Oswego District 308 School Board Votes to Exit Special Education Cooperative
Jun 23, 2014 08:54PM ● Published by Steven Jack
The Oswego District 308 School Board voted Monday night to begin the process of removing the district from the Kendall County Special Education Cooperative.
The 5-2 vote came after board members Matt Bauman and Alison Swanson said there was inadequate information from administrators about how the district would approach replacing the cooperative with its own plan for educating more than 2,300 special education students. District 308 is the second district to move to leave the co-op in recent weeks, as Newark School District 66 board members also voted to leave the KCSEC.
The District 308 board took the measure after a special education audit earlier this year revealed many problems throughout the district’s program, including significant student achievement gaps.
“We need to think back about why we’re having this conversation,” said Superintendent Matthew Wendt. “… (We have a) 40 percent achievement gap (between special education and general education students). … This may not be a silver bullet to academic improvement, but we have significant issues that we need to address.”
Bauman said he felt pressure to vote on the measure before the district could formulate a comprehensive plan on how to educate special education students, which will require the approval of the Illinois State Board of Education. The vote was legally required before July 1 if the district were to exit the co-op for the 2015-16 school year. If the vote were to have been taken after July 1, the district would have been bound to the co-op for two more school years.
"If we don’t vote on this tonight, we will be stuck with this program for two more years just the way it is," said board member Greg O'Neil. "... I know change is uncomfortable, but we need to make changes."
Even though the board has voted to leave the co-op, an agreement could be reached for services the co-op provides to remain in the district if the need exists, Wendt said.
Three parents who addressed the board said administrators must start including more parent input as the process toward a new program begins.
“A survey alone where parents are treated as mere data points does no good,” said Jared Ploger, referring to a parent survey that was conducted as part of the audit process. Parents had earlier been assured that a public forum would be held, but was never scheduled.
Wendt vowed at a previous board meeting to include face-to-face discussions with parents in formulating the district’s new special education comprehensive plan. Administrators will have about nine months to devise the plan and submit it to the state for approval.