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Old National Trail director weighs in

Friday, January 23, 2009

To the Editor:

In response to the article concerning Greencastle pulling out of ONT, I would like enlighten the public with some additional information.

I have been the director of Old National Trail Special Services since 2003 and each year, I have been able to credit schools back financially from my budget. Yes, it does cost a lot of money to educate children with special needs, but the students we work with have high needs. We provide education to students who are in wheelchairs, non-communicative, non-ambulatory and have severe health needs. Old National Trail Special Services oversees the implementation of special education to over 1,600 students within twenty-two buildings.

The law states all children have a right to an education and that includes students with high needs. ONT provides sound systems for deaf and hard of hearing students, rifton chairs and special made chairs for students with physical disabilities as well as communication devices for those students who are non-commutative, to list a few of the high cost material and supplies. These different types of equipment are very costly and shared by all six school corporations, not just one. Each year prior to developing my budget, based on the number of students enrolled in each school district, I do an analysis of classrooms, the needs of students and placement of students in each district.

Old National Trail Special Services provides not only those services listed in the article, but also we employ teachers who educate students with moderate and severe disabilities. Old National Trail Special Services also provides a life/work skills program for those students who cannot get a high school diploma but will be productive citizens in our community. ONT is responsible for the training of all special needs teachers and their instructional assistants within the six school districts on disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, orthopedic impairment, other health impaired, autism and deaf and blind.

In Indiana, the special education law is Article 7, which can be read on the DOE Web site. It states specifically what must be provided to students and the rights of the students as well as their parents. It is my responsibility to implement those laws and our schools stay abreast of the ever-changing needs of our students.

My budget for this past school year was $3,713,222.00, which was calculated to each school district based on their December 1 count. I must use this formula to develop my budget and correlate cost to each of the six school districts that participate in the cooperative.

The Old National Trail Special Services budget is public record. Anyone is welcome to come into the office and review the budget.

Nancy Holsapple

Director of Old National Trail Special Services