Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Cutten to Pay ECS $260K Over Interdistrict Fracas

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 2:35 PM

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The Cutten School District has agreed to pay Eureka City Schools $260,000 to avoid a potential lawsuit over failing to report all interdistrict transfers for several years, according to a settlement announced by ECS today.

An estimated 25 percent of Cutten students — and 74 percent of that district’s interdistrict transfers — come from ECS, which is supposed to be notified.

“I am pleased they recognized the situation as serious and worked with us to allow the continuous placement of students already attending a Cutten school,” ECS Superintendent Fred Van Vleck says in the release.

The issue erupted to the surface back in February when Van Vleck proposed limiting the number of interdistrict transfers a district could accept — with several exceptions — when the longstanding agreement between Humboldt County’s 30-odd districts came up for renewal.
One of the major concerns was the amount of Average Daily Attendance dollars that were flowing out to other districts along with the ECS students.

From transfers alone — not counting the students who choose to attend private or charter schools — the ECS shortfall was coming in at an estimated $6.4 million a year, or $8,000 per student.

Of that, the 180 Cutten School and Ridgewood School transfers accounted for some $1.4 million based on enrollment figures presented during a January meeting of Cutten trustees.

The ECS board did end up agreeing to keep the status quo on transfers through the 2017-2018 school year, except for students attending Cutten schools, although that has since been extended to them as well.

The settlement, which is effective today, was mediated by former Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools Garry Eagles. Other than the one-time payment, Cutten also agrees not to build new classroom to increase enrollment or to advertise for new students and to institute staff training on interdistrict transfers.

Press release from Eureka City Schools:
Eureka City Schools (ECS) and Cutten School District (CSD) finalized a settlement agreement today, July 5, 2017, between the two school districts. In violation of Education Code, CSD enrolled nearly twenty-five percent of their population with students who reside within the attendance boundaries of ECS. As stated and mutually agreed to in the settlement: “…during many previous school years, Cutten has not fully complied with the processing requirements associated with interdistrict attendance by the children of Eureka families enrolled in Cutten Schools. This practice may have given rise to a number of potential claims and causes of action based in contract law, tort law and equity including Mandamus against Cutten and in favor of Eureka.”
In December of 2016, this issue came to the attention of ECS. ECS approached CSD with a desire to settle the damage caused to ECS by the violation of the Education Code. Then County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Garry Eagles, mediated the settlement. From the beginning of the mediation process, ECS was clear they wanted to avoid legal action and were not interested in seeking financial compensation from CSD. ECS preferred resolving this issue with the implementation of enrollment management practices. Conversely, CSD offered to settle the case for a one-time payment of $260,000. After several months of mediation considering alternatives to fiscal compensation, ECS ultimately agreed to accept CSD’s settlement offer. Dr. Fred Van Vleck, ECS Superintendent of schools said, “Due to their serious breach of the Countywide Interdistrict Agreement signed by Cutten and Eureka in 2012, it is likely we would have been awarded greater compensation if this matter had gone to court. We were able to reach a fair settlement for both Cutten and Eureka.” Van Vleck further said, “I am pleased they recognized the situation as serious and worked with us to allow the continuous placement of students already attending a Cutten school.”
Other terms of the two-year agreement include compliance training for CSD personnel on inter-district agreements, no building of classrooms to increase enrollment and no advertising for enrollment of new students. ECS also agrees to extend the County-wide Interdistrict agreement with CSD. This allows ECS resident students to attend CSD under the terms of the current countywide agreement.

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Kimberly Wear

Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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