New overseer for Family and Children First Council?

Adding transition classrooms

By Casey S. Elliott - [email protected]

The Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center (ESC) is working to become the administrative head of the Family and Children First Council.

The ESC heard about the proposal at its April 17 board meeting.

Superintendent Dr. Dan Kaffenbarger said ESCs can be fiscal and administrative agents for family and children first councils according to state statutes.

“The mission of the Family and Children First Council really fits well under what we do with the ESC, in terms of our kid-centered service,” he said.

The Family and Children First Council looks at at-risk family needs and tries to wrap their services around those families. The goal is to improve the quality of life for children and their families. The ESC deals with high-need students, from those who are gifted to those with significant disabilities and challenges.

“This is right in our wheelhouse,” Kaffenbarger said.

Currently the council is overseen by the Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Services (MHDAS) Board of Logan and Champaign Counties, Kaffenbarger said. The switch was brought up through discussions with Kaffenbarger and MHDAS board Executive Director David Higgins.

The county commissioners have the authority to appoint a fiscal and administrative agent, and they would need to approve switching that to the ESC. Kaffenbarger told the ESC board the Champaign County Commission agrees in principle to the idea, but needs to research the protocol and process of transfer.

If approved, the switch would occur July 1, he said. It would not change either agency’s mission; staff would continue to be located where it is currently. It would just be an oversight change, and staff would be pulled under the ESC’s payroll, Kaffenbarger said. The Family and Children First Council currently operates at offices on Patrick Avenue, and that would not change.

New transition classrooms

The board also discussed new transition classrooms opening in the fall in Madison and Champaign counties. One will be in the London City Schools and one housed at Graham Local Schools.

The classrooms serve students returning from Mac-A-Cheek Learning Center to their regular school districts. A transition classroom is a step before students return to those classrooms. They offer additional support for those who may have a relapse in behavior. They are cheaper to operate than Mac-A-Cheek classrooms. Students generally aren’t in those classroom all day. They are transported from their home school district by school transportation, and having them in a child’s home county will mean less time traveling to the classrooms during the day.

Kaffenbarger said the additional classrooms were requested by superintendents in both counties. The London one may be located in the former London primary building, currently owned by the city. Graham volunteered space for its classroom in one of its buildings.

“The need for classrooms dealing with students with emotional disabilities seems to be increasing,” he said. “We’re beginning to see a real uptick in students with serious mental health issues, that suffered some kind of trauma outside the school setting. We need to be able to help these students be effective in school and life in general.”

Classrooms for students with multiple disabilities are in regular school buildings, and they are also considered transition classrooms. But there aren’t transition classrooms dealing with students with emotional disabilities in either county currently, Kaffenbarger said. There was one at Triad Local Schools in Champaign County, but that was over a decade ago.

If the classrooms are successful, the ESC may add more in both counties.

Adding transition classrooms

By Casey S. Elliott

[email protected]

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.

Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.