MOUNT VERNON — In a manner of speaking, there is an invisible sixth school district in Knox County — the Knox County Educational Service Center. It provides direct services to special needs students as well as direct services to educators and facilitates shared services between the local school districts.
“We are probably the best educational value in Knox County,” said Superintendent Timm Mackley. “Schools have to provide services to special needs preschoolers. Schools have to provide services to special education school-age kids. Teachers have to get their staff development information somewhere. We can do that less expensively than local districts. We are, in effect, a cost-cutting center.”
Currently, the ESC, in one form or another, serves 93 preschool pupils; 94 students get speech therapy and 127 receive occupational therapy services. The ESC serves 61 emotionally disabled pupils and 23 multi-handicapped individuals. The ESC employs 39 teachers, 120 special education aides, three speech therapy aides and two occupational therapy aides. The staff is spread out among the local school districts, which are billed for the services provided.
“Those services are services school districts, by law, have to offer their kids,” Mackley said. “We’re not providing any service that school districts are not going to be offering anyway. They can just do business through us less expensively than they can do it themselves.”
There are two primary reasons the ESC can do it for less money and thus help each district’s bottom line.
One is that the ESC’s salary scales are generally lower than the local districts’ pay scales. The other is that, through the ESC, the districts can share services.