An interesting concept may be catching on at school districts in the northern portion of rural New York state.
It involves having a part-time school superintendent. "It's one of the best moves we've made," Alice LaRock, Westport district board president, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise earlier this month.
Westport's idea of a part-time school chief began in 2009 when it named Dr. John Gallagher interim superintendent. But instead of the interim tag, Gallagher wanted to work part time, only 125 days per year.
His total compensation cost to the district: $50,000, which includes no vacation, health insurance or retirement benefits. "It has saved the district much money," LaRock said.
It is indeed a bargain for the district of 240 students - and Gallagher's deal is working so well that neighboring district Keene Central, south of Lake Placid, is going to give the plan a chance. The Daily Enterprise reports Keene has named retired superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnson to the part-time post for the coming year.
This plan is something that could work in a number of smaller districts in this county.
In Chautauqua County, Ripley is the smallest of the 18 districts with about 340 students enrolled. Its full-time superintendent receives a compensation package of nearly $145,000 when you add in health and retirement benefits to the salary.
Sherman's district, with around 525 students, could have given the part-time tag a chance after outgoing Superintendent Tom Schmidt retired at the end of the last school year. It was never considered and the district hired a new superintendent, costing upward of $135,000 in total compensation.
Other local districts, including those in Silver Creek and Westfield, have already hired new superintendents, which will cost the districts a combined $300,000 for the compensation packages annually.
Our newspaper has pushed, in the past, for sharing a superintendent between districts. While that idea has never been embraced, maybe this one will.
A full-time superintendent is not state mandated, so boards cannot use that as an excuse if they choose not to place a part-timer in the post in the future.
Schools and governments need to operate as though they are in the 21st century.
Full-time superintendents for small schools, some of which should not be in existence, do not seem feasible when looking at price tags that hover around $150,000 annually per district.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org