By LINDA LOBECK
KINGSFORD - Leading educational change, cutting school costs, building partnerships with business and higher education - while sounding like recent headlines, this is the daily work of intermediate school districts (ISDs).
These 57 educational service agencies located across the state, with names that typically end in, ESA, ESD or ISD, do much of the behind-the-scenes work in education.
And this critical education resource turns 50 this year.
Created by legislation in 1962, ISDs have been a key link between local school districts and both state and federal Departments of Education. They certify student counts so schools can get state aid payments on time, and create group purchases to save money on everything from computers and paper to parking lot asphalt.
"Our ISDs also provide services too expensive for individual districts, like the Career Tech Centers with highly specialized equipment, or Special Education experts or national trainers for teacher workshops," said Dr. William Miller, executive director of the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators. "These offerings, and many others, are only truly effective at a regional level. Without ISDs, these services might not exist."
Local schools must add new programs, standards and reporting requirements nearly every year. ISDs help schools understand and implement these new duties. They help schools qualify for additional state and federal funding, and help them become more transparent in the ways they operate. They even help schools with administrative services like payroll and technology.
Miller explains that for half a century, ISDs have employed their skills in leadership, innovation and collaboration to get results for students and schools.
"Michigan's ISDs are among the most valuable, and yet little known, resources we have in education," says Michael Flanagan, state superintendent of schools. "I'm very proud of the work they do to serve students, parents and communities across our state. I just wish more people knew how much they help our schools. If you know someone who has started a career from training received in a Tech Center, or benefited from Special Education services or learned new teaching methods in a workshop, chances are this was thanks to an ISD."
Locally, the Dickinson-Iron Intermediate School District (DIISD) provides programs and services through the departments of Career and Technical Education, Early Childhood Education and Special Education for children from birth through young adulthood.
The General Services area offers extensive professional development for educators in all roles and capacities and in all content areas.
Additionally, many collaborative support services are offered for non-instructional areas of school operation such as business services, pupil accounting and technology.
The DIISD staff work in close partnership with all of the local school districts, the community and families to maximize a variety of resources in order to achieve opportunities for optimum educational experiences for all students.
"To be of service is our mission, our motto, 'Your Partner in Education' stands for our commitment to meaningful service. The ISD is bursting with the many exciting educational opportunities presented every day in all of our classrooms and programs within the school district," a spokesperson said.
Dickinson-Iron ISD serves six public school districts and three non-public school districts in Dickinson and Iron counties.
The local ISD districts include:
- Public districts of Breitung Township, Forest Park, Iron Mountain, North Dickinson, Norway-Vulcan, and West Iron County.
- Non-public districts include Bishop Baraga Catholic, Holy Spirit Catholic and Pine Mountain Christian schools.
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.