There is a lot of useful information on school and school system websites, but sometimes it is difficult to find exactly what you are looking for. Some websites are definitely more user-friendly than others. I’ll share some basic “how to” suggestions that I personally use. In order to save space, I will use LEA (Local Education Agency) to refer to school systems.
Working with families of children with special needs, we frequently suggest that a parent share their concerns with someone in the central office of the LEA’s Special Education Department. On the Home page for the LEA’s website, there is usually a tab near the top of the page, or an option listed on the menu located on the left side of the webpage, that will allow you to select “Departments” by clicking on that word. That should give you an alphabetical listing of the various school system departments. Most North Carolina LEAs, have an “Exceptional Children” (EC) department, but some call it “Special Education.” If you don’t find one title, check under the other one.
When you click on EC, you will usually go to a page that will offer general information or an overview of the EC Department and the services provided to students. Somewhere on that webpage, there may also be a list of staff, with job titles and contact information. If you don’t see one, look for an option to click on that says something like “staff directory”, “contact information”, or “staff contacts.” Larger school systems tend to have more staff, so there may be Behavior Specialists, Program Manager/Specialist for specific disabilities, EC Zone Coordinators, or perhaps Program Managers for Preschool, Elementary, Middle or High Schools. There will always be a Director who oversees all special education services for the entire school system, although the job titles vary a bit.
The department list can lead you to other information as well. Information about the general education program and graduation requirements can usually be found under “Curriculum and Instruction.” School system policies, such as the Code of Conduct (discipline guidelines), are often found under the heading of “School Board” or “Board of Education.” Information about Schools, Transportation and Student/Pupil Assignment can be found under those headings. If you can’t find what you are looking for on a menu, tab or department list, try entering that topic in the “Search” box that can usually be found near the top of the website Home page. The Home page should also have a general telephone number for the LEA, most often located near the top or bottom of the page. Calling that number should allow someone to direct your call to the right place, based on what you tell them.
It might be a good idea to visit the website of your child’s school and the one for the LEA before there is an urgent need, so that you can get familiar with what’s available and how things are organized. If you don’t use computers very much, it may be helpful to have a student or another person assist you. Most young people who have grown up with the internet take to it like a duck to water. It’s time to start getting your feet wet!