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Oswego Superintendent Recommends Leaving Special Ed Co-Op

Board could vote on the proposal later this month.

Superintendent Matthew Wendt. Credit: File photo
Superintendent Matthew Wendt. Credit: File photo
The Oswego School District 308 Board of Education could vote June 23 on whether the district should leave the Kendall County Special Education Cooperative.

Superintendent Matthew Wendt recommended Monday that the district separate from the co-op, which serves about 800 students in Oswego schools. He said the recommendation came after a special education audit showed poor communication between District 308 and co-op staff.

"The special education audit pointed out deficiencies that are unacceptable, and we cannot ignore those," Wendt said. " ... There's no one person to blame, but there probably should be at least one person to start the conversation that we can do a better job."

Wendt also said he believes the district, which represents more than 60 percent of the co-op, has outgrown the partnership.

"I don't believe that what was in the audit can be addressed by continuing the status quo," he said. 

"There is a 40 percent achievement gap between students with IEPs [individualized education programs] and students in general education," he said. "That is wrong, and it needs to be addressed."

State law would require the district to issue a notice of withdrawal to the co-op and member school districts 12 months before leaving. Each member district must also approve the district's petition to withdraw.

If the board votes June 23 to exit the co-op, the soonest it could happen would be the 2015-16 school year.

District 308 attorney Maureen Lemon said the district would have one year to create its own special education comprehensive plan, which would have to be approved by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Katra Knoernschild, vice president of communications for EPEC (Exceptional Parents of Exceptional Children) 308, spoke up during the public comment period to say she believes parents were left out of the discussion with regard to possibly leaving the co-op.

Related:
KylefromOswego June 11, 2014 at 08:13 PM
Interesting.
Louisa Growler June 12, 2014 at 08:52 AM
The superintendent is absolutely on track with this one! At the building level, communication between co-op and district staff is pretty good. However, the coordinators and other higher-ups do a terrible job of communicating. Showing up for a meeting every few weeks is NOT communicating, nor is telling someone how they are going to do their job. The coordinators, I think, have gotten a little too big for their britches over the years, and the lack of true communication that has developed as a result (co-op telling district staff how to do their jobs and limiting the availability of necessary services, district staff getting frustrated with having their hands tied at the service level) is the death knell of this partnership. I feel sorry for all of the building-level co-op staff, and hope that the district will give them ample opportunity to interview for positions within the new district-run program.
Meta Damm Mueller June 13, 2014 at 02:22 AM
The superintendent seems to have some communication issues. He leaves parents out of the decisions quite frequently.
Paige Koos June 13, 2014 at 11:29 AM
A separation from the coop is long overdue. Coop's were created to assist smaller districts in meeting the needs of kids with low incidence disabilities. If done correctly, 308 could separate from the coop and create programming that is far better than what the coop has provided the district to date. 308 would then "own" the responsibility of educating 308 students with disabilities. Indian Prairie district 204 never belonged to a coop. They always took responsibility for their own students. As a result, their student scores and programming are far better than 308. This is based on ISBE reports - not opinion. Good for Dr. Wendt and Mary Redding (308 special education director) for making a bold decision that will hopefully result in better programming for our students!

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