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USD 398 not giving up: Peabody: It's about the students, not money

Special ed co-op should have enough money for this year

Managing editor

Members of USD 398 board of education attended the Marion County Special Education Cooperative board meeting Monday night as a united front with one mission — they want out of the county cooperative.

School board members said they know it’s going to cost more to provide services to special needs students but it’s not about money. It’s about providing the best possible services to its students.

Another idea that the special education cooperative could explore is the possibility of another entity borrowing $300,000 for the special education cooperative and the co-op repaying the loan through a lease-purchase agreement.

The loan proceeds then would be used toward the co-op’s budget.

USD 408 was asked to consider purchasing the special ed building through a lease-purchase agreement but the board was not interested, USD 408 Representative Lyle Leppke reported.

Would the Technology Excellence in Education Network board consider purchasing the building? TEEN Director Brandi Hendrix was in attendance at the meeting and said the board didn’t have funds in its budget to cover the loan should it default but the board was to meet this week if the co-op wanted to present information.

Goessel School District is not part of TEEN but Herington is. Goessel students are served by the county cooperative but Herington students are not.

Tony Zappone, cooperative representative of the Peabody-Burns district, said the board believes it can better serve special education students in the district by doing it in-house. The main reason was to be able to respond immediately to situations instead of having to go through the bureaucratic chain of command.

Not only was the school district promoting self-sufficiency for special needs students, it appeared they were also questioning the need for a cooperative.

“If each district had in-house services, the superintendents could get together to discuss the sharing of resources,” Zappone said. “This cooperative is not the only model.

“We haven’t made this decision on one or two occurrences,” Zappone said. “It’s an overall process. We’re not making this decision based on money. We know it’s going to cost us more money. The decision was student-centered. All students will be under one roof with one person in charge.”

In order for the school district to withdraw from the cooperative, the special education board would have to approve the request. The information then would be passed on to the state board of education for a decision.

If the county special education board decides not to honor the request, USD 398 could appeal the decision to the state board of education.

When the state board makes the decision, it will look at the effects on the remaining four school districts, participating in the cooperative.

“The state will look at whether it will be harmful to Peabody kids and if it will cost the state more money,” Cezar said.

Dan Miller, representing the Goessel School District, asked how much more it would cost USD 398.

USD 398 Board Member Barry Peter said their “dirt math” indicated that the school district can afford to do this.

“Whether we’re in or out of the cooperative, we’ll all pay more for services with less staff providing services,” Peabody-Burns Superintendent Rex Watson said. “Peabody is prepared to spend more. That’s just the reality.”

Another issue facing the Peabody-Burns district that is a factor in their decision is being on improvement as part of the adequately yearly progress requirements. The school district had fallen short of the requirements last year, resulting in the state sending in assessors to assist the district to meet compliance requirements.

Another concern that Peter expressed was the fact that building principals did evaluations of special education cooperative staff members even though staff members actually are hired and fired by Cezar.

The Peabody-Burns District has located some resources at an affordable cost if it was allowed to provide special education services to students.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2010

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