If the problems weren't so heartbreaking in special education this excerpt from the special board meeting would be totally hilarious, because it just shows how much our current board is disconnected from reality. Where have they been for the last 4 years, maybe if they came to a few SPED meetings or perhaps read the OSPI findings or DOE findings the cause of the numerous and growing SPED lawsuits would be clear.
Now on to the show.....
Director Peaslee turned the meeting over to Acting General Counsel John Cerqui. Mr. Cerqui provided an overview of the oversight work session and introduced the General Counsel’s office staff.
Key Clients and Departments slide: Directors asked if it is a normal practice to hire outside lawyers to handle District cases. Mr. Cerqui noted how it has been a practice in the last 5 years for outside lawyers to handle these cases. Prior to that, Legal handled arbitration and those are currently being outsourced,noting lawsuits are always handled by outside lawyers with a few limited exceptions. Directors asked if the District would save money if District lawyers handled these cases. Mr. Cerqui noted it would depend on hiring staff to handle this work and conduct the hearings, noting Legal can do a cost estimate around this work if the Superintendent is interested in this. Directors suggested looking into benchmarking against other school districts to see how they manage their lawsuits. Directors asked whether or not there was tension between the legal interest of Board members and the legal interest of the Superintendent or District – and whether we should look into having a separate counsel for the Board.Mr. Cerqui provided historical background on this topic and noted his job is to give legal advice to the institution, which could involve the Board, and there could be a situation where the advice is not wanted by the Board. Directors asked if there is a way for the District to improve Special Education where we do not end up with as many lawsuits. Mr. Cerqui noted how employment litigations and Special Education litigations are high and he will need to look into this and will get back to the Board with more information.
Mr. Cerqui also noted that benchmarking on cost can be difficult and spoke about the number of lawyersat other local school districts. Directors asked what have we been sued for and what are the lessons learned from those lawsuits so we can improve Special Education in order to avoid future lawsuits. Mr. Cerqui noted staff will need to look into a best practice and the needs to put a protocol and training in place so other incidents do not happen. He spoke about the importance of identifying and addressing the issue and having the resources to carry it through.
Substantive Legal Advice Areas: Directors asked Mr. Cerqui on which legal advice areas he spends a large portion of his time. Mr. Cerqui noted construction can be an area that requires more legal advice and all contracts over $250,000 are handled by himself and Ronald Boy; drafting MOUs, noting it may take a long time to review them and the need to look into standardizing the contracts between another agency or a community partner; labor employment including Human Resources (HR) letters and HR