The Blue Earth Area School Board wants to change the way it is involved in the educational system at the Elmore Academy operated by Youth Services International (YSI).
Monday night, after hearing a proposal from BEA Schools Superintendent Evan Gough, the board voted to not renew a contract that essentially has hired a South Dakota entity to serve as the education administrator at the academy.
That contract is with the East Dakota Educational Cooperative (EDEC) located in Sioux Falls.
"Since 1998 the state has ruled that a school district is ultimately responsible for the education of all kids residing in the district," Gough says. "This is the case for any youth facility in the district as well."
BEA has hired EDEC to handle all administrative duties at Elmore, while YSI has had them hiring teachers and staff.
Gough says the BEA District needs to have more of an administrative oversight of the educational programming at Elmore Academy than has been the case in the past.
"I have been concerned over this contract situation," Gough told the board. "I am suggesting a significant change."
What the BEA superintendent suggests is ending the relationship with EDEC and entering into a new contract with YSI directly where YSI would hire the teachers and support staff at Elmore Academy, but Blue Earth Area will hire a part time administrator to oversee the educational programming at the facility.
Gough adds this change would be "cost neutral" to the district.
"The salary of the administrator would be billed to YSI," he says. "The BEA District would be paid back for this expense."
In fact, all of BEA's revenues and expenses concerning YSI and Elmore Academy are considered 'pass through' and do not affect the school's regular budget.
The BEA superintendent says the staff has already begun drafting an agreement with YSI for these changes and the new agreement will be presented to the board at a later time.
"We have always had a good working relationship with YSI and we expect that to continue," Gough says.
There will be an additional step to the new contract, once it is confirmed.
"We will also need to go through the Minnesota Department of Education approval process since we will be making a change to the educational programming at Elmore Academy," Gough says.
Austin Public Schools have a residential treatment facility in their district and the BEA administration has visited that facility, Gough says.
"We are looking at drawing up an agreement that is similar to the Austin Public Schools agreement," Gough says.
The BEA superintendent adds he has no issues with how EDEC has conducted their administrative work at Elmore Academy in the past, but feels the BEA District just needs to be more hands on with the education programming there.
"It has made me nervous," he adds. "If we are ultimately responsible for administering education there, we should be involved, and not just let someone else handle it."
Gough also says that recent stories in the Register concerning investigations at Elmore Academy by state agencies were not part of this decision to be more involved in the education at the facility.
"It really had nothing to do with this those incidences were not related to the education programs," he says. "I have had this concern for some time and felt we needed to be more involved. The two items are not related."