Official Newspaper of Eddy County since 1883

Lake Region Special Ed not considering new members

East Central board votes for mediation; NR-S continues to "explore all options"

On Wednesday, Dec. 8, board members of the Lake Region Special Education Unit (LRSE), voted not to consider adding additional school districts to their unit.

The unexpected vote comes after weeks of discussions by New Rockford-Sheyenne school board members about whether or not to withdraw from the East Central Center for Exceptional Children Special Education Unit (East Central), and apply for membership to the LRSE.

The unofficial minutes of the meeting obtained by the Transcript reflect that members passed a resolution: “The LRSE Board will not consider adding additional members at this time due to current concerns with staffing and services across our unit. Along with the understanding that our unit leadership team is developing and learning the goals and direction of our unit.”

What impact this will have on NR-S’s proposed withdrawal from East Central is unknown. The majority of the costs from the proposal originally under consideration come from contracting special education teachers and para-educators under NR-S, which is still an option should NR-S move toward dissolution with East Central.

Regardless, the LRSE’s decision complicates a time-sensitive issue. East Central’s board policy has a January 1 deadline for school districts wishing to withdraw before the coming school year, leaving NR-S just weeks to make a decision about how to move forward.

The NR-S school board was originally scheduled to vote on withdrawal at their regular meeting in November, but delayed the vote after dozens of concerned citizens and parents showed up and voiced their concerns.  Meanwhile, at East Central’s regular board meeting on Wednesday, members carried a motion to initiate mediation with NR-S. Dean Rummel, an experienced mediator, has expressed a willingness to provide mediation services for NR-S and East Central.

Pingree-Buchanan Superintendent and East Central board member Robert Toso added that some NR-S board members have also expressed an interest in mediation, signaling that NR-S and East Central may be ready to work through their differences. The NR-S school board must now vote in favor of a similar motion before any mediation can take place.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Dec. 13, NR-S board leadership acknowledged the LRSE’s decision and stated that “they will continue to explore all special education options going forward.”

The matter wasn’t covered at all during the NR-S school board’s regular meeting Monday evening.

When asked for further clarification on what options the board is considering, or if a special meeting will be held before the January 1 deadline, school board president Mary Kay Price did not respond.

Editor's Note: School board president Mary Kay Price did respond shortly after press time for the print edition. She said, "The NR-S board will take time to do due diligence when looking at all its options. These are precarious financial times; over 11% of our general fund budget is spent on special education. We know cost for everything are escalating and we need to take the big picture into consideration as we represent our taxpayer. We want to be sure that when a decision is made, the student’s best interests are in the forefront."