Press-Republican

June 11, 2013

City, Beekmantown schools talk shared services

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh City and Beekmantown Central schools are discussing the possibility of sharing district services.

City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short announced at the last School Board meeting that a few members of each district’s board met recently with a consultant to discuss the feasibility of such a collaboration.

Short asked City School Board members if they would be interested in undergoing a joint study with BCSD that would look at opportunities for sharing in the areas of district-level management and operations.

If Beekmantown School Board members are on board, Short said, “what we need to do is give a fair, honest study and evaluation to what’s possible and then lay out a plan of action.”

While City School Board President Leisa Boise, Vice President Tracy Rotz and members Dr. David Stone and Steve Sullivan were not present at the meeting, members Robert Hall, Amelia Goerlitz, Steve Krieg and Clayton Morris indicated they were in favor of such a study.

“I think that’s a direction that we need to go in,” Morris said.

NO SHARED SUPERINTENDENT

And though City School Board member Fred Wachtmeister said he would also support the evaluation, he doesn’t think significant savings would be realized through shared services.

He added that he would not support merging or sharing a superintendent or business office with another district.

“Those are services that serve this community,” Wachtmeister said. “They are time consuming, particularly in this day and age, and I don’t see that opportunity because the savings will come from asking somebody to do twice the work. 

But if you’re going to give a person that big of a responsibility, you’ve got to hire more helpers.”

Short noted that under state law, both the City School and Beekmantown Central are prohibited 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.

And even if teaming up with another district didn’t deliver millions in savings, Short said, it could “deliver capacity to reach things that we don’t already do.”

DISCUSSION TONIGHT

Beekmantown School Board President Leonard King told the Press-Republican in a separate interview that he expects the BCSD representatives who met with the consultant and City School representatives to report on those discussions at tonight’s board meeting.

The meeting, which is open to all, will begin at 6:15 p.m. in the Beekmantown Middle/High School Library.

“If there are things that we can save money for the district on, I am certainly in favor of them,” King said.

BUILDING STUDY

At the City School Board meeting, Short also asked board members to consider initiating a building-use study within the district, which comprises Momot, Bailey Avenue and Oak Street elementary schools, Stafford Middle School, Plattsburgh High School and the Duken Administration Building.

This, he said, would be independent of the shared-services study and would look at possibilities for re-configuring, consolidating or closing district buildings in the future and whether such moves would make sense.

“We could initiate a building-use study this summer and have it wrapped up in four, five (or) six months ... and then we can set a course forward for not just a five-year building plan, but a long-range building plan for the School District.

“I believe we owe it to our community to take time to take a study like this and take a look at it,” Short said.

ANSWERS SOUGHT

Hall, Krieg and Wachtmeister said they supported evaluating building use; however, Wachtmeister noted he would not be in favor of closing one of the district’s elementary schools if that were ever proposed.

“The neighborhood-school concept is a great one,” he said. “I’ve always supported it, and I will continue to do so into the future.”

Morris questioned whether there is enough available property in the district to consolidate buildings and if the potential construction costs involved in reconfiguration would outweigh any savings.

“I think those are some of the things that we can find out before we decide to do (a study),” he said.

Short replied that he, too, wanted answers to those questions, “whether we do some of the homework ourselves or we have some independent people come in and look at us with a different lens.”

The superintendent estimated the cost of such a study to be between $10,000 and $15,000 but expected to have an actual cost proposal sometime this week.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com