School board votes to dissolve Montgomery County-Carlinville Region
By Chris Best
A resolution to dissolve the Montgomery County-Carlinville Region of the Mid-State Special Education Cooperative was approved at Monday night’s Carlinville school board meeting. This decision is meant to be the first step in restructuring and decentralizing the cooperative.
The Mid-State Cooperative is currently divided into three regions which formerly consisted of 16 total districts: Carlinville, Hillsboro, Litchfield and Panhandle districts made up the Montgomery County-Carlinville Region; Bond County, Brownstown, Mulberry Grove, Ramsey, St. Elmo and Vandalia districts made up the Bond/Fayette Region; and Edinburg, Morrisonville, Nokomis, Pana, South Fork and Taylorville districts made up the Christian Region. On Jan. 7, Nokomis, Pana and Taylorville formerly exited the cooperative, leaving a higher financial burden on its remaining members and highlighting the need for the remaining 13 districts to restructure.
The current three-region structure causes a number of issues that could be solved by restructuring, according to Superintendent Becky Schuchman. With three separate regions, four audits must be conducted each year–one for each region and another for the cooperative as a whole. Similarly, there are multiple payrolls, administrative reports and other duties which are repeated due to the requirements of multiple regions.
Having only one region would simplify these processes and save unnecessary expenses for the cooperative and its member districts. The three-region structure can also present unnecessary obstacles for shared personnel, as an employee of one region cannot go to a district in a different region, even if those districts are adjacent. By dissolving the three regions, these employees wouldn’t be limited by such restrictions.
Though Carlinville has approved the resolution to dissolve the region, in order to complete the process of dissolving the joint agreement, the other member districts will then have to take the resolution to their respective boards of education. There they can either adopt or reject the measure.
A final action to dissolve the old agreement and adopt a new one will be taken in February. If that passes, the process of decentralizing the region will begin, with a goal of decentralization by the 2020 fiscal year.
One of the biggest benefit to decentralizing, according to Schuchman, is the control it affords the district. Instead of relying on the cooperative to hire employees, or potentially require terminations, this process would be controlled in-house.
“Right now, because we share staff within our region and eventually within the whole group, if another school district has a RIF [reduction in force] then it impacts our teachers, too,” Schuchman said. “Because they go through that whole process of honorable dismissal, we may have teachers that are lowest seniority but also quality staff that we end up losing and then there’s this big shuffle. By having our own staff, we don’t have to worry about that.”
Not only would the district have more control over their staff, they would also have more control over costs such as employee health insurance, which is currently controlled by the cooperative.
According to Schuchman, the only significant drawback for the Carlinville School District associated would be an increase in payroll processing, though it would still be manageable.
If all goes to plan, Carlinville could finish the decentralization process as early as March of this year and begin the hiring phase soon after.