FINCH: Special needs collaboration

By Curt Finch

MOISD Supertintendent

Although the Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District is most famous for its visible Career Center student awards and talents, the MOISD has a larger service branch in the area of Special Education.

We have a small army of highly-trained SE professionals and support staff that bring service to each local district, charter and parochial school in our two counties. Larger school districts often have their own specialists who service special needs students, but in Mecosta and Osceola counties, our local schools work together with the MOISD to maximize those services through the MOISD. The theme is to offer the best service while saving money and increasing efficiency and expertise.

Special needs students have an Individual Educational Program that is specifically tailored to their disability with the emphasis of tying into the Gen Ed curriculum of each school district. Michigan is the only state in the Union to service students to age 26; the federal expectation is 21 years old. School psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and assistants, speech pathologists, interpreters teacher consultants, early childhood specialists, physical therapists and assistants, Special Education teachers, bus drivers, para-educators, support staff and administrators and administrative assistants, coordinate with the local school district to find the best placement and programs for our special needs population. Sometimes students are integrated into their local school schedule, while others are educated in special programs on the school site, at the MOISD campus, or the Transition Center in downtown Big Rapids.

The MOISD campus, located over by the National Guard Armory, has SE programs designed for multiple ages, disabilities, and impairments. Similar centrally-located programs (called satellites) are located in the local school district buildings. The MOISD has SE programs for the youngest students housed at the Eastwood Early Childhood Center. We also educate many special needs students along the U.S. 10 Highway in the facilities of Ashmun School at Eagle Village, Pineview Homes in Evart and the Muskegon River Youth Home just north of Evart on M-66; all of these programs are for adjudicated youth who can come from anywhere in the state of Michigan.

Although the Career Center may grab the headlines for student trophies and awards, our SE professional and support staff work tirelessly to support our local district students without pomp and circumstance. Knowing we are helping special needs students reach their next goal on their I.E.P. is a reward enjoyed by the SE team, the student, the district, parents and community members as we prepare students for life-long learning.

Dr. Finch can reached at and followed on Twitter at CFinchMOISD.