Forward-Thinking Districts May Provide Road Map For Others

So far, so good for a pair of test cases that could help pave the way for cost savings for area school districts.

Recently, the Panama and Clymer central school boards approved sharing a superintendent. Bert Lictus will begin duties at both schools on Oct. 1 when he begins working with Karen Moon, interim Clymer superintendent. The districts expect to save between $50,000 and $60,000 in salary by sharing the position without losing any services. Many area education officials acknowledge sharing a superintendent might not work for all districts, but people are watching to see just how well the area’s first shared superintendent experiment turns out.

“I wish both Panama and Clymer a lot of success on this because I think it will be a stepping stone for other schools in the county,” said Steve Penhollow, Falconer superintendent.

At the same time, Chautauqua Lake and Ripley officials report a smooth first week of the tuitioning of Ripley students to Chautauqua Lake. Josh Liddell, Chautauqua Lake high school principal, and Ben Spitzer, district superintendent, said recently the transition plan – which included meetings between student administrations, grade shadowing days in the spring, building tours, guidance department sessions and fun nights for students from both schools to get to know each other – helped smooth the process. Chautauqua Lake has added sections of some required courses and continued college credit and advanced placement courses that may have been cancelled without the tuitioning agreement. And, due in part to the tuitioning agreement, all athletic and co-curricular opportunities were preserved for all students as they existed last year at Chautauqua Lake.

There is still a legal challenge to the tuitioning agreement pending before the state Education Department and admittedly a lot of school year remaining in all four school districts. With the state tax cap, continued increased regulations and declining enrollments, it is imperative area school districts find ways to be cost-effective without relying on the state to do it for them. Clymer, Panama, Chautauqua Lake and Ripley officials have done just that and, as an added bonus, could provide a road map to other districts looking at tuitioning or sharing administrative staff members.

Both are worthy experiments.