A Continuum of Services For Special Education

Editor:

Thank you for your thoughtful coverage of District 65’s Inclusion initiative.  In your last issue, you reported that Dr. Cassandra Cole, District 65’s inclusion consultant, sent an e-mail to Dr. Hardy Murphy on Dec. 3, 2009.  In her e-mail, Dr. Cole stated that “[t]here is no doubt in my mind that we need to eliminate self-contained programs at SPAAC next year.” 

Dr. Cole’s statement is disturbing because it contradicts the clear mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) for a continuum of alternative placements including special classes, schools and home and hospital instruction if necessary.  20 USC 1412 (a)(5); 34 CFR secs. 300.114 and 300.115.

  1. If there is a choice given before we have a chance to determine if they can be supported in an integrated building, then we have, in my opinion violated the LRE provision.”

Contrary to Dr. Cole’s contention, there is no mandate under IDEA that a student be educated in an integrated environment regardless of the severity of the disability.

As the RoundTable accurately noted, Federal law requires that schools educate children with disabilities with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.  It is the student’s IEP team that determines what is appropriate for each individual child. This team includes teachers, special educators and parents, who are all intimately familiar with the child’s unique needs.

One would expect that an outside consultant, receiving $1,500 per day from the District, would have a better grasp of the law on which she presumes to advise.

— Rachael Gross, Attorney

Garlic Mustard Pull Volunteers Needed

Editor:

On Saturday and Sunday, May 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to noon. the 20th annual Garlic Mustard Pull will take place in Perkins Woods, which is part of the Cook County Forest Preserve and is located in Northwest Evanston along Ewing Avenue between Grant and Colfax streets.

Garlic mustard is a chief competitor of the native grasses and wildflowers that bloom each spring. This non-native plant will out-compete the native plants for space, light, water and nutrients. 

We will also clean and pick up trash for our annual cleaning of the woods.

We need your help! 

Perkins Woods is an extraordinary piece of land that was preserved many years ago for all of our enjoyment. Visitors to this little forest preserve know that every April and May they can see many spring wild flowers. First pops spring beauty, then both red and white trillium, may apples, wild geranium and more. 

The first garlic mustard pull was organized in 1989. With vigilance and a team of volunteers we have been able to keep the garlic-mustard weed in control. Last spring, we noticed that the jack-in-the-pulpits were growing in mass, a solid sign that our spring wild flowers are thriving. 

So pitch in and help keep our woods healthy! It is a great way to help the environment and be a part of your community.

— Jancy Jerome, Volunteer Steward of Perkins Woods

A Look at Lacrosse

Editor:

Some people in Evanston are vaguely aware of the phenomenal Northwestern Lacrosse team. Five time NCAA champions! Four time NCAA player of the year. 57 consecutive home wins. 37 game consecutive winning streak. And maybe better than ever – and maybe not.

This past Sunday, playing #2 North Carolina at the lakefront Stadium, the streak came to an end in a terrific contest of skill and determination with the Tar Heels prevailing 18-16. 

So, now the Wildcats are 12-1 but they have opportunity to redeem themselves by closing out the regular season successfully and bringing the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament to Evanston on May 16 and 22nd.  Very likely, they will play NC again.

These girls start playing in shorts and T-shirts on the lakefront in March! The season lasts only three months with most of May spent in Columbus, Ohio and Towson, Maryland.

But what a joy to be seen. The game of Lacrosse was developed by the American Indians long ago. Murney Lazier brought the game to the boys of ETHS 40 years ago. But only in the past 20 years have girls played this game.

The sport is like field hockey except that the stick has a basket which allows one to pick up the ball and run with it or throw the ball a great distance. The object is to get the ball into the opponent’s net. Unlike the boys, there is no hitting allowed in the girls’ sport. This makes for a faster, higher scoring, and balletic feast for the eyes. The girls run like deer! 

This year’s team is a mix of superb veterans, including three candidates for Player of the Year, and an amazing freshman class that will carry the tradition on. 

They  next play at the Lakefront Stadium on Saturday, April 24th  (7:00pm) against Vanderbilt.  Of course, at this point with a loss, NU is ranked #2 or #3 in the country.  But we have a lot of great games coming up as the season is only half over. 

The NCAA championship will be held at Towson, Md., May 28-30. There is an excellent chance that we’ll be there!  There’s nothing better than sitting in the stands, facing the beautiful lake, the sun warming your back, and cheering on the hometown team! Go You, Northwestern!

On another topic, I think it is a great pity that the teachers and administrators, and the rest of the staff, that work in Evanston schools can not come together and agree to an across the board cut in pay of 10 percent in order to avoid layoffs. 

