YORK ó A soup-to-nuts examination of the school departmentís special education services will begin next month, by a national education consulting firm hired recently.

The department has entered into a contract with American Educational Consultants of Cleveland, Ohio, the only firm to bid on the work after initial interest by more than half a dozen companies to the departmentís request for proposals.

But itís a quality bid from a qualified firm, said Superintendent Lou Goscinski, and heís comfortable that the resulting report will provide the kind of detailed information that he is looking for with regard to how the department is offering special education services.

The contract is not to exceed $33,175, which will come from the superintendentís contingency account as well as from special education grant funding, he said.

According to the bid, a three-person team will conduct the 10-week analysis, led by Valerie McKenney, the current superintendent of SAU 14 in Epping, New Hampshire. Other members of the team include Harold Tarriff, who holds a Ph.D. in special education and has worked at public and private K-12 schools in three states as well as at the university level; and Joanne Riker, a special education teacher from Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire.

The firm has substantial marching orders. Among other activities, it is to:

*gather and analyze local and state data on SPED programming for the past three to five years;

*randomly sample six to eight student individualized education plans (IEP) for compliance;

*conduct interviews with principals, Director of Special Education Erin Frazier, staff and parents;

*review regular education reading and math programs with an eye toward determining how well special education students are integrated into that system;

*review the capacity of York schools to offer SPED services as required by law;

*provide a review of communication protocols between schools, families and extended service providers to determine if the communication is timely and pertinent.

The report will provide a detailed summary of these activities, as well as commendations for work well done and recommendations for how to improve outcomes. The firm is expected to begin its work in February and produce a final report in April, Goscinski said.

This systematic review of special education comes after years of problems including cost overruns, lack of full integration of regular and special education, and concerns from parents that they are not being heard or appreciated. Frazier was hired in 2016 to turn the program around, and two additional administrators were brought on full-time in July.

Frazier was hired after a Department of Education audit of the program in May, 2016, which identified some compliance issues with federal law, particularly around IEPs.

When Goscinski first told the School Committee last September that he intended to contract with a firm, he said he was looking for someone who could ďbring an independent eye to the district, identify strengths, what needs to be improved, and make recommendations going forward.Ē The analysis, he said, is in line with the department's five-year strategic plan, itís a 2018-19 committee goal and a 2018-19 superintendent performance goal.