History of the Exceptional Child Cooperative

  • School House

    The Exceptional Child Cooperative (Coop) was formed in 1977 to meet federal requirements mandated in 1975 by Public Law 94-142. The law's purpose was to assure that all children with disabilities have a free and appropriate public education. It was signed by President Gerald Ford and emphasized special education as well as related services to meet the needs of disabled students. This law has been updated several times and is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Since the inception of the Coop in 1977, IDEA has greatly expanded the requirements of public schools to accommodate and serve disabled students. The Coop has also grown to meet the needs of area schools.

    Andy Millman, Houston High School principal, was the first director of the Exceptional Child Cooperative. He organized all Texas County schools, as well as Willow Springs, Mountain View, Winona, Eminence, and Van Buren, to establish the special education cooperative. He recognized a need for rural schools to be able to receive quality specialized services that individual school districts were not able to access. Mary Wood became the director in 1990, followed by Charlie Taylor in 1997, Lisa Cox in 2004, Eileen Fronterhouse in 2005, Lillian Collins in 2011, Amy Dill in 2015, Jeremy Smith in 2016, and currently Jennifer Johnson since 2018.

    The first Coop was in the Houston superintendent's office and consisted of three individuals. The first diagnostic team was added in 1978 that included a nurse, Evelyn Behrens, and Mary Jane Lybyer, a speech/language pathologist. Chris Honeycutt was the first secretary. In the fall of 1978, the Coop moved to a trailer behind the gymnasium, then to a building across from Texas County Library.

    Today, the Coop is housed in the same structure as the Vocational Education Building at 905 Hill Street. The northeast side of the building was renovated during the 2015-2016 school year to have offices, small classroom spaces, teacher workroom, a training room, and an accessible bathroom.  Twenty two dedicated professionals work at the Cooperative, including diagnosticians, speech language pathologists, speech language pathology assistants, an occupational therapist, certified occupational therapist assistants, adaptive physical education instructors, itinerant early childhood special education teachers, a secretary and the Director of the Exceptional Child Education Cooperative.