For two decades, the Educational Service Center of Lorain County (ESCLC) has proven that strength in numbers often leads to success. Composed of representatives from 14 Lorain County school districts, the center focuses on providing support that includes amenities for students with special needs, professional development for staff and purchasing power when it comes to buying supplies.

The 14 participating school districts are Amherst, Avon, Avon Lake, Clearview, Columbia, Elyria, Firelands, Keystone, Lorain, Midview, North Ridgeville, Oberlin, Sheffield-Sheffield Lake and Wellington.

“In 1995, county boards of education transitioned into educational service centers as a way to make schools more efficient in terms of providing services that districts might not otherwise have access to,” says Franco Gallo, the center’s superintendent.

They include psychologists, social workers, audiologists and other care professionals — as well as substitute teachers — who are hired to work in multiple districts the ESCLC encompasses.

“A single school district usually does not need these specialists full time,” Gallo says. “This way, we can hire them to work for several school systems.”

The ESCLC also offers educational experiences tailormade for specific needs.

Designed for children ages 3 through 5, the Lorain County Early Learning Center preschool provides developmentally appropriate experiences that prepare students for kindergarten.

Pathways to Success creates small-group, positive environments for students who benefit from non-traditional school settings. The curriculum is designed to help them develop social, emotional and academic growth. Pupils are rewarded for positive behavior, and time is set aside for reflection and social activities.

The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a one-year educational program for students with disabilities who have completed high school graduation requirements. The initiative, which integrates career exploration with a variety of worksite experience, prepares participants for competitive employment.

Juvenile Court Residential Facilities Education Programs ensure residents attend school for five-and-a-half hours a day, and focus on an Ohio Academic Standards curriculum that includes language arts, math, science, social studies and technology. Transcripts are sent to each student’s guidance office so that a smooth transition is achieved when pupils return there.

Students also benefit from ESCLC’s Lorain County Gifted Consortium, which plans and implements programs and services for gifted students and lesson plans for their teachers.

“We seek to become an organization that serves as a coordinating hub that brings our citizens, public schools, institutions of higher learning, businesses, local governmental entities and other support organizations together,” Gallo says.