With session after session of budget cuts shrinking schools down to the bare bones, schools across the nation are looking to save a cent wherever they can.
In this tough educational and economic environment, the Perham-Dent School Board brought to the table the possibility of sharing a superintendent with the neighboring New York Mills School District. Although ultimately coming to the conclusion that such an arrangement would not be beneficial for the school at this present time, the board made it clear the idea is not something they'd never consider in the future.
The suggestion of a shared NY Mills-Perham superintendent was first brought up by Perham-Dent School Board Chairman Jim Rieber. Rieber and board member Cyndy Huber provided the rest of the board with feedback from a meeting they had with representatives from New York Mills.
"It was a very good and positive discussion," Rieber stated to his fellow board members. Huber said the group discussed each district making a list of what they needed from a superintendent as a preliminary step, using these lists as a guideline for future discussions.
The pair shared that the plan wasn't necessarily to create a 50/50 work split for a shared superintendent, but rather to establish the proper workload for a shared administrator based on a needs basis. The possibility of going through an outside company to essentially 'lease' a superintendent for the school district was also discussed, a measure that could help prevent one school district from appearing subservient to the other.
Perham-Dent School Board members responded with varying opinions about the feasibility and beneficiality of such an arrangement. "I'm open-minded to it, but not in favor of it," expressed board member Dr. Mike Hamann.
"It's hard to make a decision if you don't know what the pros and cons are," assessed board member Sue Von Ruden.
Initially, several board members appeared willing to discuss the prospect of a shared superintendent with NY Mills, but as discussion progressed, it became evident that many board members saw far more negatives than positives with pursuing such an arrangement at this time.
"If they want to merge school districts, I think we would be interested...we've got an elite system, and I don't think we want to dismantle it," said Hamann.
Board member Arnie Thompson seconded Hamann's suggestion, saying he supports the two school boards discussing becoming one district, but not just meeting about a shared superintendent.
"There are a lot of other areas where we could probably share services down the road without sacrificing quality," said Rieber.
In addition to the primary concern that one individual just would not have enough time to invest into two separate districts, a conflict of interest was also addressed. Concerns from school board members and district staff members were voiced regarding how someone could remain loyal and dedicated to two independent school districts.
After some thorough discussion of the matter, the board took an informal vote to see who was interested in setting a time to further discuss the prospect with New York Mills. With three board members voting in favor of continued discussions, and three voting opposed, Rieber concluded that with such little interest in pursuing the idea, now was not a good time to move forward with discussion of the matter with the New York Mills School Board.
"It's a noble idea when you're talking about saving money; but in the end, I believe you come to a place of diminishing returns," said Perham High School Principal John Rutten.
Board member Arnie Thompson suggested that the Perham-Dent School Board members and district administration sit down together and discuss in-depth where they want to go with this issue-along with other possible shared services. The board is looking into setting a date to discuss such matters.