Admin says good-bye to ANW

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May 29, 2015 - 12:00 AM

As assistant director at ANW Co-op Kathy Robertson sees firsthand the missing links between funding and special education. There are many trails to follow. Most notably, cuts in staff and services to help save districts money because of the state’s budget crisis.
Robertson coordinates Chanute and Altoona-Midway school districts for the special education cooperative, which covers Allen, Anderson, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson counties.
“I have a lot of empathy for school districts,” she said. “How do you go to a board and ask for more money when they are struggling, too?”
Robertson said one of the biggest challenges for special education in Kansas is its bank account. Special education gets funded per teacher, not per student, and it doesn’t have any way to raise additional funds like school districts do through property taxes.
“When school districts aren’t funded, we aren’t, either,” she said. “I don’t think it’s common knowledge on how we are funded here.”
Special education is put into one “big pot” for the state and funding is divided among co-ops or districts. Transportation funds come out first and then the rest is broken up for different accounts.
Special education does get some federal funding but how the money is spent is very strict. Robertson compares the process to a dog chasing its tail and getting nowhere.
“Everyone is forced to make decisions they don’t want to make but it’s hurting the students,” she said. “The kids are lost in the equation. The kids are the ones who need it and they aren’t getting the services they need.”
ANW provides several services including: nursing, speech and language pathologists, school psychologists, adaptive physical education instructors, occupational therapists, physical therapists and hearing-impaired specialists.

ROBERTSON came on board with ANW three years ago with a background in special education.
Her family moved to Humboldt to be closer to her mother-in-law in Neodesha. Kim, her husband, is a special education teacher for science at Chanute High School.
A lot of change has occurred in the Robertson household over the past few months. Recently Kim’s mother passed away and Robertson’s daughter, Hailey Dixon, graduated from Humboldt High School. She will attend the University of Wyoming this year.
Robertson is also making a change, taking a new position as a superintendent of schools in Lincoln, Kan. Moving to Lincoln is “like going home” for her. She attended school in McPherson and family still lives in the area.
“It feels like a new phase in my life, if that makes sense,” Robertson explained.
Before she became assistant administrator at ANW she taught special education at Valley Center and  was the high school principal. She attended Wichita State University to get her administration degree and worked at Derby Middle School before coming to ANW.
“I’m looking forward to being around the kids,” she said. “Lincoln is a family oriented community and it seems tight-knit.”
She comes from a family of educators and her sister was instrumental in her deciding to get into education.
“This career is about building relationships,” she said. “We are imparting the knowledge to students and we gain a mutual respect for each other. There is a small circle of people you meet in your life and it’s amazing how they come back in your life later on.”
Robertson said she has enjoyed working with the staff and superintendents in the co-op.
Chris Cezar has been hired to take on Robertson’s position. He has experience is special education having worked as a school psychologist and special education administrator in many districts. He will start at ANW in July.

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