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BEA votes yes for SPEC move

By Staff | May 20, 2018

The former Winnebago School building has housed the Southern Plains Educational Cooperative for a number of years. Now SPEC will move to Fairmont in the fall of 2019.

In the narrowest of votes, the Blue Earth Area School Board approved plans to enter into a facilities joint powers agreement with the Southern Plains Educational Cooperative.

As previously discussed at a May 4 work session, the former Lincoln School building in Fairmont will be the new location for BEA’s alternative education programs, replacing the current location in Winnebago by fall 2019. The motion was passed by virtue of a 4-3 vote.

Jeremy Coxworth, Sara Hauskins and Amber Patten all opposed the motion. During group discussion, Coxworth indicated other high ranking school officials have also expressed reservations with the SPEC project. He cited concerns over the economic stability of member district Truman as a key issue in the cooperative’s long-term success.

“Since the last work session that we had, I’ve found out that Truman has been operating at a deficit for the last 15 or 20 years,” Coxworth explained. “From a business aspect, that is the equivalent to me as a business owner, taking on a business partner that could file for bankruptcy. If they have to consolidate with an-other school, they won’t be in control of their money anymore.”

In response to Coxworth, SPEC director Sarah Mittelstadt revealed any payments which are not paid off in five years following a school consolidation will be placed on the tax levy of the district’s residents.

During the lengthy discussion, board member Frankie Bly expressed confidence in proceeding with the SPEC project.

“We’ve had experts look at this, we’ve had estimates done, we’ve had the INS group that has worked on this project,” Bly shared. “I have trust in them and I think we need to move forward. We have students we need to serve, and we are not serving them to the best of our ability right now.”

Additionally, the School Board passed a SPEC facilities resolution with a 4-3 vote. Coxworth, Hauskins and Patten also opposed that motion.

Other items from the meeting included:

The board approved a cellular technology lease agreement with Alltel communications.

A calendar change to designate June 6 as a staff work day was authorized.

Community Education staff wages and salaries for 2018-2019 were also approved by the School Board.

The board also approved the resignation of elementary teacher Bailey Gummer and K-7 special education associate Tonya Hurley.