It looks like the Mount Ayr Community school board is leaning heavily toward sharing a superintendent with another district as they look for a replacement for Russ Reiter, who officially notified the board Monday night that he was resigning to take a new position with the Oskaloosa school district.
In a special meeting Tuesday, April 13, the board spent some time discussing the direction they wanted to go in a superintendent search and then talked with Joe Drake, the superintendent at Bedford, about how a sharing arrangement might work.
The board decided to email all the surrounding school districts to find out what interest there would be in sharing superintendents.
This would include Diagonal, Bedford, Lenox, Creston, East Union, Central Decatur and Lamoni.
Districts will be asked to indicate their interest in sharing a superintendent by Friday, April 16. Another board meeting may be set up for Wednesday, April 21, to discuss how to proceed once interest in sharing from other districts is known.
In opening the discussion Tuesday night, superintendent Russ Reiter told the board they had a couple of options in finding his replacement -- hiring a full-time superintendent and continuing as in the past or looking at sharing a superintendent with a surrounding distict.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to both ways of moving ahead,” Reiter told the board. “If the board decides to go with sharing, it is a matter of inviting discussion and talking with other districts.”
School board president Rod Shields noted that he had already heard of interest in sharing from Bedford, Lenox and Creston districts.
“We would probably like the savings in dollars, but we want to make sure the school runs like it does now,” Shields said.
Among items to be determined in sharing would be which district holds the contract, the percentages of salary and benefit splits, and how not having a superintendent on site all the time may increase work load for other employees.
Another part of the picture is that the sharing provision that provides more dollars to the sharing districts sunsets over time.
The Mount Ayr Community school district does have some past experience in sharing as they shared former superintendent Phil Burmeister with the Grand Valley Community school district for several years.
Currently there are 31 school superintendent sharing agreements across the state, it was noted.
Board member Larry Giles noted that financial gains were important but personal contact with the staff and community are also important.
“We’ve been a front runner school for 50 years and we don’t want to lose that perception in the community or state,” Giles said.
Board member Jim Uhlenkamp noted that some of the community involvement like taking part in groups like Ringgold County Development and the Mount Ayr Chamber of Commerce could suffer.
Superintendent Reiter said that the board might have to fill in some of the spots of providing liaison with community groups.
Board members talked about items such as providing some stability in administration, experience in the job and a school-finance financial background and keeping the round table negotiations process as items they would look for in whoever they find for the new superintendent.
Bedford superintendent provides information
After the preliminary discussion, Joe Drake arrived to share information about how sharing agreements work. He has been a shared superintendent with the Clearfield school district for several years.
Drake said that sharing can save the district money in two ways. For the first years the state provides a financial incentive to the districts to share. The districts also have direct savings from splitting the salary of a superintendent.
In a sharing arrangement with Bedford, for example, the Mount Ayr district would have financial incentives of some $43,600 in extra state money in 2010-11 and $100,000 during 2011-12 plus the savings in splitting a superintendent’s salary.
Drake provided the board some pros and cons to sharing, again pointing out some of the positives and negatives that had been discussed earlier by the board and superintendent Reiter.