Press-Republican

Local News

April 24, 2014

School seeks shared services

WESTPORT — A shared superintendent is one service Westport Central School is looking at with some neighboring districts.

“Keene (Central) is interested,” Westport Superintendent John Gallagher said on Wednesday. “Elizabethtown-Lewis is interested in sharing.

“And I’ve had conversations with Willsboro (Central) as well.

“Is anything planned? No, but we’re interested in pursuing it.”

With that intention in mind, Westport Central School Board recently hosted a presentation from Champlain Valley Educational Services Superintendent Dr. Mark Davey on that topic.

For a shared-superintendent arrangement to work, he said, each district would need a “strong principal” to work at each site and coordinate with the superintendent.

‘PITFALLS’

There are some pitfalls to sharing a superintendent, Davey cautioned.

It could be challenging for the leader of more than one district to attend board meetings at both, he said, and each might have a different teacher’s contract to negotiate.

The superintendent would oversee creation of two budgets instead of one, he noted. 

There is also the possibility that one school might think highly of the individual selected as superintendent while the other might not be as pleased.

“Districts need to enter discussions with their eyes wide open,” Davey said.

‘NOT JUST TO SAVE’

Currently, Westport and Elizabethtown-Lewis share a business officer, as well as professional development and test scoring through the auspices of BOCES. 

There are also itinerant services, such as school psychologists and music teachers, who have been part time at participating facilities.

Davey cautioned that if the primary reason for shared services is to save money, it may not always be in a district’s best interests. 

The collaboration must provide greater opportunities for the students and add to the efficiency of running the school systems, he said.

He also talked about rationales for combining districts, with potential positives that include curriculum efficiency and training, shared memberships in organizations, health-insurance collective bargaining, one special-education committee and a shared bus mechanic, cafeteria services and school treasurer.

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