Skip to main content

Penn Hills School District

Special Education

District School-Age Special Education Services (K-12) include:

  • Learning Support
  • Emotional Support
  • Autistic Support
  • Life Skills Support
  • Speech/Language Support
  • Vision Support
  • Hearing Support
  • Related services:
    • Speech and Language
    • Occupational Therapy
    • Physical Therapy
    • Transportation
    • Nursing

Determining Eligibility for School-Age Special Education Services

  • PHSD provides a free, appropriate, public education to eligible students.
  • Special education services are determined through a school-based psychological evaluation.
  • An evaluation can only be conducted once parent consent is received.
  • Once signed parental consent is obtained, the district has 60 days to complete an evaluation report.
  • The evaluation consists of data collection to determine if a child meets eligibility criteria for one or more of the following disability categories:
    • Intellectual Disability
    • Hearing Impairment
    • Speech or Language Impairment
    • Visual Impairment (including blindness)
    • Emotional Disturbance
    • Orthopedic Impairment
    • Autism
    • Traumatic Brain Injury
    • Other Health Impairment
    • Specific Learning Disability
    • Deafness
    • Deaf-blindness
    • Multiple Disabilities
  • If a student qualifies for special education, an IEP is developed by district special education staff.
  • The type and amount of support offered is an IEP team decision.
  • The district is legally required to consider a student’s least restrictive environment when making placement and support decisions.
Annual Child Find Notice
Services for School-Age Students with Disabilities
PHSD provides a free, appropriate, public education to eligible students. To qualify, the child must be of school age, in need of specially-designed instruction, and meet eligibility criteria for one or more of the following physical or mental disabilities, as set forth in Pennsylvania State Regulations: Specific Learning Disability, Emotionally Disturbed, Autism/Pervasive Development Disorder, Blindness/Visual Impairment, Deaf-blindness, Deafness, Hearing Impairment, Mental Retardation, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Neurological Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Visual Impairment including Blindness, and Speech or Language Impairment. Information regarding the appropriate developmental milestone descriptors for infants and toddlers may be found at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website at or The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) website at The District engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress. To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include group-based data review (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability, and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, physical, and speech/language screening; and Child Study, Pupil Personnel, or Elementary Student Assistant Program (ESAP) Team review. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible for special education services, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect that their child is eligible for special education services may request a multidisciplinary evaluation (MDE) at any time through a written request to the Building Principal or Director of Special Education. Services designed to meet the needs of eligible students include the annual development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), bi-annual or tri-annual multidisciplinary re-evaluation, and a full continuum of services, which include Itinerant, Supplemental, or Full-Time Levels of Intervention. The extent of special education services and location for delivery of such services are determined by the IEP team based on the student’s identified needs and abilities, chronological age, and level of intensity of the specified intervention. The District also provides related services, such as transportation and speech, language, physical, and occupational therapy required for the student to benefit from the special education program.

Services for Students Who are Mentally Gifted
The definition of giftedness comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) Special Education Rules and Regulations, Chapter 16, which states that a student who is mentally gifted demonstrates outstanding intellectual and creative ability, the development of which requires specially designed programs or support services or both, not ordinarily provided in the regular education program. This includes a person who has an IQ of 130 or higher or when multiple criteria, as set forth in Chapter 16 and in Department Guidelines, indicate gifted ability. Determination of gifted ability will not be based on IQ score alone. Deficits in memory or processing speed, as indicated by testing, cannot be the sole basis upon which a student is determined to be ineligible for gifted special education. A person with an IQ score lower than 130 may be admitted to gifted programs when other educational criteria in the profile of the person strongly indicate gifted ability. Determination of mentally gifted must include a full assessment by a certified school psychologist in accordance with Chapter 16. Five general categories of multiple criteria are used to create a screening matrix for consideration for gifted programming: ability/aptitude standardized test scores, performance or achievement test results, teacher ratings, QPA (grades 6-12), and results of individual intelligence tests (WISC IV or Stanford-Binet V). Once a student meets the requirements outlined through the matrix, a Gifted Multidisciplinary Evaluation (GMDE) is conducted and a Gifted Written Report (GWR) is generated. The GWR includes information provided by the parents, results of testing, academic functioning, learning strengths, and educational needs. Recommendations are made that are considered by the GMDE Team in the development of the Gifted Individualized Education Plan (GIEP). At the conclusion of the GIEP meeting, a Notice of Recommended Assignment (NORA) is issued.

Services for Students in Nonpublic Schools

If a parent/guardian feels that a student may have a disability that would require supports, there are two options:

  1. If the parent does not intend to send his/her child to a public school, then a request through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU – Alicia Chico 412-394-5701) for an Equitable Participation Evaluation is advised. Recommendations will be based on services/supports available through the nonpublic school. The Penn Hills School District does not provide special education supports within nonpublic schools.
  2. If public education is a consideration, an evaluation can be conducted by a Penn Hills School District certified school psychologist. Parents may request a multidisciplinary evaluation through a written request to the Office of Special Education (PHSD, Department  of Special Education, 260 Aster Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15235). The student must be registered in the Penn Hills computer system as a student residing in the District so forms can be generated. The student can continue at the nonpublic school during the evaluation, but if the child qualifies as a student with a disability, recommendations will only be provided as they pertain to special education within a public setting.
Services for Protected Handicapped Students
In compliance with state and federal law, PHSD will provide to protected handicapped students services or accommodations needed to provide equal opportunity to participate in and obtain the benefits of the school program and extracurricular activities to the maximum extent appropriate to the student’s abilities. These related services or accommodations are provided without discrimination or cost to the student or family. In order to qualify as a protected handicapped student, the child must be of school age with a physical or mental disability which substantially limits or prohibits participation in or access to an aspect of the school program. Services and safeguards for protected handicapped students are distinct from those applicable to exceptional students enrolled or seeking enrollment in special education programs. Protected handicapped students fall under Pennsylvania Chapter 15, Title 22, Regulations of the State Board of Education (Section 504, 1973 Rehabilitation Act). In contrast, students with disabilities who qualify for special education services are covered by the regulations contained in Chapter 14.

Services for Pre-School Children
The Early Intervention Services System Act (212) entitles all preschool children with disabilities to appropriate early intervention services. Young children experiencing developmental delays or physical or mental disabilities and their families are eligible for early intervention services. At-risk children are eligible for screening and tracking. PHSD ensures that all students transitioning from early intervention programs to kindergarten or first grade programs within the District are transitioned without disruption of services. Parents of children entering school age programs are notified of the District’s Transition activities.

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare is responsible for providing services to infants and toddlers, defined as children from birth through three years of age. For more information, contact Alliance for Infants, 2801 Custer Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15227 (412-885-6000). PDE is responsible for providing services to preschool children from ages three through five. For more information, contact the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Project DART, 475 E. Waterfront Drive, Homestead, PA 15120 (412-394-5739). Additional information on District programs is available by contacting the Superintendent at (412) 793-7000.
Contact Information

Dawn Golden
Asst. Superintendent
(412) 793-7000, Ext. 1284

Jean-Marie Gent
Special Education Coordinator
Grades 6-12
(412) 793-7000, Ext. 1211

Stephanie Cucunato
Special Education Coordinator
Grades K-5
(412) 793-7000, Ext. 1223

Lindsay Prosdocimo
(412) 793-7000, Ext. 1222

Hayley Bird
(412) 793-7000, Ext. 1225

Cynthia Isel
ACCESS Coordinator & Secretary
(412) 793-7000, Ext. 1221