The Medford School District will remain a member of the Southern Oregon Education Service District for another year, just three and a half months after signaling an intent to leave for the second year in a row.
Increased flexibility in how the SOESD offers the bulk of its services spurred the district to change course after it took a formal step in October to leave the service district. At its meeting Monday night, the School Board approved the ESD's local service plan and voted to remain in the service district through the 2018-2019 school year.
Board members congratulated leaders in the ESD and Medford School District on their ability to find common ground, and SOESD Superintendent Scott Beveridge was similarly enthusiastic.
"I’m pleased that Southern Oregon ESD was able to facilitate with our local school districts the development of a service plan that can meet districts’ individual, as well as collective, needs for high quality, cost-effective services next year," he said.
Medford first formally signaled an intent to leave the ESD in 2016, as did Central Point School District. Both school districts said they could save money by managing their own services in place of those offered through the ESD. Those services break down into four categories: administrative and support; programs for students with special needs; school improvement services; and technology support.
While Medford wanted to keep using ESD services in some areas, such as special education, it wanted to bring other services, such as school improvement, in-house. It tried to get the SOESD to offer those services in a menu style, which would allow it to opt in or out of individual programs. Under the local service plan that the ESD presented last winter, however, that option was not available. Because Medford and Central Point felt they could not afford to provide the services needed in time for the 2017-2018 school year if they left the ESD, both voted to stay.
From March through October, district leadership worked simultaneously to both influence the ESD service model and to be self-sufficient in those services if the structure didn't change. When a district pulls out of an education service district, it receives 90 percent of the state funding allocated in cash instead of through services.
Since the SOESD wasn't looking likely to budge, Central Point and Medford school boards both signaled their intentions to leave a second time, which allowed them to keep a "leave" option open while working to change the structure.
In a memo recommending a "stay" vote for the next school year at Monday's meeting, Medford Superintendent Brian Shumate called the meetings that happened after the October votes "very productive."
"The SOESD brought forth a plan to restructure its ‘Local Services Plan’ by reducing its ‘Core Services’ and providing more services on a menu, particularly in the areas of School Improvement and Instructional Technology," the memo read. "Ultimately, the superintendents and business managers agreed that this option could work for the member districts in the SOESD."
Medford's decision makes it the fourth district in the SOESD to approve the local service plan, which lays out the parameters for district membership and provision of services. The service district needs two-thirds of its 13 member districts representing more than 50 percent of total students to approve the local service plan.
Beveridge said that Grants Pass School District, which left the SOESD in 2013 and was the only school district that was allowed to buy back some services with an added surcharge, is expected to return to a full membership under the new local service plan. Central Point, too, is expected to remain.
"My understanding is there’s support from the superintendent to recommend that to her board," he said.
The school boards have a deadline of March 1 to approve the local service plan.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.