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May 8, 2013

Innovation starts at the top

(Continued)

He trimmed $2,000 off of his salary line for next year and has been meeting regularly with superintendents at Elizabethtown-Lewis, Keene and Willsboro central schools to source other opportunities.

The decision to lead school districts toward shared services is driven in large part by the administrators.

“Everything is on the table,” Gallagher said. “Sports, cafeteria, transportation. We’re looking at everything.”

HEAVIER WORKLOAD

But it takes time and a common focus for superintendents to work out details of common need.

Recent headway is thwarted, in some cases, by unfunded mandates from the State Education Department in terms of testing and evaluations, which add many hours to an administrator’s workload.

“It takes so much time to do what the state has done with Race to the Top and APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) for teachers,” Gallagher said.

“We’ve told State Ed, OK, we can consolidate superintendents, and that job (APPR) won’t get done — it takes about 10 hours per teacher for the evaluation process.”

Gallagher said he has written repeatedly to State Education Commissioner John King, seeking resolution to the time and fiscal constraints of state testing alongside new Performance Review measures.

“But he has never responded,” he said.

FURLOUGHS

School boards faced with affording teachers and attracting a superintendent are making difficult choices, Lowry said, because they “can’t afford to be without a superintendent.”

Districts have cut programs before personnel, but after years of such practices, few options are left but to eliminate staff.

“There are two ways to reduce personnel costs: employ fewer people or spend less per employee,” he said.

And school boards are doing both.

Gerald Blair, Northeastern Clinton Central School’s interim superintendent, says they chose to institute a furlough system for certain administrative positions in the coming year. 

Employees will “take anywhere from three days to six days off unpaid through the year,” he said. “I took 40 furlough days. And I’ll work probably 20 of those (unpaid). The reason I did this was to try to set a tone for everybody else.

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