Friday, January 23, 2009
Committee looks at restructuring administration
Is it time to try a new administrative model at the Carlisle School to save money and increase efficiency? The Carlisle School Committee (CSC) is looking at forming a Superintendency Union with Concord in order to share administrative personnel with both the Concord and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Districts. CSC Chair Chad Koski said that research and discussions have been underway during the past month, but it has not yet been discussed at a public meeting in either Carlisle or Concord.
Early this week Koski spoke to the Mosquito about the Superintendency Union, and he has submitted a letter to the editor explaining the benefits he sees.
Decision falls to School Committees alone
According to Koski, neither the Board of Selectmen nor Town Meeting approvals are required to adopt the proposal. The two school committees of the Concord and Carlisle School Districts must vote to create the union. The regional district already shares administrators with the Concord Schools, and must also agree to the plan. Koski believes there will be no need to amend the formal regional school agreement between Concord and Carlisle, which would require Town Meeting approval. “The only difference will be a new calculation of the regional share of the administrative costs, since there will be a third district sharing the costs.”
The CSC planned to discuss the proposal at their meeting on Wednesday evening, January 21 (after the Mosquito went to press.)
A Superintendency Union is not a fully combined, regional school system and it has nothing to do with unionization. Rather, it is a system of sharing administrative resources among school districts. In this case, Koski said, “Although all of the details have obviously not been worked out, at a minimum, I would expect to be able to share the Superintendent, Business Manager, [Special Education] (SPED) Director and associated support staff.”
Many years ago Carlisle belonged to a Superintendency Union, but chose to leave the group in 1972. (See “Carlisle’s past Superintendency Union,” ).
Financials to be determined
Koski did not have specific cost/benefit data available, but said, “We estimate an initial savings of approximately $800,000” for the three school districts.
The amount of savings for Carlisle depends not only on the number of Carlisle positions eliminated, but on the efficiency of a larger group of employees based in Concord. Koski said that Carlisle would pay for the salaries of the shared administrators according to the ratio of Concord-to-Carlisle student enrollments. Carlisle may pay a similar portion of the cost for the shared support staff.
The amount saved may vary over time, and will also depend on business, administrative and Special Education needs. For instance, savings would be reduced if more staff is hired in Concord to handle the increased workload.
Koski credited CSC member Louis Salemy with suggesting greater cooperation with Concord and explained that the idea for the Superintendency Union evolved out of discussion at Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) meetings about Maynard’s request last year to join the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. Although Maynard’s request was subsequently declined, Koski said it spurred the question for Carlisle: “How can we share some costs with Concord for similar functions?”
Koski has held preliminary discussions with the chairs of both the Concord Public Schools and the RSC, “They were kind of pre-discussion discussions.” Asked how Concord felt about the proposal, he said, “They agreed that it was at least worth investigating.”
Effects on Carlisle’s school building project?
Unlike full school regionalization, Carlisle would maintain ownership and control of the Carlisle School property. Koski felt that the Carlisle School Building Committee would be largely unaffected, other than that the Superintendent and School Business Manager representatives would be employees shared with Concord. Concord voters would not become involved in decisions relating to the Carlisle School building project, he said. Likewise, Carlisle voters would not have a say in Concord School building projects, except for the regional high school buildings.
All three school districts would continue to operate. In addition, there would be a new six-member committee created, to include the chairs as well as two other members from the Concord and Carlisle School Committees. The new committee would assume responsibility for hiring, firing and overseeing the joint school Superintendent.
Any resource sharing with other municipalities has the potential to diminish local control. Koski said, “We will be discussing that on Wednesday. However, my personal opinion is that the advantages of the combined system outweigh any possible loss of local control.”
Full regionalization of the two towns’ schools, on the other hand, is not currently under consideration. “I would be surprised if Concord was interested in regionalization,” Koski said, adding that regionalization might have a greater impact on local control of the school budget. He felt regionalization would also be more difficult to implement because it would require Town Meeting approval, unlike the Superintendency Union.
In the past the Carlisle School had one less administrator, operating for many years with either a Superintendent and a Principal or a Superintendent/Principal and an Assistant Principal. Koski said he has personal experience only with the structure of two Principals and a Superintendent. Koski said the CSC was not considering this option, because it would only save the cost of one Principal.
While a new teachers’ contract might provide savings opportunities, Koski could say only that negotiations are in progress. The current teachers contract expires at the end of June.
What other schools share administrators?
The Dover-Sherborn school system uses a Superintendency Union, according to Koski, and the school districts in Lincoln and Sudbury are investigating the concept now. While uncommon, this management structure is seen more in the western part of the state.
Another private meeting with Concord officials was held Wednesday morning, January 21. Also invited were a Carlisle Selectman as well as Christine Lynch, a representative of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Koski said that at this point, “It’s far enough along in our minds that we want to make it a public discussion. We want to get beyond the preliminary discussion stage.” He did not expect the CSC to vote on the Superintendency Union at their meeting this week, but said they would discuss it again at their meeting on February 4 and perhaps vote then. ∆
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