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Penn Hills

Special counsel for special education matters appointed in Penn Hills School District

| Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, 10:15 p.m.

Penn Hills School District officials hired Pittsburgh law firm Weiss Burkardt Kramer LLC as their special counsel for special education matters.

The board approved its $165-per-hour proposal with a 5-0 vote at Tuesday’s meeting.

Board Vice President George Sens and members Robert Marra, Evelyn Herbert and Kristopher Wiegand were absent.

Board President Erin Vecchio said district Solicitor Bruce Dice normally handled these matters for the district, however, an increased workload and specialization necessitated the additional help.

“Our special needs have gone up in the last couple years, and we need to properly identify and help the students,” she said. “This counsel specializes in this. We’re being proactive and providing the best education and services possible for our kids. The rules keep changing so we need to make sure we’re on top of it. Special education is a tough thing.”

More than 800 of the district’s approximately 3,300 students have special needs, said Superintendent Nancy Hines. The number of students with special needs has increased 2 percent the past two years.

Attorney Chelsea Dice, filling in for Bruce Dice, said the special counsel would provide training and update staff on current laws in the special education department, as well as new techniques for developing individualized education and 504 plans to help students.

The firm would also help with fundamental behavior assessments, positive behavior support plans and help prevent future special education litigation.

Hines likened Dice to a “family doctor” and special counsel to a specialist.

The firm’s proposal was linked to the district’s online agenda.

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