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DOE director says SPED personnel have been relocated, not changed

Director of Education, Vaitinasa Dr Salu Hunkin Finau says no personnel changes have been made to the Special Education Division of the Department of Education, rather, it’s a temporary appointment of Paulo Salave’a as interim supervisor for the Special Education Division of the Education Department.


Vaitinasa also told Samoa News yesterday that titles and positions of the SPED officials have not been changed and that Assistant Director for the Special Education Division, Jeanette Vasai Tilo, along with other SPED personnel have been relocated.


The DOE director said the purpose for the relocation is to better focus on the SPED students.


Responding to Samoa News queries, Vaitinasa said this is part of the plan to address the issues with SPED, following a review by five Special Education professionals from the Hawai’i Department of Education, which cited lack of accountability and major non compliance in the services provided for local SPED children. This review led the Department of Education director to make changes to SPED — reassigning SPED leadership to specific high school districts “to better serve” their students.


Vaitinasa stated that her Executive Assistant Paulo Salave’a, who is being assisted by Saouila Kava, are out in the field to support the SPED teachers in whatever way they can. She said the SPED teachers have been appointed to certain districts so they can better focus on the students with special needs.


She also said the SPED teachers are tasked to help the schools with teaching, planning, training, data collection, updating files, inputting information, reassessment and collaboration with the school principals.


During a recent House hearing on SPED, the Fono heard that for the SPED budget, 90% is used on personnel, leaving only 10% for materials.


Vaitinasa said when she was appointed to DOE there were a lot of employees working for SPED and she instructed that there will be no more hiring in this division “because it spends so much on personnel.”


She further noted during the hearing that DOE had hired specialists from Hawai’i to conduct the re-assessment of the 800+ SPED Students, as the DOE Director is concerned that a majority of the SPED students have been identified as students with speech problems, however that may not be the case. She said it may only be that these students are not able to speak English— hence the need for a reassessment.