Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School
Photo by Keith Lobdell.
continued “I think that shared services is something that is on everybody’s radar,” Broadwell said. “How do we utilize the monetary resources we have available to our towns and bring things together. We can look at how do we merge transportation and other programs while keeping schools open.”
“This is a discussion that we have been having for two years with five different school districts,” Gallagher said. “It needs to focus on how we can share more. We and ELCS share a business office. We have to look at what else can we do to keep our schools open.”
“It’s very easy to sit in Albany and see what they are talking about and say we should be consolidating districts,” Osborne said. “I am not sure that the state has these rural areas in mind, but this is a looming topic at the forefront of many reform pushes.”
The administrators all agreed that the financial implications, while at the center of any consolidation talks, are not alway the ones that win out.
“People will worry about their school mascots and what the color scheme would be, but what everyone needs to focus on is sustaining a strong education for our kids — can it broaden opportunities for our kids, period,” Osborne said. “I think that a regional high school approach would have more traction here than consolidations.”
“Schools are a focal point of their communities in this area, and no one wants to lose their identity,” Broadwell said. “There are many things you can look at. You could have two regional high schools where one is heavy into math and sciences while the other is more humanities and cultural.”
Other issues addressed in the preliminary report included providing high quality full-day pre-kindergarten for our most at-risk students; creating statewide models for “Community Schools” that use schools as a community hub to improve access to public, non-profit, and private services/resources, like health and social services, for students and their families; transforming and extending the school day and year to expand quality learning time for students, especially in underserved communities; improving the teacher and principal pipeline to recruit and retain the most effective educators; building better bridges from high school to college and careers with early college high schools and career technical education; utilizing all available classroom technologies to empower educators to meet the needs of a diverse student population and engage students as active participants in their own learning; and increasing transparency and accountability of district leadership by creating a performance management system.
The New NY Education Reform Commission plans to release its final report to Gov. Cuomo in the fall of this year. The report can be found at governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/EducationReformCommissionReport.pdf.