Dist. 158 parents warm to special-ed funding list

Published: 11/13/2009 12:02 AM

For the first time in more than four months, parents of special-needs students in Huntley Unit District 158 are starting to get behind the district's plans for spending about $1.6 million in federal stimulus money.

After parents criticized the initial spending plan presented during the summer, Superintendent John Burkey directed his staff to retool the list.

Over the next four months, special education staff surveyed parents and teachers and developed a new list, which they presented last week.

The new list did little to placate parents, who accused district staff of ignoring parents' wishes and allocating money for items like printers and filing cabinets that were not specifically tied to special education.

But yet another draft of the list, presented to the board on Thursday, contained some encouraging signs for parents, including a proposal to offer training in disability awareness to every employee in District 158.

The new list comes days after special education parents distributed fliers throughout Huntley accusing Burkey of giving parents the "stone-ears treatment" and encouraging the board to "approve nonsense."

"It is getting much better," said Linda Betzold, mother of an autistic child in the district, of the new list. "We are getting much more comfortable."

"If we had this proposal a week ago, we wouldn't have had to send out that flyer," added Betzold, who said she did not author the flyer.

Burkey said he was pleased with the growing support for the list but said the board needs more time to digest the proposals and incorporate feedback.

"It's pretty close to what it should be," Burkey said. "I don't want (the board) to be pressured to vote on something they haven't been able to study."

Burkey brushed off the flyer, saying: "It is what it is. People have a right to express themselves. I hope people can take their focus away from that and focus on developing a better plan."