By Patricia Bogumil
Waterford Graded School District would like to stay if a new contract for the Waterford Special Education Cooperative (WSEC) is negotiated and in place by May 31, its school board said Feb. 4.
Otherwise, Waterford Graded plans to leave the Co-op as of June 30, 2014.
The school board’s vote followed deliberations in closed session with the Waterford Graded attorney, who had been asked to review the WSEC contract and offer a written, legal analysis of it, including any areas with a potential for litigation, according to Chris Joch, the Waterford Graded superintendent.
In a letter sent Feb. 5 to administrators and board members of each school in the Co-op, Waterford Graded said it would like to stay in the Co-op, “adhering to the spirit of the original agreement, with all districts participating in the budget process whereby the coordinating council is accountable to all WSEC Boards of Education.”
Asked to explain, Joch pointed to a section of the Co-op contract that calls for a Coordinating Council made up of each Co-op district superintendent, as well as the high school’s business manager as a non-voting member.
The Coordinating Council should meet at least four times annually, and also meet at least annually with Co-op standing committees on budget, personnel, and program/housing/facilities, according to the contract.
Keith Brandstetter is superintendent for Waterford Union High School, which serves as the fiscal agent for the Co-op.
He said the Co-op’s superintendents meet about every five weeks, discussing a variety of issues they then report back to their boards, including budgetary matters, employees and new things happening.
He said the high school’s bookkeeper works with him on budget material for these meetings, and attends the meetings as needed for budget/fiscal issues.
These superintendents’ meetings are held much more frequently than the four times annually called for in the Co-op contract, Brandstetter added, but aren’t formally called a “Coordinating Council.”
Monday night’s decision by Waterford Graded follows months of wrangling over “input” vs. “control” of budget and employee retirement issues between Waterford Graded and the other Co-op school boards, which represent the North Cape, Washington-Caldwell and high school districts.
In recent weeks, those boards had declined requests by Waterford Graded – which pays 54 percent of the Co-op budget – for more meetings to discuss those unresolved issues.
Joch said he would hope the unresolved issues are included during discussions for the new Co-op contract that Waterford Graded is requesting.
Also still unresolved is when Waterford Graded can legally leave the Co-op if it doesn’t get the new contract it seeks. Waterford Graded expects to pull out of the Co-op in June 2014 if no deal can be worked out for a new contract.
The current Co-op contract, which expired in June 2011, calls for an 18-month final notice for leaving. But since the current contract is expired, the Waterford Graded attorney questions whether the 18-month requirement is actually in force, Joch explained.
“Our legal opinion would say something different,” commented Brandstetter, who has said September 2015 is the earliest Waterford Graded can pull out – a full year earlier than what Waterford Graded maintains.