HFM OK’s homeschool coordination agreement

JOHNSTOWN — The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES Board of Education has approved an agreement for an independent contractor who will coordinate homeschool instruction support for participating school districts in the region.

HFM BOCES Interim Superintendent Anita Murphy during the July 10 board meeting introduced the resolution authorizing the execution of an independent contractor agreement with Deborah Grimshaw from July 1 of this year through June 30, 2020 at a rate of $50 per hour to oversee the coordination of homeschool instruction for component school districts participating in the HFM BOCES homeschool COSER or cooperative services program.

Murphy explained that superintendents of the public school districts that homeschool students would otherwise attend are responsible for ensuring that these students and their parents are compliant with state regulations by reviewing proposed curriculum, quarterly reports and other materials submitted by parents.

“The work to do homeschool coordination, and do it correctly, is not easy work. And it’s a lot of work for superintendents,” Murphy said.

“Some of these kids’ parents do a great job, everything is right,” she said. “You might have folks who are not compliant with paperwork and it is our responsibility remember, to ensure a free public education to every student and follow state regulations and so this one is important.”

Murphy noted that in the HFM region there are approximately 800 homeschool students requiring these instructional support services from component school districts, creating a potential need for support that HFM BOCES plans to help fill through a COSER coordination program employing an individual to perform the homeschool compliance oversight for final review by district superintendents.

“It’s literally checking things, making sure the curriculum is right, sending it back to the superintendent for a signature,” Murphy said. “We make sure if we say this is what this is, kid by kid, all the paperwork, all the things are turned in. Ultimately if you have a non-compliant parent — that doesn’t happen very often — then it’s the district’s responsibility, but the BOCES can help.”

Murphy went on to note that public schools are not directly involved in organizing programs or activities for homeschool students, only verifying compliance.

“We have to make sure that the child is following a curriculum that’s articulated, that they’re actually doing the work, those kind of things, that’s what a district does,” Murphy said.

The decision to utilize an independent contractor to provide the service for the first year of the state approved homeschool COSER program was made due to the uncertainty of how many districts will participate, leading to compliance reviews for an as yet unknown number of homeschool students.

“We didn’t hire somebody to do it, because we don’t know how many kids are going to end up in the service and how long those things are going to take. It’s really dependent on districts and how they have been doing with the homeschool students. It’s also really dependent on compliance of parents,” Murphy explained. “We did it this way very purposefully.”

The HFM BOCES Board of Education voiced their support for the homeschool coordination program and approved the execution of the independent contractor services agreement with Grimshaw.

“It’s a great service, because districts do struggle with it. I have a feeling some districts, really the paperwork just buries them. I think it’s going to be a very popular service,” Board of Education member Harry Brooks said.

Brooks went on to suggest that Grimshaw be asked to organize a workshop for homeschool parents to offer training surrounding how to prepare an individual home instruction plan, how to complete other related paperwork and to provide assistance accessing any needed resources.

“Helping them to get the best program that they can is an advantage to the child and the district,” Brooks said.

Murphy agreed with suggestion, noting that Capital Region BOCES, where she serves as the permanent district superintendent, provides parents the same service and offered to assist in establishing the workshops.

“It’s always very nice when public schools and homeschools work together well,” Murphy said.