I am sure that I don’t have to tell you that geography plays a significant part of how rural schools operate. To tell you how difficult that becomes in preaching to the choir. As you do on a daily basis, you figure out ways to overcome those massive differences. Here is one way of doing it that may have a good ending.
I don’t believe that any of our rural school districts are 3,000 square miles. Our RESA (regional educational service agency) served 17 school districts in the Northwest of Pennsylvania. Running special education programs in 125 classrooms over those 3,000 square miles was no mean feat.
I can only tell you that I had one great staff. Their dedication went far beyond anything I had seen previously in education. One day my special education director, Charlie Wall, came to me with an idea. He said that there were children in the program who could have been made “normal” if they had only been screened at an early age and had their problems taken care of. It sounded logical, but what could do that.
We came up with a Diagnostic Mobile Van. It took us a number of years to convince school superintendents and the feds to allow us to buy one and staff it. We were able to get our staff, local dentists, optometrists, doctors, and nurses to populate the van and diagnose children from ages 0-5.
We would advertise the van’s location on certain days in communities all around the 3,000 square mile area. We advertised on the radio stations and newspapers and through each school district. Parents flocked to the van with their children and many questions. Obviously with tougher questions, we referred to medical people.
The ending to the story is that within 2 years, we saw a diminution in the number of special education students.
How could local school districts in South Carolina do the same thing? I believe that this kind of program could be handled by the consortia that exists in the state. Just a thought.