Featured Stories

School district will try to fill void on special ed programs

Clackamas County Educa-tional Service District is cutting some special education programs from its services next year and leaving smaller districts to offer their own.

Patrick Tomblin, director of special education/special services, says the changes will allow Lake Oswego School District to improve its programs and provide them at a lower cost.

Tomblin was hired by the district last summer, and the district has been working on a new model for special needs programs for the last three years.

'We will be trying to be sure that the proposals we have for special education will have a smooth transition,' said board chair Linda Brown.

One benefit of the changes is a child's transition from school to school should be smoother. In the past, most of the students attending ESD programs were Lake Oswego or Oregon City kids, who jumped around to various sites for their education. Previously ESD offered programs in LOSD schools in addition to other cities.

For example, Delta is a behavior/anxiety program that includes higher functioning students with Asperger's and autism. In the past, the ESD-run program placed Lake Oswego students at Hallinan Elementary for grades one to three. Then they would do grades four to six in Oregon City, transfer to Lake Oswego Junior High and then graduate from Lakeridge.

'So you'd never develop a cohort of kids,' said Tomblin. 'This puts kids on one side of the lake or the other. We think that's much better for kids.'

Many of the sites will remain the same, while LOSD looks at adding new ones, as well.

'Our classrooms are going to be a less restrictive service model where it's in a neighborhood school as opposed to bouncing around,' said Tomblin.

Also, the current model serves 64 Lake Oswego students for $1.2 million, while the new model is expected to serve 103 students for $1.26 million.

'Basically right now the cost for an ESD program is $35,000 per student. We can serve (for example) 12 students for far less,' said Tomblin. With the old model, the program would have cost $420,000 to pay ESD. The new model is $188,000 to keep it in Lake Oswego.

Additionally, if another district would like to place a special education student in Lake Oswego, the cost is about $30,000.

Currently, three students are requesting transfers into LOSD's Community Transition program for 18-21-year-olds. They are the only ones who will likely transfer in next year.

There are others wanting to get into the district to take advantage of the autism support programs, however there is not capacity for them at the moment, said Tomblin.

The autism support programs will undergo a shift next year giving students case managers who specialize in autism. In the past, they have been managed by a person who handles a variety of special needs students.

Other changes include the canceling of the Alternative Instruction Methods programs, which are sited at Hallinan, LOJHS and an Oregon City school. These behavior/anxiety programs will be absorbed by the Delta program.

Delta programs will be at Hallinan and Bryant Elementary, and the LOJHS program will drop for the year because there are no students at that level enrolled.

There will also be new support programs for students with Asperger's and high-functioning autism.

The changes will provide for a one to 16 teacher-to-student ratio as opposed to the current one to 25 ratio.

'The change has to do with the county changing, but it also allows us to develop a better service model for students,' said Tomblin.

The shift in services doesn't affect everyone in the county. West Linn/Wilsonville and Clackamas already run their special education programs entirely on their own.

Parent voices concerns

over child's placement

Lake Oswego parent Cynthia Mohuiddin has a handful of concerns about the shift in special education services from Clackamas Educational Service District to Lake Oswego. The main one is that students will not be placed in the correct program. As of yet, there are not published criteria for what type of child these programs are for.

'I'm in a fight with (Lake Oswego School District) over this very issue and there's a complaint pending. They placed my son in a class very recently that is still run by ESD,' said Mohuiddin. 'I went on the Web found ESD's criteria and then I went back to them and said my son does not fit this criteria.'

Her concern is that she won't even have that leverage next year because the LOSD doesn't have any criteria published.

Superintendent Bill Korach says he has only heard the complaint from one person and that the criteria will be developed over the summer.

'We always respect the opinions of our parents …,' said Korach. 'I think that opinion is of merit but we're taking care of that. The vast majority of people think we are savy enough to build that criteria in the summer for the fall.

'It is not that we don't know the range of charcteristics and qualities that are demonstrated by students who are autistic. It's about how we're going to make judgement about who fits the program,' he said.