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Review finds Huntley schools could quit special ed cooperative
By Jameel Naqvi | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 7/9/2009 11:59 PM

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Huntley Unit District 158 could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on special education by dropping out of a McHenry County cooperative for students with disabilities, according to a report presented to the school board Thursday.

The report, conducted over five months by Rosemont-based ECRA Group, is part of a comprehensive review of the district's special education program that will culminate in an action plan to be presented in the fall.

Representatives from the ECRA Group praised District 158's special education program and offered suggestions for improvement.

"You have a very good special education program," ECRA President Lou Gatta said. "You're building on a very strong base."

Superintendent John Burkey said withdrawing from the Special Education District of McHenry County, which provides education and transportation to some special-needs students in the district, is a possibility.

"I do think it's something that needs to be explored," Burkey said. "I don't know that it's on the front burner."

ECRA's findings come as the district replaces its top special education staff, three of whom left this month for jobs in other districts.

The district on Thursday hired Cheryl Kalkirtz to replace Meg Schnoor as director of special services, chiefly responsible for special education. Kalkirtz will earn $100,000 and start immediately.

Parents of special-needs students have expressed concerns about the departure of staffers and district officials' plan to use half of the federal stimulus money earmarked for special education in other areas.

District officials have scheduled two meetings next week at which parents will be able to weigh in on the $1.6 million the district expects to receive.