Schools discuss special education redesign planIn the seventh special education redesign draft, officials presented a plan that would leave most services and personnel the same, but would cost Jamestown Public Schools about $80,000 more. Jamestown, as well as Medina, Montpelier and Pingree-Buchanan school districts make up the Buffalo Valley Special Education unit. To cut costs and continue its level of service, BVSEU is considering partnering with the Dickey-LaMoure Special Education Unit, which consists of the Edgeley, Ellendale, Kulm, LaMoure and Litchville-Marion districts.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
In the seventh special education redesign draft, officials presented a plan that would leave most services and personnel the same, but would cost Jamestown Public Schools about $80,000 more.
Jamestown, as well as Medina, Montpelier and Pingree-Buchanan school districts make up the Buffalo Valley Special Education unit. To cut costs and continue its level of service, BVSEU is considering partnering with the Dickey-LaMoure Special Education Unit, which consists of the Edgeley, Ellendale, Kulm, LaMoure and Litchville-Marion districts.
Rhoda Young, BVSEU director, as well as Larry Klundt and Kent Hjelmstad, of Leadership Options LLP, presented a cooperative and organizational plan for the two units Monday.
According to the plan, Jamestown and the Jamestown School Board would maintain, manage and govern its own special education unit (to be called the Jamestown Public School Special Education Unit). Jamestown would share some of the costs, like the unit director’s salary and teachers who work at more than district, with the rural districts.
“I think there is potential for win-win,” Hjelmstad said.
Those eight districts (to be called the James River Multi-District Special Education Unit) would be managed and maintained by a separate eight-member board consisting of representatives from each district. Each district would be considered equally represented even though enrollment varies by district, Klundt said. The district of LaMoure, for example, has 327 students and Kulm has 105.
Jamestown would pick up 80 percent of the costs and the rural districts would pay the other 20 percent, Klundt said, in a partnership called the James River/Jamestown Public School Special Education Cooperative.
Jamestown’s 2,194 students represent about 58 percent of the 3,751 students enrolled in all nine districts, but because Jamestown has several students with multiple needs, Jamestown takes up about 80 percent of her and her staff’s time, Young said.
The contract between Jamestown and the rural schools would be for two years, so the districts could reassign who pays what percentage at those times, Klundt said.
“We left a lot of wiggle room,” he said.
This plan is beneficial, Hjelmstad said, because it means Jamestown special education teachers will continue to be employees of the district. Remaining JPS employees was the Jamestown teachers’ No. 1 concern, he said. Also, all districts could continue to operate without eliminating any jobs.
Gail Martin, school board member, questioned what the district was getting in exchange for the price increase. The personnel and services would remain the same, Klundt said, saying based on the current agreement, Jamestown hasn’t been paying its fair share. Jamestown currently pays about $1.28 million for special education and under the new plan would pay about $1.36 million.
The costs to other districts vary as well.
Currently, Pingree-Buchanan pays about $25,000 in special education personnel and services, Montpelier pays about $70,000 and Medina pays about $150,000. Under the new plan, Pingree-Buchanan would pay about $78,000, Montpelier would pay about $56,000 and Medina would pay about $78,000.
“Some districts were paying more than their share and some were paying less,” Klundt said.
While the Jamestown Public School District would pay more than it has in the past, if Jamestown decided to leave the nine-district group or the Buffalo Valley unit, the district would see costs go up because of the way special education is funded, Young said. The state funds special education based on total student population, not by students enrolled in the special education programs, she said. With student enrollment declining overall, special education will see cuts in its funding, she said.
The idea of reorganization, said Bob Toso, superintendent, wasn’t to save dollars as much as it was to provide a high quality of services to special education students.
“This has been about trying to share special education costs with other districts,” he said.
JPS didn’t meet its adequate yearly progress goals set by the federal program, No Child Left Behind, in part because of the district’s special education scores. For the long-term, however, reorganizing the special education units is a good idea because it means students can continue to receive a high-level of education, Toso said.
The new plan is only a draft and the school boards can make modifications to it or scrap it all together. Jamestown’s other options are to continue with the Buffalo Valley schools or form a unit on its own.
The board will decide whether to continue move forward with this plan at its regular meeting on Oct. 20. All nine boards must make a decision by their regular November meetings.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454
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