way.”
Debbie finds the on-demand professional learning series very convenient. When one of the 504 coordinators needs training on procedures or documentation, she can show them what to do, or direct them to the quick video lessons available within the Frontline system.
“The Frontline help desk is stellar. I’m not going to say we’re high maintenance, but we do have high standards. Their help desk is very responsive. They’re really good about getting back to us. Typically, it’s an electronic email or a help desk ticket process. We rarely have to talk by phone. Any issue usually gets solved pretty quickly.”
Because Frontline Section 504 Program Management is based on a reliable compliance system, it meets the goals Coppell set out to reach. Continued collaboration with Frontline means that as their district grows, the system will help CISD meet the needs of their students now and in the future.
About Frontline Education
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