Durango 9-R recently conducted an independent audit to ensure that an internal student support services program was sustainable and more cost effective than continuing to contract with the San Juan BOCES, who has historically provided these services to our district. San Juan BOCES serves several districts in the region providing special support services such as special education, speech therapy, and school psychologists.
The findings of the audit revealed that in addition to the efficiencies we can achieve by being fully accountable for our special education students, that both entities will also be fiscally sustainable. Superintendent Dan Snowberger said that “the BOCES stands to remain an organization with an over $6.3 million budget annually, even without our $1.9 million. This is not so much a desire to separate from BOCES as it is a desire for us to be responsible for our own special-education needs.”
Upon completion of the audit, the district sent the application for separation from BOCES to the Exceptional Student Services Unit at CDE. The final audit shows a savings of over $380,000 to be reinvested into our current programs that support special education programs and services for students.
Because special education for Durango 9-R has been governed by the San Juan BOCES, funds that the district receives go through the BOCES before they flow to our district. “The San Juan BOCES currently has full control of these funds,” says Jackie Oros, Chief Student Advocacy Officer for 9-R. “Through a separation, we would become our own Administrative Unit (AU), and thus have the ability to make decisions about how this money is spent for the special education of our students with disabilities. We will have the flexibility to spend this money based solely on the specific needs of Durango 9-R students.”
Durango 9-R would gain the ability to create policies and procedures for special education to be specific to the unique needs of the students in the district. We plan to hire specialized staff similar to the positions staffed in the San Juan BOCES who serve our students. They would be our employees aligned with our district mission, action plan, and goals. It is the district’s hope that some of our current BOCES staff will fill these positions for consistency.
We can develop and expand the roles of service providers. By having our own staff, we can further develop structures to allow providers to innovate within their roles and spend valuable time with our students rather than traveling to other districts. “For example, we want to restructure the role of the school psychologist to serve as a mental health provider who would spend the majority of their time with students,” continued Oros. “In the current structure, they are not able to utilize their expertise in our schools to the fullest potential possible.”
As the district transitions to its own administrative unit for special education services, a new advisory committee of parents and educators will be formed to engage with the district around this important change.
“We have 25 percent of the special-needs students in the BOCES,” Snowberger said, “but we’re paying 36 percent of the cost. We need that money in the district because the needs are skyrocketing. We have 4,600 kids and ample staff to deal with these issues and we need agility to support our students imminent and critical needs.”
We value your support as we build capacity to effectively serve our students, parents, and community. The growth and success of our students continue to be at the forefront of all decisions.