District 86 considers leaving special education cooperative
Updated: November 9, 2011 5:22PM
Hinsdale High School District 86 Superintendent Nicholas Wahl Monday the administration will spend this school year studying whether to withdraw from the La Grange Area Department of Special Education.
Wahl noted District 181, District 86’s largest feeder school, discontinued its membership in LADSE, leaving 16 districts within LADSE. Wahl feels LADSE’s funding model needs to change in order for District 86 to remain a member.
“The structure of (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) money flowing to the cooperative needs to change,” Wahl said. “The IDEA money has to start to flow to District 86.”
LADSE Executive Director Sheri Wernsing agrees things need to change, but said LADSE is committed to working with its 16 school districts to study and restructure.
“At LADSE we know it’s time for some change and we are embarking on that with our districts,” she said. “I’m confident as (District 86) goes through its study process they will continue to collaborate with us as we try to change. It is our intention 12 months from now to have 16 districts that want to be a part of LADSE.”
Wernsing said LADSE’s directing board established parameters for re-designing programs and services and approved four strategic goals on Aug. 17. The goals include developing new funding models and offering programs and services specifically tailored to each school.
If the district does choose to leave LADSE, the year after this study year would be used to develop a plan indicating how District 86 will provide special education services to its students.
Wahl said the district would like the money from the federal government, about $690,000 annually, to support programs such as the district’s transition center and extended school year. District 86 will review those programs offered to special needs students to decide whether the district should remain.
Wahl’s memo states the students needs will continue to be met throughout the study year and in any transition year, should the district leave LADSE.
If the district were to become independent, Wahl said they would need to have a certified executive director on staff. He said a faculty member is a few courses shy of certification and could take over. If a fee-for-service model cooperative were adopted District 86 would then pay LADSE for special education services rendered.
Clarendon Hills resident Paula Cacosse, a mother of a special needs child, supported the district’s study of LADSE.
“I had entered into the district and seen what LADSE was offering my child,” she said. “I was very disappointed. It was developed in the 1950s and ’60s. It’s very archaic. This is the right way to go.”
Wernsing knows there are a wide range of opinions, but is committed to working with the school districts to make it better.
“Not everyone will have the same opinion of what LADSE is or is not,” Wernsing said. “We want to present an array of programs and services so a lot of people will feel we are meeting their needs, the needs of their children and the needs of the district.”