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home : news : news Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2/16/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Northeast board authorizes legal action in Easton Valley dispute

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

A dispute between the Northeast and Easton Valley school districts over a whole-grade sharing contract is likely to end up in court after the Northeast Community School Board authorized its attorney to take legal action.

Following a closed session that lasted a little more than 30 minutes, the Northeast board voted unanimously Feb. 13 to authorize attorney Drew Bracken "to pursue all legal remedies in regard to the whole-grade sharing agreement."

The move came just a few hours after Northeast officials met with representatives of Easton Valley schools in an effort to negotiate a resolution to the contract dispute.

Bracken said he and Northeast superintendent Jim Cox, board president Chuck Corr and board member Mark Neblung met earlier in the day with Easton Valley representatives at the Mississippi Bend AEA.

The meeting was mediated by AEA director Glen Pelecky.

Bracken said Cox's stated goal was to maximize opportunities for students, "and the way to maximize those opportunities would be to continue participating in the whole-grade sharing agreement."

Bracken said the whole-grade sharing agreement requires the home district to pay for providing transportation to Northeast, and that obligation falls to Easton Valley as a result of the merger of the East Central and Preston school districts.

"We went so far as to offer transportation to anyone who wants to attend Northeast," Bracken said, but the officials were unable to reach an agreement.

Bracken characterized the meeting as a "good faith dialogue" and said Northeast officials are open to further talks but will have to move quickly.

"There are deadlines all the families need to recognize," he said, adding there is a March 1 application deadline for students seeking open enrollment outside their home district.

"Time is of the essence. We may need to pursue answers in the district court if we can't get any resolution with the people at Easton Valley," Bracken said.

Northeast's whole-grade sharing agreement originally was with the East Central school district, but Easton Valley inherited the agreement when voters approved the Preston/East Central merger.

The current dispute surfaced in December when the newly-formed Easton Valley School Board notified Northeast it was terminating the contract.

Northeast and its attorney argue Easton Valley has no legal authority to terminate the agreement until the new district officially comes into existence July 1. They further argue the terms of the rolling three-year contract mean whole-grade sharing must continue until 2016, even if Easton Valley votes to terminate it after July 1.

Asked if the next step for Northeast is a lawsuit, Bracken said, "When you have a dispute over a contract, and you can't resolve it, sometimes you have to go to a district court judge."

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