By Jean Lotus
A cooperative of local school districts — including Forest Park District 91 and River Forest District 90 — which share special education resources and assists with federal grants may vote to dissolve next month.
The Federation of Districts for Special Education (FDSE) has existed since 1983, housed in the North Berwyn School District 98 administrative offices at 16th and Wesley.
Supt. Lou Cavallo told the D91 school board a dispute over a pension for a retiring secretary caused the participating superintendents to balk and question whether the organization has outlived its usefulness.
"She was recommended for retirement benefits that were quite a bit more than most member districts provide for similar employees. [Superintendents] objected to that," Cavallo said Thursday.
But FDSE Acting Director Robert Giles disputed that account. He said he asked the district administrators whether the FDSE had outlived its usefulness.
"I'm retiring, she's retiring and we're losing our lease at the North Berwyn School District," he said, adding that best practices for special education are now the norm in local school districts. These include the "response to intervention" student data model, classroom inclusion for special education students, the "least restrictive environment" guidelines and an increase in co-teaching.
"I told [the superintendents] we way not need to be part of a cooperative. That's their decision to make."
FDSE is a "flow through" agency that assists with grants for federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) dollars. They also provide teacher trainings.
"We do not expect a direct impact on children if FDSE were to disband," said D90 Supt. Ed Condon, noting that River Forest participated in every training offered by FDSE and that the cooperative was useful for technical assistance in writing IDEA grants. Other school districts in the co-op are North Berwyn D98, District 99 in Cicero, District 100 in South Berwyn and Morton High School District 201. Each of six member districts pays $21,000 to FDSE.