Schools hold economic summit

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Friday, March 13, 2009
— The Evansville schools would like to save on the money they pay a contractor to groom their athletics fields.

The Edgerton schools have their own grass seeder.

Could Edgerton lend its machine to Evansville and both districts save in the bargain?

That was one of a few ideas thrown out when the presidents of six Rock County school boards met in Janesville on Thursday night.

"We'll rent it to you as long as you agree to let us win a football game," joked Edgerton School Board President Brian Donnelly.

Or perhaps, a bigger district could earn some money by providing its grounds staff to do the job at a smaller district, and that could avoid a layoff at the bigger district, suggested Evansville School Board President Michael Pierick.

The presidents are facing an assault of bad news: Most of their budgets are getting pinched, some are facing layoffs for the first time in a long time, new teacher contracts come due this spring, and school boards don't want to add to taxpayers' burdens in a most difficult economy.

Milton School Board President Rob Roy summed it up: "People can't afford a lot of new taxes, and people can't afford not to get raises, so what do you do?"

No deals were struck Thursday. But the presidents agreed to meet again in April, when they plan to get their superintendents involved in the discussion.

The meeting was called by DuWayne Severson, president of the Janesville School Board, which oversees the biggest district in the county.

"There's got to be money to be saved by working together," Severson said.

Janesville's biggest problem might be a sudden drop in enrollment as families facing layoffs move out of town. Fewer students means less income for the schools.

"We could be facing another couple hundred students leaving before the start of the next school year," Severson said.

The presidents, which also included the districts of Clinton and Beloit Turner, floated other ideas at the meeting, including sharing expertise in computer technology, in professional development for teachers or sharing high school courses through Internet-based "distance learning."

The presidents also heard from Gary Albrecht, administrator of the Cooperative Educational Services Agency 2, headquarted in Milton, which provides services to 74 school districts in southern Wisconsin.

CESA 2 could help districts share services, Albrecht said.

CESA 2 provides a cooperative buying group that can get lower prices on supplies, Albrecht said. It can provide professional training or hire and oversee staff for groups of districts, as it does for special education in parts of Racine and Kenosha counties.

CESA 2 also could administer cooperative distance-learning consortiums, Albrecht said.

The presidents represented about 20,000 students. Just over half of those are in Janesville.

Places were set at the table for the Parkview and Beloit school board presidents, but they did not show up.

Also attending was Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, the speaker of the state Assembly, who promised to convey the group's wishes or questions to the governor and Legislature.

Last updated: 9:53 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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