JESSE Cooperative Presents Updated Agreement to Culver School Board

CulverHSThe JESSE Cooperative is updating and clarifying parts of its agreement with its member school corporations. The cooperative provides nine school corporations with various special education resources.

JESSE Director Linda Holland previewed the changes for members of the Culver School Board Monday. These include the elimination of the cooperative’s autism coordinator position. Holland says that’s because each school now has more resources available, “The board felt now after eight to ten years of autism being pretty forefront in special education – it’s no longer the new kid on the block, that that was something, in order to cut funding, that we could put back with the local responsibilities because your special education teachers should have or are having a lot more training in that area of autism.”

Also included in the changes is a provision for the mediation of disputes. According to the updated agreement, the JESSE Board president would act as mediator of disagreements between corporations within JESSE’s service districts. If the president comes from a service district involved in the dispute, the vice president will mediate.

However, Culver Schools superintendent Vicki McGuire says accepting the updated agreement might cost the corporation more money, since services are funded by each corporation according to its size, not according to use. This is a change from some of the methods Culver’s attempted to use recently. For example, Culver, Triton, and Argos tried forming a separate agreement for preschool, outside of JESSE, in which each corporation had an equal number of students enrolled and each paid an equal amount. Holland says the JESSE Cooperative’s funding formula tries to keep costs more even from year to year by having each corporation pay according to its size, rather than the specific services it’s currently using, “I’ve always looked at it as car insurance. I have to pay car insurance whether I use it or not, but I wouldn’t want to be caught without it. And so our payments for special ed have sort of been you sustain those programs because by law, when a child moves into your school corporation, you have to be able to provide that program the day they move in. You have to have an avenue to do that.”

McGuire estimates the new service agreement would raise the corporation’s costs by nearly $5,000.

The JESSE Board’s expected to approve the new agreement next week, and the Culver School Board will decide whether to approve it in December. The updated agreement’s scheduled to take effect December 31.