LAWTON, Okla._The Lawton Public School district is working to make some improvements their special education and transportation departments.
A voluntary audit was completed last fall by the Office of Education Quality and Accountability. Since then, both departments have taken the list of recommendations and have begun making changes to improve their efficiency.
Both departments received a list of more than ten areas that were recommended for improvement. Some were already in the works; others gave them a clear directive for the future.
In the nearly ten months since the audit was completed, the Transportation Department has been able to check off 11 of the 14 items on their list. Most were geared toward improving the department's efficiency. It was suggested the bus routes become automated, so about $100,000 was invested in a program to take hands on mapping out of the equation.
"We put in where the kids addresses are that they turned into us when they enroll in school and then the software program will set the busing routes for us," said Kyle Smith, executive director of operations.
Annual training has also been implemented, it is steered toward getting bus drivers back behind the wheel before the start of the school year.
"They've set up cones. We even have crossing, railroad crossing signs and that kind of thing; and the bus drivers are graded as they go through the rodeo," Smith said.
One of the more costly improvements still on the table, is to expand the transportation hub. With more than 160 buses in its fleet, the department has doubled in size since it was first built.
"We keep it as updated as best we can, we keep it clean, painted, but we have out grown the facilities a little bit," Smith explained.
With 2,700 students in its department, the LPS Special Education Program is one of the largest in the state. However, state-mandated test scores have been declining.
"A large number of our students took the OMAP test, which was a modified test. When they took that away two years ago, our students struggled," Chris Sharkey, Special Education Director, said.
So, a majority of their suggestions were aimed toward better preparing students for the exams.
"We continue to work and trying to make sure they're exposed to the material, they're prepared to take the test, and probably the biggest thing we can help them with is if we can improve their reading skills," Sharkey said.
Special Education has also been able to cut nearly $175,000 in administrative costs.
"Hopefully, us making that money [available], we can put it toward reading and helping the students there," Sharkey said.
Each department is taking their list in manageable pieces, but has been given a clear outlook on how to be better in the future.
The district as a whole was commended for their interdepartmental communication. Each of the district's departments will go through a performance review.
Next to be completed are the Maintenance and Business Departments. Those are expected to be completed early October.