TUPPER LAKE - Members of the Tupper Lake Central School District Board of Education aren't interested in sharing a superintendent with other area districts.
They do want to re-examine the district's current structure of using the same person, Seth McGowan, to fulfill both the district superintendent and middle/high school principal positions. McGowan currently uses a team of administrative staff to help complete the duties of the two positions.
Several school board members said they'd like to see some hard numbers showing exactly how much money the district is saving by using the current structure, which was implemented when former middle/high school Principal Pam Martin retired in summer 2011.
"I think it's time for us as a board to look at it again," school board President Dan Mansfield said Tuesday night.
The discussion occurred at Tuesday night's school board meeting after Mansfield suggested last month that he and his fellow board members talk about it.
Mansfield was the first to say he doesn't think it's the right time to share superintendents, and he also doesn't like the idea of school mergers. But he's not sure the current situation is good enough for the savings the district is seeing from it, which he said has been estimated at $80,000.
Board member Paul Ellis agreed. He said that when people look to move to an area, one of the big things they look at is the school district, and a shared superintendent weakens that district's leadership.
Other board members echoed similar concerns.
"We seem to be all in the same mindset," Mansfield said.
To start the discussion, McGowan explained the difference between school mergers - which typically means two districts fully combine and might close buildings, bus students to one location and collapse their work forces - and functional consolidation. He said that in the North Country, that's what most people are talking about: sharing superintendents or other staff, services like payroll and getting together to combine purchasing power.
McGowan talked about the potential advantages and disadvantages of sharing a superintendent. He said the district got a request two years ago from the Lake Placid Central School District to look at the idea.
He said there would be some savings, though he believes the amount Tupper Lake is currently saving by combining the superintendent and principal positions is more.
McGowan also said that if there was a superintendent covering multiple districts, that person could see the good things in one district and put them into practice in other districts.
But he said there would be difficulties if the district were to share a superintendent with other districts. Multiple school budgets, boards of education, union contracts and community relations challenges would all be hurdles, but he said that if districts combined any of those areas, it would mean fewer difficulties.
He also noted that there would be diminished leadership in a time when strong leadership is important. He said that since he took over the principal job, his leadership has weakened as his attention was drawn elsewhere.
McGowan recommended that the school district look at things to consolidate but maybe think outside the box. He said there may be opportunities to consolidate with the Tupper Lake village and town governments, in addition to other schools, that haven't been explored yet. That may be difficult, he noted, since education has more state regulation than villages and towns, but he said it would be worth looking into.
He suggested the district also look at other options like saving on fuel spending by having a common start time between the elementary and middle/high school, although he said he would want to do a thorough cost-benefit analysis on that before implementing it.
Several school board members said they'd be interested in seeing more details on that option.
Board member Dawn Hughes also said she wants to look at where the district is busing students from and what the state requires as far as offering rides to students.
Hughes wants to look at the idea of contracting an outside business to take care of the district's food service needs, and she wants to know if there are any other services the district can get though BOCES.
Ellis said he wants to know why the regional schools don't have a shared school calendar, saying there must be savings that could come from that. He also noted that the district just bought a dump truck, but maybe next time there's a need like that, district officials should talk to the town and village first to see if they can help out instead.
"I just think we need to think way outside the box on these types of things," Ellis said.
Board member Mark Yamrick said he wants to keep in mind that not everything can be implemented right away, so he wants to keep the goals realistic.
McGowan said he and district Business Manager Garry Lanthier would look into some of the ideas and bring more information back to the school board.
Mansfield said he hopes to have some consolidation ideas in place by October so board members can roll those plans into their annual goal-setting workshop, which they scheduled for Oct. 15.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.