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Board mulls opting out of Clackamas ESD

The Estacada School Board is considering whether to opt out of the Clackamas Education Service District.

Education Service Districts (ESDs) provide school systems with educational services and programs. The idea is to pool cost and demand to make services affordable and available for a group of school districts whereas they might have been too difficult to come by for a single location.

The Oregon government transparency website says, “Today, each ESD provides regional services to its component school districts, primarily in areas that the school districts alone would not be able to adequately and equitably provide. Examples would be high-cost technology systems and children with severe disabilities who qualify under the category of high cost but low incidence.” (See www.oregon.gov/transparency/pages/esdtransparency.aspx)

The Estacada School District is currently part of the Clackamas Education Service District. However, Senate Bill 529 has given all districts the option to opt out of education service districts for the 2014-15 school year.

Districts must give notice of their initial intent to opt out by Nov. 1 and a final notice of intent to opt out by March 1.

“My opinion is, this gives us another option,” School Board Member Mark Greene said during the board meeting Wednesday, Oct. 9.

Estacada Director of Special Services Shannon Powell told the board that in Estacada, special education is the biggest consumer of the Clackamas Education Service District fund.

Powell noted that if other large consumers of the fund, such as the Oregon City or Clackamas school districts, opt out, Estacada would be likely to receive a greater portion of the fund. However, if smaller consumers of the fund, such as West Linn or Lake Oswego, opt out, it “would be bad for Estacada.”

Greene said that as of Nov. 1, it will be apparent which districts are considering opting out but not which ones actually will.

“I guess there’s a little bit of a gamble when it comes to March 1,” said School Board Vice Chairwoman Angi Riedel.

“The biggest thing for me is that cost analysis,” Greene said.

The board voted to give a notice of intent.

“This doesn’t obligate us to opt out; this just gives us the option to study the issue,” said Rick Mudrow, school board chairman.

Parent questions board

Angie Nelson, a parent present at the meeting, brought questions from the “Time For Parents” meeting earlier that evening to the board.

“The parents want to know if we’re moving toward that 3-5 year plan... What comes first, the chicken or the egg, the plan or the superintendent?” Nelson asked the board.

“They have to happen simultaneously. The (plan) is high on the board’s list of things we need to accomplish, but we’re not far on it yet,” Mudrow said.

Mudrow said the board was aware that a plan must be formulated by the end of the year.

Nelson asked how the superintendent search was coming along.

Current Superintendent Howard Fetz is retiring at the end of this school year.

“Very slowly so far,” Mudrow answered. “It is a very consumptive process to do it correctly.”

Speaking on behalf of other parents from that group who were also present at the board meeting, Nelson said the parents were concerned about the board devoting energy to the question of opting out of the Clackamas Education Service District while simultaneously searching for a new superintendent and attempting to come up with a 3-5 year plan for the district.

PERS lawsuit

Along with several other districts, the Estacada School District has been named in a lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 822, which modifies cost of living adjustments under the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

Greene said Estacada had been named because one of the plaintiffs in the suit is a former district employee, but the suit was “more about legislation” than the district.

“It’s nothing we did,” Greene said. “I think it’s important to note that.”

The board voted to allow the Oregon School Boards Association to provide legal trust coverage for the suit.

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