Lewis Cass leader: More than special ed.

Published 11:16 pm Friday, August 20, 2004

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - In 10 years as a Cass County school superintendent John Ostrowski had never appeared before the Board of Commissioners.
He remedied that Thursday with a presentation detailing the extensive services Lewis Cass Intermediate School District's 180 employees provide with a fleet of 26 vehicles operating around the clock.
Even a few commissioners admitted they previously associated the LCISD primarily with providing special education.
Ostrowski, who resides in the Vandalia area, noted he has outlived the typical tenure for a superintendent of about three years.
It's been 10 months since he moved over to the four-district intermediate serving Dowagiac, Edwardsburg, Marcellus and Cassopolis. He had been Cassopolis superintendent.
His presentation was designed to unmask a largely "hidden entity" based on Dailey Road by Brookside Learning Center, which actually enjoys a much more "pervasive" reach than indicated by its remote location.
As Ostrowski approaches his first anniversary at the LCISD, he leads an "almost brand-new team," with only two key administrators remaining from the previous administration to carry out the district's mission, "Providing services today … for a better tomorrow."
The LCISD family of services also revolves around career technical education, community services, family and children services, instructional services and transportation.
Special Education Director Mark Francis has only been on the job for a few weeks after coming from Waterford. Special education services are provided to more than 1,000 students in the four districts, plus 177 high-needs students at center-based programs at North Pointe Center and Kincheloe Elementary School in Dowagiac, Marcellus middle and high schools and Brookside. "These are the neediest of the needy." The LCISD is accountable for the special education population until age 26.
Joan Forburger directs the career technical education division, which provided support services to 1,241 students last year with federal grants. The LCISD supports local districts for the Michigan career pathways curriculum, including Career Pathways Day for 593 students last year and career academies involving 50 students.
Myrna Stevenson and Tim McGann lead the community services division. Four thousand students participate in intensive self-sufficiency programs for adults as well as children.
As a "grant hub," the LCISD employs a staff of more than 40 that provides services to Benton Harbor, Paw Paw, Niles, South Haven and Three Rivers, as well as Dowagiac, working closely with Michigan Works on the Work First program to increase employment opportunities.
Family and children services, directed by Lloyd Hamilton, helps 596 families strengthen their assets with Early On, Wraparound, Respite Services, the Family Resource Center, Zero to Five and Families First.
In addition to bolstering parenting skills, there are many grandparents raising their grandchildren. "I've got to confess. I'm going to be 60 years old," Ostrowski said. "I understand how tiring it is."
Brian Wood directs instructional services. "With No Child Left Behind legislation, it's critically important that all kids learn some basic skills," Ostrowski said.
Services range from staff and curriculum development to early childhood education and sponsorship of Educational Talent Search countywide, plus the Cass County Spelling Bee, Young Writers Day, Science Olympiad and the Middle School Math Meet.
Transportation's 24/7 operation "dings us a little because people say, 'I saw your LCISD van over at the grocery store or in Three Rivers.' The reason for that is we contract with Michigan Works to deliver clients to work sites and to appointments and to places where they can't get to so they can be better parents," Ostrowski said.