WOODSTOCK – Superintendent Ellyn Wrzeski remembers – early in her career when she was a teacher – seeing how it hurt the self-esteem of students with disabilities to be separated from their peers.
That experience, and her later work with a school district that had successfully integrated special education students, led Wrzeski to a strong belief in keeping students with disabilities within the district, she told the school board Tuesday night.
District 200’s efforts to that end, which started around 2002, culminated Tuesday night as the school board unanimously approved withdrawal from the Special Education District of McHenry County.
“My personal perspective and the philosophy of the people in this district is that if we can, we should serve our own students,” Wrzeski said.
SEDOM’s footprint has gotten smaller in the last decade as other districts have similarly brought special education services back to their own schools.
But District 200 has made a complete transition, and this year, all 201 of its students with disabilities ranging from moderate to severe are educated within the district.
Additionally, the school has enrolled about 120 students from other districts in its own special education programs, Special Education Director Lisa Pearson said. The district receives tuition compensation for those students.
In 2005-06, the district worked with SEDOM to receive “tier 1” status, a reduced membership in the now 17-district cooperative. The district has paid $80,000 in administrative costs the past eight years for that distinction.
“To continue to spend those dollars is probably not our wisest use of money,” she said.
But Wrzeski said that although the decision makes sense financially, it’s one she supports mostly because of how it affects the students.
Board President Paul Meyer agreed with that.
“It makes a huge impact having all those students in the classroom,” he said. “They learn so much more, the other students interact with them more and it’s just a much better environment for them.”