HARVARD -- Steven Kaplan is looking for a nice community with high expectations in special education.
Kaplan spoke May 9 during one of four public hearings being held for the community to meet the candidates applying for the position of special education director in the Harvard public schools.
As interim director of special services for the Lynnfield public schools, Kaplan said one of his priorities is keeping special education students in the district.
"It starts with holding classes for potential special education teachers," he said. "We need to make sure the teachers know the parents' rights and what goes into an IEP (individualized education plan) -- what should and shouldn't be done, along with having parental permission."
When asked what he would do for children that seem isolated or unhappy, Kaplan said, "It's a serious issue. Those youngsters that are very quiet often get missed because they're not acting out and causing problems for the teachers. Social skills are totally separate from intelligence. Special needs is not measured by the MCAS."
Kaplan said he reached out to the staff in Lynnfield to help out with lunch and playground coverage to keep the kids integrated and offer supervision.
Kaplan also created a support study hall for the special education students.
"I asked for volunteers from the football and other sports teams," he said. "I wanted to make sure the kids had a support system from their peers as well as teachers."
In the classroom, Kaplan said having a reward system in place is a big part of helping students that feel isolated.
"The teachers need to set the culture from day one," he said. "Even if it's as simple as 'you'll get 20 extra points just for raising your hand.' Unfortunately, I don't think there's one answer. It's frustrating for the parents and the kids."
One of the biggest challenges Kaplan said he's faced is dealing with teachers or guidance counselors not wanting to get involved with the students.
"I always tell them we're here for the students, not them," said Kaplan.
Kaplan is certified as a special education administrator, school psychologist, director of pupil personnel and in administration and supervision.