Press-Republican

May 12, 2014

Plattsburgh, Beekmantown schools explore sharing

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — BEEKMANTOWN — Education consultants are recommending oversight of Plattsburgh City School's buses be moved to Beekmantown Central School. 

“We think that the possibility of having Beekmantown pick up the oversight and maintenance of the Plattsburgh buses would make some sense," Alan Pole of the education consulting firm Castallo and Silky said at a recent joint meeting of the districts' school boards. 

He and colleague Jessica Cohen shared the findings of a shared-services study the two districts hired them to conduct to look for potential collaboration. 

The schools have similar enrollments, populations, state-aid ratios and test scores, Cohen told attendees of the session at Beekmantown Elementary School, making it easier for them to share services. 

BUSING POSSIBILITIES

Their transportation systems, however, are very different, Pole noted, largely because Beekmantown comprises 93 square miles, while Plattsburgh covers just three. 

Beekmantown has 44 buses and 29 drivers, he noted, and Plattsburgh has seven buses and three drivers. 

While Beekmantown employs a full-time transportation supervisor and two full-time mechanics, transportation at Plattsburgh is overseen by the superintendent of buildings and grounds. 

In addition, Pole said, Plattsburgh sends its buses to Saranac for state inspections and to Champlain for maintenance at an annual cost of $53,000. 

Rather than Plattsburgh relying on multiple parties to provide transportation services, he continued, “we think the centralized operation of letting Beekmantown oversee that would be positive.”

The arrangement would potentially bring $53,000 in revenue to Beekmantown, Pole said, without creating any additional costs for Plattsburgh School District. 

“And given the proximity of the two districts, we believe that Plattsburgh could reduce the number of miles on their school buses that are not eligible for state aid by having all of the things maintained closer to home," he added. 

CURRICULUM POST

The consultants also suggested the districts consider sharing a curriculum coordinator. 

“Neither district currently has a central office person who is devoted to the leadership of the instructional program," Pole said.

With curriculum changes at an all-time high due to the state-mandated Common Core learning standards, "that's a place that both schools have a need," City School Superintendent James "Jake" Short said. 

"We both had positions of that nature in the past, but we cut them due to budgets." 

While neither district may be able to afford a full-time curriculum coordinator on its own, Pole noted, perhaps they could afford to share one. 

Beekmantown Superintendent Dan Mannix, however, questioned whether someone could be effective and address both schools' curriculum needs while splitting time between the districts. 

"Sharing is hard, and you're going to give up some things to share," Pole said. "It's a question of is it better to have two days a week than to have none."

CLASSES

As far as sharing instructional programs, one option would be for the districts to exchange students, Cohen told meeting attendees. 

For example, she said, students could be bused between the two schools and spend part of their days taking classes in the opposite district.

This, Cohen continued, could allow students access to courses not offered at their home institution.

"The second option is sharing teachers," she said. "It may not always feel this way, but it's easier to move one teacher than 15 students."

Instructors could potentially spend part of their day teaching in one district and the remainder in the other. 

The travel time between the districts, Cohen noted, is about 20 minutes. 

"There are advantages to it, and there are disadvantages," she said. "None of these solutions are perfect."

Email Ashleigh Livingston: alivingston@pressrepublican.com

READ THE STUDY

A copy of Castallo and Silky's Shared-Services Study presentation to the Beekmantown Central and Plattsburgh City school boards is available online at plattscsd.org/district/documents/sharedservicespresentation.pdf.