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BOCES schools to share legal services for a year

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The Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services approved the creation of an Office of Intermunicipal Legal Services. The agreement will allow legal counsel associated with the district to represent school administration and board of education members in court and provide more technical legal services.

“Right now, our legal team can only handle employer relations such as contract negotiations and grievances, but (our attorneys) haven’t been able to represent a member of our districts before a judge, and this will allow them to do that,” BOCES Superintendent Jack J. Boak Jr. said.

Before the agreement was made, Mr. Boak said, an outside attorney had to be hired if an administrator or board member had to go before a judge for a matter involving the district.

“Our attorneys are here in Watertown, and they better understand the needs of the districts where an outside attorney might need to spend a lot of time researching our district,” Mr. Boak said.

The district’s appointed attorneys, Timothy A. Collins and Dominic S. D’Imperio, will represent five of the 18 county districts on a trial basis. The chosen districts — Copenhagen, General Brown, Thousand Islands, Town of Webb Union Free and Watertown City — were selected because they actively participated in the creation of the agreement.

The district superintendent can authorize future requests for participation in the program.

The attorneys handle disciplinary issues such as lawsuits involving dismissal of a teacher or employee, where before they would have had to hire an outside attorney.

Mr. Boak said after the school year is completed the program will be evaluated to assure the legal team can handle taking on the remaining districts or determine whether additional support staff is needed.

“We’ll be beginning with this pilot program and after we can measure the progress, I assume the others will join in the coming years,” Mr. Boak said. “We want to make sure this will work and see if this will save money in the long run.”

Mr. Boak said BOCES looks at sharing services whenever possible.

Since 1948, local school districts have been able to organize BOCES to provide a wide range of educational and support services to component school districts.

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