The Leavenworth Board of Education has taken a step toward the dissolution of the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative.

The Leavenworth Board of Education has taken a step toward the dissolution of the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative.

When they met Wednesday, board members unanimously approved a resolution that allows Donna Whiteman, an attorney with the Kansas Association of School Boards, to represent all six of the districts that make up the cooperative as they work to dissolve the organization.

"Each district has to sign a waiver that agrees to joint representation," said Robert Hingula, an attorney for the Leavenworth school board.

He said the joint representation will streamline the process.

The cooperative provides special education services to all of the pubic school districts based in Leavenworth County. Each member district provides financial support to the cooperative. The Leavenworth school system serves as the host district for the cooperative.

Officials in other member districts are said to also support plans to dissolve the cooperative.

"This is the first step," Leavenworth Interim Superintendent Bret Church said.

He said school board members later will be asked to approve another resolution, which will express the board's support for the dissolution of the cooperative.

Ultimately, the dissolution of the cooperative will have to be approved by the Kansas State Board of Education.

Hingula said officials in other member districts are planning to complete the process by the end of the school year.

With joint representation, attorney-client privilege will be collaborative between Whiteman and all of the six school boards. Hingula said information provided to Whiteman by one district must be shared with all districts.The resolution approved Wednesday waived any conflict of interest that may arise from Whiteman's representation of multiple clients.

If a conflict arises between the districts, Whiteman will step down and not represent any of the districts, Hingula said.

He said at least 2/3 of the member districts have to agree in order for the dissolution to be considered. But he said the Kansas State Department of Education really likes to see all districts in agreement.

"We want to be on the same page as much as possible," Church said.

If the Kansas State Board of Education doesn't OK the dissolution, the member districts will have to wait three years before the matter can be considered again, Church said.

Board Vice President Marti Crow said the districts need to have a plan for how they will provide special education services before going to the state board.

Church said the Leavenworth district is close to having a final draft of its plan. The other districts will have to develop their own plans.

Hingula said he believes the other districts understand their own obligations. He said special education funding in the individual districts still will have to equal the cooperative's budget.

If funding is a lot less, it could be an indicator that needs are not being met, he said.

Board member Loyal Torkelson asked if the district still could work with another district to provide special education services once the cooperative is dissolved.

Church said the Leavenworth district still could partner with another district for certain services.

"Those would just be separate agreements we would have," he said.

Lansing school board members approved a similar conflict of interest waiver when they met Monday evening. They also approved a resolution to terminate the cooperative agreement.

Lansing board member Claudia Logue raised the question of how the district would handle a student with specific needs they were unable to meet within the district.

Lansing Superintendent Randy Bagby replied that first the district would try to meet the student’s needs “in-house,” with existing programs. But if that wasn’t sufficient, they would “seek an alternative placement,” the cost of which was approximately $200,000 a year.

“That’s what happens when we can’t do it – and we need to be good at saying that we can’t do it, sometimes,” he said.

Bagby also noted that the involved districts would be working together to “find a place for all (special education staff),” but that if any reductions in force were required, they would also work together to resolve those issues.