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District 308 Superintendent Pushes Exit from Special Education Cooperative

Jun 10, 2014 02:14PM ● Published by Steven Jack

UPDATED AT 7 P.M. JUNE 11

The following statement was released Wednesday evening by Lynda Shanks, the Kendall County Special Education Cooperative special education director:

"The Kendall County Special Education Cooperative received your inquiry regarding the potential for a member district’s withdrawal from the Cooperative.  As of this date, the Cooperative’s Governing Board has not received the required notice of withdrawal from any member school district.  


In the event we receive such notice, the Cooperative’s Governing Board will follow the procedures contained in Cooperative’s Joint Agreement, a copy of which is posted on the Cooperative’s website at www.kcsec.org.   


The process for consideration of a member district’s withdrawal is guided by these procedures and provides for notice to the Cooperative and member districts no less than one year prior to the effective date of withdrawal.  


We do want to assure parents and students that in the event the formal withdrawal process is initiated by a member district, the Cooperative and its member districts will continue to provide high quality educational programming and services to the students served."   

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Big changes are coming to the special education programs in Oswego School District 308.

Amid more complaints of a lack of parent outreach, Superintendent Matthew Wendt Monday formally recommended to School Board members that the district leave the Kendall County Special Education Cooperative, which provides a variety of special education services to about 800 of the 2,300 such students across the district.

The recommendation to leave the KCSEC comes after a special education audit earlier this year revealed poor communication and confusion between the district and co-op staff working within the district. Breaking from the co-op could help the district take more control of its special education services, the audit said. 

Wendt said along with his belief that the district has outgrown the co-op, improving test scores among special education students is at the forefront of his recommendation.

“There is a 40 percent achievement gap between students with (individualized education plans) and students in general education,” Wendt said. “That’s wrong, and it needs to be addressed.”

The KCSEC accounts for more than half of the district’s annual $28 million special education budget. Bringing the programs in-house also would give the district better control on how those dollars are spent. 

Leaving the co-op would require the consent of the five other school districts that comprise it (Yorkville, Plano, Newark Grade School, Newark High School and Lisbon). If one of the districts should object, the district could appeal the decision to the regional board of school trustees, which could also sign off on the district’s exit.

If the School Board should vote to leave the co-op at its next meeting in June, the 2014-15 school year would be the district’s last year. District Attorney Maureen Lemon said administrators would have one year to formulate its own highly detailed special education comprehensive plan. That plan would then have to be approved and filed with the Illinois State Board of Education.

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Katra Knoernschild is the Vice President of Communication EPEC 308, a parent teacher organization for students with exceptional needs. She spoke during the board’s Monday public comment, saying parents of special needs students have felt shut out of the discussions to leave the co-op. 

Knoernschild said parents were told by administrators they would be given an opportunity to have their voices heard at a forum during the audit process; however, a parent survey was sent out instead. 

“When we talk about leaving the co-op, a drop of water in a puddle has a ripple effect. When you don’t involve the community in the process, that ripple effect can expand into waves and floods,” she said.

Wendt acknowledged the need for more parent input, saying the survey wasn’t adequate, and parents will be heard face-to-face throughout the process of formulating the district’s comprehensive plan. 

“We need to talk to parents about what’s on their minds,” he said. “We want input.”

The School Board is likely to take a final vote on opting out of the co-op at its next meeting on Monday, June 23. 

Education, Today, News district 308 matthew wendt epec 308

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