 If this model was adopted by both the public and the private sectors, we could get our unemployment numbers down dramatically in no time. 

n       Tony Grimwade

HB 174, The Good and the Bad

Editor:

Here in the 17th Illinois House District and across the state, families are reeling from the recession. Severe cuts in city, county and state budgets this year have wreaked havoc in Illinois – with children and families paying the price.
  Schools in Illinois are owed $728 million. As a result, approximately 17,228 layoffs have been reported in Illinois schools.

More than 20,000 teachers could be laid off from state schools in the next school year. More than $7.5 million is owed to schools in Representative Coulson’s district alone, due to the state’s lack of funds.

The good news is there’s a solution: House Bill 174 raises adequate revenues and makes taxes fairer for low- and moderate-income families.

HB 174 passed the Illinois Senate, but has not been voted on by the House. The talk now in Springfield is to pass a six-month budget and go home to campaign.

We all expect certain fundamentals from our government: Our children should be educated; public safety must be ensured; those in need should have access to essential human services, like health care.

But Springfield’s current course guarantees that many of these basic obligations will go unmet. We expect our elected officials to lead, not cower when tough decisions need to be made, when the futures of our children and communities are at stake.

As a representative who is not facing a reelection campaign, Representative Beth Coulson can and must take the tough vote and do what she knows is right for the children of the 17th district and the state.  

The 1,800 teachers and support staff of the North Suburban Teachers Union urge Representative Coulson to vote for House Bill 174 – to stop budget cuts, save services and jobs. Don’t come home, Representative Coulson, without a responsible budget.

–Dan Montgomery, President North Suburban Teachers Union Local 1274
IFT, AFT/CFL, AFL-CIO

Schakowsky Should Withdraw Insurance Bill

Editor:

A recent newspaper report prompted this letter to the people of the 9th Congressional District. Our Congresswoman is proposing legislation to have the federal government “block or modify unreasonable health insurance rate hikes and order insurance companies to provide rebates to consumers.”

I have been in the insurance business for more than 50 years, and anyone in our business can tell you that competition is the best way to control excess premium rates. That’s the American way.

For someone without a background in insurance, it is easy to assume that increasing insurance rates are just a method of increasing profits. Anyone who studied loss ratios and claim histories would see that the underlying reason is the ever-increasing costs of hospitals, doctors and medical supplies. Ask anyone who has been in a hospital recently, and they’ll tell you a staggering tale.

Let’s look at some facts:

• As an industry, insurance companies rank 36th in profits;

• The average profit margin of insurance companies is 2 percent;

• Insurance companies are more highly regulated than almost any other industry;

• The State of Illinois has one of the strongest insurance department sin the nation.

We do not need the federal government to add regulation to the insurance business. After months of hearing from the White House how bad the insurance companies are, let us not put a stranglehold on this industry that has served people well for many years.

In looking back on this area, we have been fortunate to have had special people who represent us, including Ralph Church, Abner Mikva and Sidney Yates. These were people who recognized our business community and did not look to Washington to handle our problems. I am sad to say this is not the case today.

Please tell our Congresswoman to withdraw her bill.

— Tom McRaith

Resident Proposes Revisions for Street-Sweeping

Editor:

I would like residents to consider a highly cost effective and extremely efficient revised street cleaning schedule; designed to reduce the city’s expenses and our taxes, target crucial periods for cleanings, decrease carbon monoxide emissions and noise pollution, and improve the quality of resident life. 

 Let’s spend money cleaning streets weekly in the fall: clearing leaves that are serious hazards; obstructing traffic and dangerously clogging street drains which seriously flood streets and potentially flood basements. Then eliminate unnecessary spring and summer cleanings whose total collection of debris is a mere fraction of what’s collected during a single cleaning in October.  An emergency cleaning can always be scheduled after a storm, like our emergency snow removal days.

  We can:

  • Save lots of money: The reduction of 26 cleanings is approximately a 75 percent reduction in street cleaning costs.

 • Increase environmental benefits: An approximately 75 percent reduction in street cleaning vehicles’ carbon monoxide emissions and noise pollution.  Conversely, increased fall cleanings dramatically reduces the massive amount of leaves that impact traffic and create hazards.

• Greatly improve quality of life: An  approximately 75 percent reduction in noise pollution means dramatic increase in sustained sleep; windows left open without concern of being abruptly woken increases fresh air (healthier) and reduces air conditinoer use (saves electricity/expenses), limits parking tickets and the inconvenience of unnecessarily moving cars (annoying and costly.)

 Proposed schedule: Eliminate April-September (26 cleanings); implement fall cleanings: October (eight cleanings) and November (four cleanings.)  Money saved can reduce our new waste fees. 

 Please contact the mayor, your alderman and city officials.

 — Barbara Sykes