‘Put Lynd first’

School board votes to pull out of SWEC agreement

Photo by Karin Elton Lynd parents spokesman Amod Damle reads from a statement Monday evening, which asked the Lynd School Board to vote to withdraw from the SouthWest Education Cooperative agreement. The agreement became especially burdensome to the district after member district Russell-Tyler-Ruthton left the partnership in 2017.

LYND — The Lynd School Board voted Monday evening to pull out of the SouthWest Education Cooperative agreement.

Monday’s school board meeting was the last meeting in which the school board could vote to terminate the agreement with SWEC prior to automatic renewal for another five years. At its regularly-scheduled meeting, the board voted to give a two-year notice to leave SWEC.

SWEC was originally created in July 2015 under a five-year contract with Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Lynd, and Hendricks schools as member districts in the partnership. It was created for the purpose of sharing costs of resources across member districts — including a superintendent, online coordinators, teachers, and administrative costs.

Last year, the RTR school district voted to leave the SWEC contract and paid a settlement fee. This left the remaining school districts, Lynd and Hendricks, holding the bag for the rest of costs. Lynd’s investment in the partnership will go from 20 percent of all SWEC expenses to 50 percent of all expenses. A major portion of the expense is the superintendent’s salary, which is $121,391 a year, with a raise to $130,000 for fiscal year 2018/2019.

Parents, teachers, staff stuffed the library to express concern about the SWEC agreement and support for the ongoing teachers’ salary negotiations, which Board Chairperson Amy Korman said were ongoing and “getting closer” to agreement. As of Monday, the teachers have been working 346 days under an expired contract.

Before the vote, during the public input period, Amod Damle, a spokesman for the Lynd parents, implored the board to remove the district from the agreement.

“Madame Chairperson and members of the board,” he began. “As you are aware many Lynd residents and parents have great concern about Lynd’s partnership with SWEC, the way it was created, several of its provisions, its compensation structure, salaries of its primary employee, and the way it stands today. The concerns have been voiced to you by many members of the community over the last few weeks. We are grateful to you, members of the board, for making yourselves available to hear our perspectives and public opinion. While you may not have always agreed during those conversations, we appreciate the opportunity for public discourse and thank you for your professionalism.

“It is reasonable to consider having a potential joint partnership with other schools given our size, and our geography. But such a partnership is only useful when it is built on certain principles — principles of equitable sharing of resources and finances. Principles such as a tremendous amount of transparency, of checks and balances and giving the member schools the ability to edit and tweak the agreement in response to potential changes in the landscape. This partnership would allow most, no, not allow, it would require that most of the respective school board members, if not all, participate and vote on its functions and decisions.

“Unfortunately, anyone would be hard pressed to stand up today and say that SWEC in its current form embodies any of those principles.

“Today’s SWEC, with its incredible amount of rigidity, is not what we need, it’s not what serves the interest of our students, our staff and definitely doesn’t benefit the community as a whole.

“So, as we come up on the agenda to vote on SWEC for the final time before it automatically renews for five more years, we strongly urge all of you to consider taking a moment to pause, assess our current partnerships and explore if there are other opportunities that may be a better fit for Lynd Public School. Please vote to withdraw from SWEC.

“Thank you again for your time and for your work on the board and we hope you will put Lynd first.”

Damle’s statement received a lengthy and hearty applause from the district community.

Without any preamble, Korman called for a vote and the motion was passed that the district would give two years’ notice to withdraw from the SWEC agreement.