These are difficult times for school districts. They face unprecedented budget cuts while at the same time feel the pressure to offer better educational opportunities for students. And it’s about to get even tougher. The new state 2 percent tax cap will handcuff schools even more in the 2012-13 academic year.
What’s a school administrator to do? The answer may well lie in shared services.
The state comptroller’s office has issued a paper on “Local Government and School Accountability.” The top item in its list of suggested school cost-saving measurers is “cooperation and consolidation.” While Ticonderoga and Crown Point school districts have asked the Department of State for an application for grant money to conduct a merger study, it’s unlikely any local schools will be combining in the near future. That leaves cooperation.
This fall Crown Point is sending six students to Ticonderoga High School daily to take a physics class. Crown Point will pay Ti for cost of lab materials and incidentals, but the agreement is much less expensive for Crown Point than hiring a physics teacher and setting up a lab.
“It’s working out very well,” John McDonald, Ticonderoga superintendent, said. “It’s a good opportunity for these kids to get a class normally not available to them. We’re happy to provide it.”
McDonald is also pleased local schools are sharing some transportation costs this year.
Moriah shuttles St. Mary’s students from Crown Point to and from the Ticonderoga school daily. Ticonderoga drops off and picks up Crown Point’s CV-Tech Mineville students on their way by twice a day.
“Our efforts to share services as we can speaks to the ways all our districts are doing their best to make opportunities for students available within limited budget constraints,” Shari Brannock, Crown Point superintendent, said.
Shared services is nothing new for many scholastic athletic teams. Minerva-Newcomb and Indian Lake-Long Lake have fielded combined sports teams for several years. Moiah, Westport, Keene and Elizabethtown-Lewis have had joint track and swimming teams. Saranac, Peru and Seton Catholic share a hockey team.
And there are opportunities for other shared services, such as joining forces with local colleges.
Crown Point and other area districts participate with North Country Community College and Paul Smith’s College to offer classes that simultaneously garner high school and college credit. The classes are taught at local schools by local teachers with the approval of NCCC and Paul Smith’s.
The NCCC and Paul Smith’s classes include English composition I and II, creative writing, Adirondack history, psychology, American history I and II, integrated algebra, statistics, financial accounting, and introduction to nutrition.
Schroon Lake Central School has similar arrangements with SUNY-Albany and Adirondack Community College.
School district administrators need to take a close look at their neighbors with an eye toward sharing even more services — services that ultimately benefit students and taxpayers.
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