By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
The Northeast Community School District has filed suit against the Easton Valley Community School District because the newly created district won’t continue a whole-grade sharing agreement between East Cental and Northeast schools.
The suit was filed Wednesday in Clinton County District Court by Northeast’s attorney Andrew Bracken in order to make Easton Valley honor the contract.
The agreement was entered into on Aug. 24 before the Preston and East Central school districts were merged through a public vote.
Easton Valley issued a letter to Northeast in December stating that the district wished to void the contract due to the merging of the two districts and the nonexistence of the district that originally entered the contract.
Easton Valley Superintendent Bob Lagerblade earlier this week issued a statement to parents of students at the new merged district of East Central and Preston in an attempt to address enrollment issues and concerns.
“For numerous legal reasons, we do not believe the agreement between East Central and Northeast is binding upon the new Easton Valley Community School District,” Lagerblade said. “In other words, we do not believe that Northeast and East Central had the legal authority to enter into an agreement that was binding upon the future board of the new Easton Valley Community School District. For these reasons we will not voluntarily agree to send those students to Northeast.”
Students that belong to either the Preston Community School District or the East Central Community School District will be part of Easton Valley on July 1. Those who are open enrolled in or out of the East Central or Preston for the current school year will automatically apply for 2013-2014.
In order to change the open enrollment status, documents must be filed with Easton Valley prior to March 1.
The Easton Valley board believes that it is in the best educational interests of the district’s students that they be educated within the Easton Valley Community School District, according to the memo. In addition, the financial implication of sending more than 100 students to Northeast means a financial benefit to Northeast Community School District of almost $800,000 per year, according to the memo.
“We believe this is money that should stay in the Easton Valley Community School District and we had never agreed to such an ill-advised transfer when we have the facilities and staff available to take care of all of these students,” Lagerblade said. “Educational efficiency does not support the whole grade sharing agreement.”
Northeast and Easton Valley school boards met to discuss the issue last week, but could not come to an agreement. Shortly after, Northeast authorized their attorney to take legal action if needed, but still expressed interest in taking care of the issue without going to court.
Northeast Superintendent Jim Cox said continuing the agreement would be beneficial for all districts involved. Northeast offers a stable school district, new facility additions, strong leadership and quality of instruction, according to Cox. The district also puts an emphasis on technology with web design classes and equipping students grades 9 through 12 with laptops in the upcoming school year.
Officials at Easton Valley are certain that combining East Central and Preston will provide plentiful benefits, without throwing Northeast into the mix.
“We believe that combining East Central and Preston community school districts into the new Easton Valley Community School District will be a great benefit to all parties concerned,” Lagerblade said. “We have successfully achieved high academic performance in the past and we will strive to not only continue down that path but to improve the academic performance and educational opportunities for all students attending the Easton Valley.”
Easton Valley families were to be advised of any litigation results concerning Northeast, according to the Lagerblade’s memo.
Open enrollment papers are available at the Central Office in Preston. For more information, contact Easton Valley Board Secretary Linda Skoff at 689-3431 or visit the school website, Prestonschools.com.