La Grande’s debt to Imbler

By Walter Sullivan, Community Comment February 23, 2010 02:39 pm

I read with great interest The Observer’s front page article on Feb. 11,

“La Grande District Option Levy...,” to see if there would be a line item for payment to Imbler Charter School District (ICSD) of $136,749.25, the payment for the education of 12 La Grande students with individual education plans, or IEPs, for the 2008-2009 school year.

To bring you to date, ICSD submitted a contract to the La Grande School Board in 2008 for the education of students, who through no fault of their own had handicaps and needed special educational services described in their IEPs.

LGSB or the superintendent refused to sign the ICSD contract. Many letters and e-mails have gone back and forth between the superintendents, with no resolution of the billing or contract signing. It has been ICSB policy to educate children that show up on the steps of the school. As such, they continued to educate the 12 children and continued to this date, in which we are already half way through the 2009-2010 school year, with still no contract with LGSB. To date, the bill is $200,000-plus.

In September 2009, ICSB filed a grievance with the Oregon State Board of Education for the school year, 2008-2009. Phyllis Guile, Office of Education Improvement and Innovation director with OSBE, was assigned to settle the grievance. Guile requested LGSB to submit their rebuttal to the grievance to her office by Sept. 27, 2009, so that OSBE could then make a decision by Oct. 9, 2009.

To date LGSB has stonewalled both ICSB and OSBE. Their response was talk, e-mail or writing our attorney. It should be noted that LGSB is now on its third attorney. (Payment for attorney fees would have gone a long way toward paying for the education of 12 of their students with IEPs attending Imbler Charter School.) It is now 2010 and we are half way through the 2009-10 school year and again no contract is signed nor payment received, yet ICSB continues to educate these students.

On Jan. 28, 2010, Guile drafted a letter to LGSB again requesting information for participation in mediation to resolve the grievances for school year 2008-09, the dollar value being $136,412.25.

At the Feb. 9 ICSB meeting, there was a lengthy discussion on what alternatives/opportunities were available to acquire payment for services rendered for school years 2008-09 and 2009-10.

In my opinion, this has gone on for far too long. As a taxpayer of the ICSD, if payment is not rendered and if a contract is not signed for past and current school years, these children should be returned to the La Grande School District for their education.

It would be a shame to penalize these children, who would lose education at a quality school should this action be taken.

In closing, I would urge all parents to attend and become involved with action of their school boards.

Walter Sullivan is a Summerville resident.