True North school districts meet, discuss shared services

— “As we become a more global society, the demands of the 21st century will require educational leaders, especially leaders of rural schools, to rethink delivery models and consider options beyond the traditional models that have long been used,” stated the report. “The challenge of being geographically isolated puts rural schools at a significant disadvantage. The use of technology, distance learning, and shared educational services are essential for rural schools to explore in order to provide a well-rounded and diverse education for students.”

This report’s goal was to find ways to:

•Enhance educational programs;

•improve the quality, efficiency and/or scope of current services;

•and reduce operating and/or capital expenses.

Rural schools face a unique set of challenges, according to the study, including declining enrollment and demographic changes, while trying to share services, focus on improving academic and extracurricular programs and keep tax levies in check. The report concluded that a regional school approach may not be feasible for rural school districts and that sharing services is a more realistic solution. Many of the shared service ideas in the Washington County report looked familiar to the True North school district superintendents.

“We already do a lot of shared services, and we are always improving those,” Dickerson said. “We’re sharing things that the Washington County schools are just starting to look at. Some of the topics are sharing staff, which is already occurring, special ed services, the whole state testing/grading and scoring piece we do among us. We have a common bell schedule. There’s distance learning going on. We share professional development staff trainings. We have merged sports teams. We share transportation.”

True North sharing

The agenda for the April 29 meeting listed many ways the school districts already share costs:

•Sharing of staff

•Special education services (regional approach)

•state testing/grading

•Common bell schedule

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