Local ESD might be trendsetter for state

<p>Speech pathologist Delany Green works with 70 students in Wallowa County schools.</p>

Presently, the Wallowa County Education Service District is the only ESD in Oregon that acts as the central business office for every school within its district.

That soon could change.

According to ESD Superintendent Ed Jensen – set to retire June 30 following nearly a decade in that position – many of the other 17 ESDs in the state are considering adopting a similar role because of the monetary savings such could bring to individual school districts.

Preferring to avoid the term “savings” in lieu of “revenue freed for school uses,” Jensen says by eliminating the positions of deputy clerk at the Enterprise, Joseph, Wallowa, and Troy schools, costs over the past 10 years have been reduced a total of $1.6 million.

With the superintendents of those four school districts being their immediate bosses, Judith Robb and Lisa Courtney now perform that role under the umbrella of the ESD and have the budgetary authority to manage about $28 million annually. Jensen says the two of them wrote more than 6,000 checks in 2011.

It was in 2002 that the Oregon Legislature instituted new rules in regard to the funding of ESDs.

With five ESDs in Oregon, including the Wallowa County ESD, categorized as having a total of less than 2,600 students in their districts and 13 ESDs with a student count above that number, the former were guaranteed an annual budgetary ceiling of up to $1 million to work with.

Wallowa County has received that maximum amount every year since the 2007-2008 school year.

The other small ESDs include the North Central District (Sherman, Wheeler, and Gilliam counties), Grant County, Harney County, and Lake County.

With funding based on average school attendance, the Northwest ESD based in Beaverton last year received more funding than any other ESD in the state, $24.3 million.

The local ESD has 20 full-time employees, nine of whom work directly with special education programs. To serve the 48 children who directly qualify for special education services throughout the county are two teachers and three aides in Enterprise, one teacher and one aide in Joseph, and one teacher and one aide in Wallowa.

Jensen says they all handle daunting paperwork tasks just to remain current.

Delany Green is a state board-certified speech pathologist who works with a total of 70 students at all four schools in the county as well as with preschool students. Certified to be her assistant is Shevelle Wortman.

Other important contributors to the Wallowa County ESD effort include Linda Wingo and Saralyn Johnson. Not only the psychologist for each of the local schools, Wingo is involved in all testing programs and writes new assessment plans. Johnson assists Wingo and operates the Youth Transition Program.

One more ESD employee whose efforts are associated with the special education program is Early Childhood Education Specialist Julie Chrisman. Chrisman, often in conjunction with the Head Start program, regularly performs assessments on children up to 5 years of age to determine if they have special needs.

Karen Patton, who will replace Jensen as ESD superintendent July 1, also will retain her current position as curriculum coordinator.

Jensen and assistant Joyce Anderson work in the superintendent’s office while employed by the ESD as technicians are Josh Kesecker, Christian Zollman, and David Lund.

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