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On January 30 at 6:30 p.m. in Orchard, the school boards of Clearwater, Orchard, Ewing, and Verdigre will meet to listen to the presentation of information on various school options compiled by Dr. Bob Uhling and Dr. Craig Pease.
As the discussion continues among board members and the public about future options, it is important to have all the information clarified as much as possible.
To that point, the Unified Board at our December meeting requested that I share information with the public about what the benefits of unification include.
I will attempt to do that to the best of my ability.
The benefits of Unification include:
1. A reduced cost for administration — The three schools have one superintendent and business manager rather than three.
2. Shared professional development activities — We have a shared focus on school improvement efforts, so that leads to staffs across the 3 schools working together in certain areas rather than being confined to one school and/or one teacher per grade level or curricular area. There are some reduced costs here due to anything that we purchase to assist in professional development can be at a reduced cost if it is one district.
3. Shared curriculum and teacher expertise — Our staffs have developed a common curriculum across the 3 schools in most areas. We are then able to share resources to a large extent as well. Textbooks and resources are reviewed as a district and then purchased based on the largest class sizes that we will experience in the next few years. We then transport these textbooks as needed at the start of each year.
4. Original districts retain local control via the Advisory Board which, with the building administrator, oversees building level issues.
5. Local representation is also maintained on the Unified Board with two members from each original district serving at this level and their focus is more with district issues.
6. The ability to maintain current school and staffs and do any reductions through normal attrition. Unification has helped give schools time to work through financial and enrollment issues.
7. The plan has also allowed for reorganization within unification and activity coops both within and outside of unification.
A con to unification might be that we do have a fairly high cost per student compared to the statewide average. The cost of keeping three schools open in our communities is significant.
I will also say that most small schools are experiencing similar issues with lower enrollments. The cost per student would be even higher if each school was on its own. School districts that have a higher enrollment and one school building to maintain will definitely have cost saving because of the economy of scale.
The more students that a district has enrolled and the less staff and building costs, the lower your expenses will be. You can have a lot of these same benefits or more through consolidation if that is what the communities choose to do.
Unification does allow us to plan for at least 7 years at a time which is helpful. Unification can be for anywhere from 3-7 years. It would be beneficial to be able to plan for longer than that as well.
I will say also that all three schools that unified agreed to come together and work as one unit. Originally the finances were more similar than they are now as far as valuations go, but each school puts in everything they have.
If anyone has any questions about the information presented in this article feel free to stop in and visit with me or give me a call.
I am in Clearwater on most Wednesdays, Verdigre on Fridays, and most of the rest of the time in Orchard at the central office.
Letters To The Editor are not the opinion of Pitzer Digital LLC, Antelope County News, The Orchard News or its staff.