Letter to the Editor

Think twice about leaving cooperative

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

To the Editor:

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I was employed by Old National Trail for almost 10 years as a school social worker.

I have become increasingly disturbed by the exiting of the Greencastle Community School Corporation from Old National Trail Special Services Cooperative in 2010. Greencastle is one of six school corporations in ONT who contribute money per student for its functioning. I am sorry/dismayed by the $336,965 short fall for 2008 and sincerely hope that eight teachers will not be riffed.

But, we as parents and concerned citizens need to ask, Can the GCSC replace all the services that ONT presently provides for special needs children by hiring their own special needs director, teachers, psychologists, vocational director, physical therapist, educational consultants and STILL SAVE MONEY?

I think not! In just one instance, let us look at what the vocational director has accomplished for special needs children in the past 20 years.

The vocational director at ONT has 20 years experience in finding paid and non-paid internships for special needs children; in finding and developing work sites all over Putnam County; in providing educational support to students in academic settings through additional instruction or tutoring in school sites; in job coaching and teacher consultation; in training in basic skills in food handling/preparation (Many of our now special needs adults are supporting themselves in the fast food industry), and in money management; in collaborating with the probation department in order to provide early intervention to at risk students; in counseling students at the school site who are having court, family and academic problems (a not inconsiderable number); in stressing a healthy body concept by providing exercise and weight lifting intervention for at risk students; in building a community service component to awaken awareness in these students of community resources and needs, enabling students to give back to local agencies, and at the same time practice good citizenship and leadership.

This increase in vocational services has happened since the federal and state academic requirements for graduation have left many students with special needs few options for basic life skill instructions and few appropriate classes for students with low academic, social, and behavioral, skills. I have not even mentioned the services of the special education teachers, psychologists, and other essential staff.

My concern, and it should be the concern of all special needs parents, is that Greencastle's pullout from ONT will decrease services for our special education children from GSCS and throughout the county. Without Greencastle's share will there be enough money to fund the vocational director's program for the county? With only 5 school corporations in the cooperative instead of 6, Greencastle students will lose the most, but other students will also have less programming available as ONT will have to cut staff. Let's all think about this carefully before 2010! We must hear how GCSC plans to replace or replicate all the programs and services presently provided by ONT.

Ann Kelly Newton

Retired School Social Worker, ACSW