Schools discuss ways to share service personnel

WHEELING – Sharing more service personnel among multiple county school districts topped discussion at the Regional Education Service Agency 6 meeting Thursday at Wheeling Park High School.

Board members and administrators from Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall and Wetzel counties gathered for the session conducted by the West Virginia School Board Association, as required by West Virginia House Bill 2940, to discuss the feasibility of sharing certain administrative services in order to put more money back into classroom resources.

State Schools Superintendent James Phares, who briefly attended the meeting, said considering ways for counties to share personnel is necessary as the state faces budget cuts.

“Everybody is looking at ways to provide a more … efficient part of education,” Phares said. “Last Oct. 26, the office of budget gave a fairly gloomy report of revenues the state is going to have over the next three of four years. So, rather than trying to cut services directly to students, how can counties … share duties that would allow for more of that money to be returned to the classroom?”

Administrators were given a list of county positions and asked to rank which positions could be most successfully shared between counties. RESA 6 ranked an attorney as most likely to be shared, followed by child nutrition director and food services. Some positions that were ranked least likely to be shared included superintendent, director of curriculum, county board treasurer, director of transportation, vehicle maintenance and facilities maintenance.

“Depending on what the service is and if it gives us the support we need in our counties, I think it’s very beneficial” to share, Hancock County Superintendent Suzan Smith said. “I think there are some we can share, and I think there are definitely some we cannot share, because counties all have their different styles and strong points and weaknesses. Superintendent, assistant superintendent, facilities manager – those positions you would have to have in each county in order for the operation to be effective.”

Smith noted some positions would be very effective serving multiple counties. She said combined legal services would be a good choice so counties could be on the same page with certain policies, contracts and interpretations of laws.

The response from RESA 6 was similar to those heard from the other five RESAs that participated in similar meetings. In a survey of those meetings, the positions of attorney, safety director and purchasing director were ranked as mostly likely to be successfully shared, while superintendent, assistant superintendent and school business officer/county board treasurer were ranked least likely.

“It’s only a conversation,” said Howard O’Cull, executive director of the school board association. “It’s incremental. It’s not necessarily anything we’ll do immediately, but it gets board members thinking along the lines about how they can have greater efficiencies among school districts.”

According to O’Cull, the school board association is set to meet with two more RESAs this summer. The process will be repeated next year to determine if there is “any interest in the concept.”