Peabody-Burns wants out of MCSEC

The Peabody-Burns USD 398 Board of Education approved a petition Monday requesting the Kansas Board of Education allow the district to withdraw from the Marion County Special Education Cooperative.

The action comes only one week after the district?s request was denied to withdraw from the cooperative.

According to Chris Cesar, MCSEC executive director, the cooperative was created by the the Centre, Peabody-Burns, Marion-Florence, Hillsboro-Lehigh-Durham USD 410 and Goessel districts in 1980.

Each of the five districts has a board member serving on the MCSEC board.

Special education services include identified learning disabled and gifted students, along with providing services for autism, visual- or hearing-impaired and other physical handicaps, along with providing other support.

Cesar said the five school districts pay a percentage into the cooperative based on the number of students. The larger the district, the larger the percentage paid into the cooperative, he said.

?Our budget this year is roughly $1.053 million,? Cesar said.

Superintendent Rex Watson said the issue for Peabody-Burns is not about paying its share into the cooperative, but rather about making evolution happen more quickly. Watson said his board wants ownership of its problems and ownership of its solution.

Using the analogy, ?it?s difficult to turn a ship,? Watson said a five-member district special education cooperative is cumbersome when it comes to making changes.

The Peabody board, he said, believes it needs the agility to make changes more rapidly with respect to special education decisions than can be made by the MCSEC board.

When five districts are involved in meeting the needs of children with special education issues, it becomes more of a ?one size fits all? approach.

According to federal statistics, 10 percent of all school-aged children receive special education services.

Marion County percentages are almost double that amount.

?If one in five (students) have a disability,? he lightheartedly said, ?where is the EPA, because they should be checking our water.?

More than likely, the problem is not that the county has a much higher rate of children with special needs, but rather they are being over-identified.

If children in the county are being over-identified, then special education resources are not being allocated effectively and those with true disabilities are not being provided with quality help, he said.

?The special education staff in our district does a tremendous job,? he said, ?and we are not unhappy with anyone.?

Even though Watson and the board believe the cooperative is moving in the same direction, it isn?t fair to ask the other four districts to follow their policies and practices.

?We need to make decisions in a more seamless fashion,? he said. ?We need systemic coherence (the right and left hand working in unison).?

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