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Pleasant Ridge out of the Keystone loop for now

by Dennis Sharkey

The possibility of Pleasant Ridge USD 449 joining the Keystone Cooperative is dim at this point.

Last week Keystone Director Dr. Tim Marshall told board members that USD 449 Superintendent Charles Coblentz has dropped the pursuit of joining Keystone for the time being.

Coblentz approached Marshall earlier this year about joining the cooperative and leaving the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative(LCSEC) after his board was unhappy with new assessments charged to USD 449. The LCSEC had six districts. Keystone is made up of all six Jefferson County school districts and Effingham-ACCHS USD 377.

Marshall said that USD 449 would have a difficult time getting the other districts in the cooperative to agree to letting them leave. Coblentz told Marshall that the agreement has no start or stopping date.

Furthermore the LCSEC made concessions with the assessments since last year which takes away a lot of Coblentz’s leverage.

“His original hunch that it would be difficult for a district to opt out is very true,” Marshall told Keystone board members last week.

Marshall also added that history is not on the side of USD 449 either.

“The history in the state is that these changes don’t happen very often,” Marshall said. “I guess some of these agreements across the state are like the mafia. You never get out.”

Keystone, which has been at its current configuration for several years, does have a more defined interlocal agreement and there is a clear path to entering or leaving the cooperative.

The agreement is also reviewed every five years and reauthorized. Any district that wants to leave the cooperative must give a 14-month notice.

If USD 449 were to join Keystone it would have a negative effect financially for most of the districts. The current agreement still has two to three years remaining and would have to be changed.

“That isn’t acceptable and (Coblentz) knows that,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the agreement is reviewed every five years so that abrupt changes are not made and that any further research at this time into the matter would be a waste of time.

“I don’t think it ought to be done unless the probability is much higher that they are coming in,” Marshall said.

Marshall did sum up the discussion about USD 449 by saying that they could make a good addition sometime in the future.

As for the Keystone interlocal agreement, Marshall does think discussions about the next agreement should start soon.

Currently the formula is based on a 50-50 ratio of the size of a district’s enrollment versus the number of students who are served by Keystone from a district.

Marshall said the formula could be changed to add more stability from year to year for districts when planning their budget. For instance, McLouth USD 342 saw a considerable spike in enrollment last year and saw assessments increase by $34,000 in one year while overall assessments were down.

“Every year there are winners and losers with that formula,” he said. “That is tough for a school district to plan financially in the middle of another budget cut.”

Marshall would like to see a change to a 60-40 split so that more is based on need. Some years four or five districts may lose a couple of kids while one district sees a spike in 20 students.

“It’s shared risk and responsibility,” Marshall said. “Some of it is still on the severity of your kids’ needs.”

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Posted by on Jan 2 2012. Filed under County News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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