An opportunity to look at possible sharing between districts was the focus of a meeting last week between school boards and administrators from Edgewood-Colesburg and Clayton Ridge.
Officials from both districts stressed that the meeting was in the very early stages and stressed it was the first step in a process to explore available operational-position-sharing options between districts.
The meeting was held in Edgewood, July 29, and was facilitated by Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) representative Harry Heiligenthal.
School districts in Iowa receive money from the state for sharing the following positions: superintendent, guidance counselor, transportation director, facility coordinator and curriculum director.
Both boards were asked to share their best hopes for the meeting. Clayton Ridge officials expressed an interest in offering more opportunities for students while keeping each district’s identities and entities separate.
Ed-Co officials expressed an interest in keeping two full-time principals, saving money, using staff more efficiently and offering more opportunities for students.
Currently, Ed-Co is in a sharing agreement with Central Elkader that has the two schools sharing a transportation director, a business manager and a human resources director.
Ed-Co board president Bob Schilling said the idea to investigate sharing possibilities has been discussed for months, but had stalled because of COVID-19. Schilling said one reason for the discussion was a desire to find the right number of administrators for Ed-Co.
“In talks with IASB, a school our size having three administrators is too much and having two is not enough,” Schilling said. “So sharing makes sense for us.”
Schilling said the district contacted between 15-20 schools in the area about discussing sharing possibilities. He said four schools responded.
“These were very, very basic conversations about whether sharing was something they would be interested in,” Schilling said of the contacts to schools. “Of the four schools, we felt that Clayton Ridge was the best fit and was interested in meeting with us.”
Schilling said that Central Elkader was also one of the four schools that responded. “As of right now, we have no intention of stopping the sharing agreement with them, but at this time they indicated to us that they were not interested in sharing a superintendent. Since that was the case and since the process does take a fair amount of time, we wanted to find a dance partner willing to continue talks.”
Schilling said the sharing possibilities can benefit Ed-Co. “What we are looking for is a way for us to maintain the integrity of our district financially. Sharing provides us with a ton of money to do that. Currently, we are utilizing 15 of the 21 credits available (for shared positions). If we could add one more person to that dynamic or even two, that would be a good thing for our district.”
Both districts identified common needs, among them the desire for both schools to maintain their own identity.
Schilling said the meeting with Clayton Ridge officials was a good first step, adding, “this is so early in these talks we haven’t made any final decisions. We aren’t rushing to any judgments and we have no preconceived ideas. We are investigating and we are looking at truly what is right for Ed-Co. We haven’t been pushed into this. Financially we are in good shape.”
He added, “Sharing would simply be a great way for two districts to financially become even stronger, wisely use our resources and provide the best opportunity we can for our kids.”