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Full-time ACCESS clerk post spared by Waynesboro board

July 14, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Keeping a full-time ACCESS clerk on the Waynesboro Area School District payroll will allow the schools to continue billing for services like counseling, special transportation and administering medication for certain special education students, the director of special education said last week.

The majority of the school board agreed, voting 6-2 on Tuesday to advertise for someone to fill a pending vacancy in the position. Others questioned whether the employee could work part time for billing connected to the Pennsylvania Medical Assistance Program.

"It's not that I don't feel the ACCESS program is important. I question whether it needs to be full time," board member Chris Devers said.

Devers, who voted "no" to the measure along with Pat Heefner, raised concerns with job description aspects like the delivery of files between schools. Jean Purnell, special education director, responded that the sealed files must remain confidential at all times.

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Purnell said she worried that any efforts less than full time would result in missed opportunities to bill for Medicaid reimbursement. The district's billing has garnered anywhere from $52,700 to $154,5000 annually in reimbursement in the eight years the program has been in place locally.

"We could cut it down to part time, but I can pretty much guarantee you won't see this kind of revenue," Purnell told the school board during discussion.

The Lincoln Intermediate Unit collects for some services within the Waynesboro Area School District. Those include audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, orientation and mobility, and speech.

Purnell presented information about the ways other area school districts handle billing. Several bill only for select services from the ones available, and Greencastle-Antrim School District does not bill at all beyond the intermediate unit's collection.

"District's demographics are very different," Purnell said, explaining that students must have both an individualized education plan (IEP) and Medical Assistance card.

She said that of Waynesboro's approximately 500 disabled students, one-third have a Medical Assistance card. Those cards come after a family's application and subsequent review process.

Students' situations and IEPs can change frequently, and the state has changed its tracking systems, Purnell said.

She referred to Fairview Elementary School initially being placed on a Pennsylvania Department of Education warning list for failing to make "adequate yearly progress" with a group of special education students. District administrators have said they plan to appeal that recent decision, arguing that several students who undergo speech therapy were counted incorrectly.

"If those students hadn't been missed, Fairview wouldn't be on a warning list right now. That's how important this tracking is," Purnell said.

Reimbursement from the school-based ACCESS program can be used anywhere within the special education department, including for the ACCESS clerk's $11 per hour salary, according to Purnell.

Voting in favor of keeping the ACCESS clerk position full time were Firmadge Crutchfield, John Fitz, Ed Wilson, Mindy Rouzer, K. Marilyn Smith and Stanley Barkdoll. Leland Lemley was absent.

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