To avoid slipping past a Jan. 31 exit-notice deadline, Waterford Special Education Co-operative school boards are considering whether to extend the final notice deadline for Waterford Graded School District to leave the Co-op.
A three-month extension to the Jan. 31 final notice deadline was requested Jan. 9 by Waterford Graded officials. In September, Waterford Graded gave preliminary notice of its intent to leave the Co-op in February 2014.
Also this month, the school boards are expected to vote their recommendations on how to handle benefits for a particular Co-op worker that Waterford Graded had asked to discuss.
That issue involves post-employment retirement benefits set up when the employee was hired by Waterford Graded before it joined the Co-op.
This month, all four school boards are asked to vote their advisory input on that benefits issue to the high school board, which is the fiscal agent for the Co-op. The individual in question is currently employed by the high school to work for the Co-op.
No resolution on the employee benefits issue was made Jan. 9 during a special joint closed meeting of the Co-op’s school boards, according to Keith Brandstetter, superintendent for Waterford Union High School, which serves as the Co-op’s fiscal agent.
“There was just discussion among the boards,” he said.
There was also no resolution Jan. 9 to the thorny issue of input versus control of the Co-op’s annual budget.
At their joint Jan. 9 meeting, school board members and administrators discussed in open session what it would take to make Waterford Graded officials interested in staying with the Co-op rather than leaving in 2014.
The answer is plain and simple, according to Waterford Graded Board President Dan Jensen: Give elected school board members the ability to have direct input on the Co-op budget.
“ ‘Why is it that we have zero say?’ ” Jensen said his board members have asked.
Stressing that he and his board “love the teachers we have” and “believe they supply quality education for the students,” Jensen expressed hope that “we can come to agreement on the budgeting issues” for the Co-op.
But Jensen’s quest for “input” on the Co-op budget was challenged as actually being a quest for “control” of the budget.
In response to questions from Tom Halter of the North Cape School District, Jensen suggested it would be fair to have budget input voted in by a new board of eight elected officials representing the Co-op’s school districts.
Jensen suggested the new board could consist of four members from Waterford Graded, which currently pays 54 percent of the Co-op budget; two members from the high school; and one member each from the North Cape and Washington-Caldwell districts.
“That’s all about control,” Halter immediately replied. Jensen answered: “You want to control Waterford Graded, that’s how we see it.
Brandstetter explained that school administrators who prepare the Co-op budget are specially trained and educated about what is needed. These administrators present preliminary information throughout the year to their school boards for review and input, he added.
“If you have input and nothing comes from your input, do you have input?” Jensen queried.
No formal recommendations were made Jan. 9 to address the budget input issues Waterford Graded raised. Its requested three-month exit notice deadline, if granted, would offer time for that additional discussion.
Mark Pienkos, superintendent of the Washington-Caldwell District, said afterward that he thought there is general interest in creating a new joint board that meets regularly to discuss Co-op issues, including the budget.
The sticking point, Pienkos predicted, is whether such a board – if and when it is created – would just offer input or actually have the power to make decisions.