By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — BEEKMANTOWN — Beekmantown Central School has signed on to undergo a joint shared-services study with Plattsburgh City School District.
At this week’s meeting, Beekmantown School Board members voted unanimously in favor of having both districts examined for areas of potential collaboration.
“Not only could we possibly save some dollars, but we might be able to enhance the student experience by sharing a service with another school,” Beekmantown Central School Board member April Bingel said at the meeting.
CITY VOTE PENDING
Representatives from both schools met recently to discuss the concept, and though Plattsburgh has not yet officially authorized its participation in the study, City School Board members expressed interest at their last meeting in doing so.
Plattsburgh Superintendent James “Jake” Short told the Press-Republican in a separate interview that he expects the board to take action on Wednesday, June 19, and for the study to begin shortly after.
“I think it’s a very good partnership that we’re starting to craft,” he said.
The study, conducted by Castallo and Silky, an educational consulting firm out of the Syracuse area, would look at everything from the schools’ administrative and management functions to their facilities, transportation and program offerings.
For example, consultants would examine whether offerings like exchange programs, special-education services and advanced-placement courses could be shared between the two districts.
“I believe it’s prudent to investigate,” Beekmantown Board member Cathy Buckley said at the meeting. “We have a lot to offer them, and they have a lot to offer us. I’m very interested in possible academic exchanges.”
CAN’T SHARE LEADER
State law prohibits both the City Schools and Beekmantown Central from sharing a district leader with any school, due to their enrollment figures.
In order to have a joint superintendent, the districts involved must each have had fewer than 1,000 students in the previous year. Both Beekmantown and Plattsburgh exceed that number.
The study is expected to take about six months to complete and cost $20,000 plus reimbursement of consultant expenses, all of which the districts would split.
Without the results, Short noted, it would be premature to say what shared-services might materialize out of the venture; however, he feels it wise to conduct the research on behalf of the schools and taxpayers.
“We’re going to have to change with the times, and we’re going to have to progress, and the only way we can do that is through investigation,” Buckley said at the meeting.
“Depending on what the findings are,” Short said, “we can start laying out plans we want to endorse and directions we want to go.
“I think it’s a healthy exercise.”
It makes sense for districts to consider shared services now, Bingel noted during the meeting, given that a recent influx of state mandates, coupled with declining student enrollment and inequity of state funding, has put many schools in financial crisis.
“It’s kind of created the perfect storm here, where many districts are looking at (sharing services) because business as usual is not going to be an option,” she said.
In addition to the joint study, Plattsburgh will consider initiating its own building-use study to look at district facilities, including Momot, Bailey Avenue and Oak Street elementary schools, Stafford Middle School, Plattsburgh High School and the Duken Administration Building, and how they might be best utilized in the future, as well as deferred-maintenance needs.
Short said the building examination could be conducted by the same firm, and both studies could take place simultaneously.
“When we can bring in a neutral voice, a neutral eye, to have a fresh look at everything and guide us through the facts, the figures, the data, I think it brings a lot more credibility to the direction we decide to go,” he said.
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