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D300 marks progress in special education audit

Updated: March 17, 2013 6:18PM

ALGONQUIN — The results of an audit of Community Unit School District 300’s special education program were released by the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative exactly two years ago.

It produced an 80-page report. It also resulted in 10 recommendations for the district program.

And since then, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning—Education Services Shelley Nacke joked, “As you can see, we’ve been doing nothing in special education.”

Nacke’s joke came at the end of a half-hour update on the district’s progress toward implementing those recommendations from the education services department, which oversees special education, at Monday night’s District 300 Board of Education meeting.

The short version of that report, Associate Director of the Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative Ronald Felton said two years ago, was “break down the silos” – the walls that separated the district’s special and general education programs.

“We do continue to use the audit. It was not money wasted — as you can see, (my copy of the audit) is a little rough around the edges — but we continue to use it as a resource in making decisions and guiding us through that, and we’ll continue to support all the students,” Nacke said.

Based on those recommendations, District 300 immediately made changes to its central office staff. Among them, it renamed its pupil personnel services department to “education services” and made Nacke its chief, part of the teaching and learning team with other assistant superintendents focused on elementary, middle and high school.

It drafted a standard operating procedures manual — shared last year with staff and updated weekly — as well as guiding principles and a vision statement for that program, according to the presentation Monday. That vision includes, “Students will be prepared to make a life, a living and a difference.”

And it has returned some students to their home schools with the support staff they will need there to be successful, Nacke said. So far it has trained 201 co-teachers, she said, and all buildings now have classes led by both a general and special education teacher to meet all students’ needs in one classroom, she said.

“Our ultimate question is, ‘What is in he best interest of the student?’ That is what is going to drive this administration as an education services department,” said Don Wesemann, director of education services -- compliance.

Based on other recommendations, the district developed a Disproportionality Committee last school year to review how students are assessed and determined eligible for special education services.

That committee found boys in the district who are African-American have been disproportionately identified with emotional disabilities, Wesemann said. The Illinois State Board of Education has determined that was not done by the district, but by other agencies as those students have moved in and out of the district, he added.

As of the end of last school year, Nacke said, the district no longer is being monitored as part of that audit, and, she told the board, the education services department hopes never to go through that process again. But, the assistant superintendent said, “They’re always welcome back.”

“We’re always looking at what we can improve.”

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