There are three incumbents and three newcomers vying for four seats on the Joliet Township High School Board during the April 5th election.
Most agree on the concept of bringing back students who receive special education services at other schools outside the district. However, they say one must tread carefully.
Incumbents Arlene Albert, Chet June and Jeff Pierson are hoping to keep their seats.
Newcomers Paige Stonich-Vanderhyden, Don "Duck" Dickinson and John G. Linehan are hoping for a win.
Joliet Township High School Board wants to do what Plainfield did. They are moving closer toward their goal by moving its school buses to another site. The district will then have space to turn the current transportation building into classroom space for special education students.
This school year, Plainfield School District brought back special education students from out-of-district facilities to save money.
The JTHS board asked administration to look into the issue.
In the 2009-10 school year, there were 132 special education JTHS students placed in facilities outside of the district compared to 1,045 students who received services within the district. There were 38 students placed outside the district for behavioral issues; 49 for social/emotional and mental health disorders and 27 for severe cognitive.
Q: The board has asked the district to look at bringing back special education students to their buildings in order to save money. What steps should be in place to ensure that the best interest of those students is considered?
LINEHAN: My job as a board member is to ensure that every student's right to a free and appropriate public education, regardless of ability throughout the educational spectrum, will be protected. This would be my primary consideration when looking at any financial efficiencies that can be made.
JUNE: To make sure that the district has the staff and facilities in place to address the issues of the profoundly disabled students who will be coming back into the district and ensure that we can adequately implement their individual education plans.
STONICH-VANDERHYDEN: All parties concerned with the special education students and with identifying their needs should be involved in any decisions being made on behalf of their education. First and foremost the Individualized Education Program (IEP) should not be compromised; as long as the district can support their educational needs and provide for their IEP, having the students located back in the campus buildings would be ideal and support inclusion.
ALBERT: The IEP (Individual Education Plan) of each student being considered must be evaluated thoroughly to be sure we can provide for their educational needs in- house. All parties involved with the special education students will be part of the decision. Then we will determine the staffing needed and the configuration of the facilities. The students IEP will be the guiding factor and we will not bring any student to our in-house program if we can't meet their needs.
DICKINSON: I find it interesting the board is looking to save money with special education, when they have no problem spending it on Silver Cross Field. I would be on board as long as all of their needs are met.
PIERSON: I believe all students should receive services within our district. If we can do this without compromising a students Individualized Education Program, while maintaining fiscal discipline, then I will agree to approve this policy