LAKE PLACID - A local school board member thinks the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake school boards should have spent more time studying the possibility of sharing a superintendent.
Speaking at a joint school board meeting Tuesday, Lake Placid school board member Herb Stoerr said he was disappointed that the two boards dismissed the idea. Both districts will have superintendent vacancies at the end of this school year: Saranac Lake Superintendent Gerald Goldman will retire, and Lake Placid Superintendent Randy Richards will leave his job because his contract wasn't renewed.
Stoerr wasn't able to attend a Sept. 5 joint school board meeting, at which the boards decided to explore other areas for shared services, because of a prior engagement. At that meeting, school board members said the responsibilities of a shared superintendent would be too great because of new teacher evaluation requirements, multiple budgets and contract negotiations. The Lake Placid district is also looking for a new principal and assistant principal at the middle-high school.
The boards have since set up four committees to explore other ways to share services.
"I was so excited about it because for three years - this is two years before I got elected to the board - I appeared at many board meetings and said, 'Why don't we talk to Saranac Lake?'" Stoerr said on Tuesday.
Stoerr said Beverly Ouderkirk, shared superintendent of the St. Regis Falls and Brushton-Moira school districts, gave the two boards a "glowing report" in August about her experience. At a subsequent meeting, the school board presidents from those districts said they will continue to share the position after Ouderkirk retires.
Stoerr said he reviewed the notes from the Sept. 5 meeting and "didn't see much of a discussion about the shared superintendent.
"I feel the stars are aligned to try this, or at least have a committee studying it for a month or two months intensively to see where we could go," he said.
Stoerr said the state's property tax cap is going to force school districts to restructure and become more efficient.
"Life is not going to go on in the future the way it has done in the past," he said. "Money is going to be extremely short. ... I think we made the wrong decision. I think we at least should have looked at what was out there."
Lake Placid school board President Mary Dietrich said there was a "pretty in-depth discussion" about sharing the position during the Sept. 5 meeting. She said the boards came to a decision that was best for both districts.
Saranac Lake school board member Esther Arlan said the St. Regis Falls and Brushton-Moira school districts are "more closely aligned" than Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. She said those districts face big challenges during budget season.
Lake Placid school board member Patti Gallagher said the districts could revisit the possibility of sharing a superintendent in the future, especially if they start to share things like food, business and instructional services.
"If we were to ask someone to take over two districts, they would have similar business operational systems," Gallagher said.
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.