South Range school board settles insurance dispute
By KEVIN HOWELL
Special to The Vindicator
NORTH LIMA — The South Range school board this week approved a settlement agreement with its former insurance consortium.
The board approved a settlement agreement with the Mahoning County School Employees Insurance Consortium (MCSEIC) in which the district will pay a total of $60,000, to be paid in three installments before Oct. 1, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
The district exited the consortium in October 2017 after the consortium changed its rules with a year remaining on the board’s contracts with the certified and classified employee associations
Treasurer Jim Phillips said the board was unable to adopt the changes with the MCSEIC without voiding the association contracts, so it obtained a new insurance policy for health and dental services.
In doing so, the board allegedly violated the rules for leaving the consortium, he noted.
Phillips said the board is likely to spend more on legal fees to fight the lawsuit rather than settle, so legal counsel has recommended the settlement. He said the board initially saved more than $16,000 per month at the time of the change and has saved money over the past two years, although he admitted that will not necessarily be true moving forward.
Also at the meeting, the board approved a memorandum of understanding with the Beaver Township Board of Trustees / Beaver Township Police Department for a school resource officer for the 2019-20 school year at a cost of $36,350 toward the officer’s salary.
The officer will work at the K-12 campus providing school resource officer program services as well as police protection for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, but will be permitted to leave during school hours for emergencies.
Schools Superintendent Dennis Dunham said the district has had a school resource officer for the past 22 or 23 years and have previously approved contracts with the township on behalf of the police department. This year, however, the department, on the recommendation of legal counsel, requested the memorandum of understanding that outlines the goals, objectives and duties of the school resource officer program.
The memorandum of understanding states the program goals as follows:
∫ To promote a visible positive image of law enforcement interaction with students, teachers, staff and the school community.
∫ To provide a safe and secure educational environment in partnership with the school system and law enforcement.
∫ To serve as role model and develop a positive image with the student body.
∫ Develop a mutual partnership to work with faculty and staff to create a well-rounded atmosphere within the school building(s) and on school grounds.
∫ The school resource officer is to provide law enforcement services and assist with drug and alcohol abuse education in addition to providing a safe and secure school environment. The officer will discuss plans and strategies to address specific needs or issues that arise with the program.
The officer will be able to make arrests at his/her discretion, but will not act a a school disciplinarian, referring violations of the student handbook to the appropriate school administrator.
The officer is not a school employee and will continue law enforcement services for the township department during the summer months.
Howell is a reporter for the Salem News, a sister publication of The Vindicator.