ONTONAGON — The Ontonagon-White Pine Rotary learned Wednesday there are 578 students in the two-county area which are served by the Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District in special education services.
Marge Leaf, director of special education for the GOISD, and Rotary member Bruce Mayle, superintendent of the GOISD, told the members of the impact committee special education has on disabled from birth to 26 years old in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties.
In Ontonagon County, Leaf said, the Ontonagon Area School District has 80 special education students and the Ewen-Trout Creek District has 59. In addition to special education, the GOISD provides support for general education and career education.
Under the Education Act, the ISD is mandated to provide services for disabled students from birth to 26 years old. Individual schools provide the classrooms while the GOISD provides services. If anything is left over in that budget, it goes to the individual schools. Last year the balance of $215,000 was given to the schools. “That balance is gradually dwindling,” Leaf said, “even as the numbers of special education students and costs of services is increasing.”
Mayle pointed out if it were not for approval of the Headlee override by taxpayers last year, the amount of money returned to the schools would have already dropped dramatically.
“Instead of distributing $215,000, it would have been $37,740,” he explained. In the two-county area, amounts received by school districts were: Ontonagon, $38,000; E-TC, $22,000; Bessemer, $35,000; Ironwood, $74,000; Wakefield-Marenisco, $18,000, and Watersmeet, $29,000.
The GOISD hires teachers and personnel for a wide spectrum of special education needs. Children do not all fit into one category and by law, all the differing needs must have a program available. The work of the special education teachers also requires huge amounts of paperwork and reports.
One of the programs, Transition Coordinator, is headed by Paulette Niemi. She works with instructors, junior colleges and businesses to transition students to life after GOISD education programs are completed.
In other Rotary business, Ice- Out tickets have been received and the only thing awaiting a winner is the day and time the ice leaves the Ontonagon River.