School boards get ready to start sharing

02/02/2012

Shoreline Unified, Bolinas-Stinson Unified, and Lagunitas school districts met again this week to brainstorm ways to pool resources and cut costs in the midst of looming state budget cuts, reaching no concrete conclusions but agreeing that action is the next step.

The meeting, which took place on Tuesday at West Marin School, was the follow-up to a joint session convened and mediated by Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke at Walker Creek Ranch in September.

After a brief introduction and elaborate snack—prosciutto-wrapped melon, soft white cheeses, Pellegrino—board members divided into breakout sessions to generate ideas for possible ways to share personnel and resource services. The entire group then reconvened for a round robin discussion.

Shoreline Unified board trustees highlighted technology support, special education and business administrative services as areas in which they could see immediate room for sharing. Also suggested was hiring a joint attorney, rather than contracting such services only when legal issues arise. “We think there could be problems with sharing, but we have to be willing to try in order to meet these budget concerns,” trustee Jane Healy said.

Fellow trustee Tim Kehoe announced that a successor to acting Tomales High principal and Shoreline district superintendent Stephen Rosenthal, who is stepping down and also scaling back his duty as superintendent in the 2012-13 school year, will be named in March.

Bolinas-Stinson board trustee Nate Siedman said his group also liked the idea of sharing business and special education services, and felt that the appropriate next step is for each district to create an actual matrix listing specific needs and wants. “I think if we do that collectively things will start to jump off the page,” Siedman said. “Like: ‘You guys have a half, we have a half, let’s put them together and make a whole.’”

Burke cautioned that sharing certain personnel—a tech specialist, for instance—could become a problem if a capable, trustworthy candidate is not found. Bolinas-Stinson and Lagunitas joint superintendent Larry Enos echoed the sentiment, adding that the goal in sharing should be to create sustainable rather than temporary positions because those will attract more dependable, longterm employees.

Enos and Rosenthal noted that sharing has worked well in the past, particularly with regards to transportation maintenance and repair. “That has worked great for years and years,” Rosenthal said. “One of our special education buses just blew up and we went to Bolinas and now are back up and running. The bonus being, we already knew the bus.”

“Yeah,” Enos said. “That’s because you sold it to us first.”

Questioning then turned to Burke. “Would the county be supportive of any of these ideas?” an audience member asked.

“The rubric I use is if it were your kid, would you want your kid in that kind of structure?” Burke replied. “And if the answer is yes then I am going to be right there behind you.”