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Albany schools seek to share more than sports

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GINA R. HEINE
June 3, 2010
— Albany School District Superintendent Steve Guenther envisions a day when small schools share resources with surrounding districts as a way of alleviating their financial challenges.

Athletic cooperatives are often the extent of shared resources between districts, he said.


“What I am looking at is why aren’t we cooperating at a much larger scale?” he asks.


Consolidation removes a district’s identity and may not provide the savings needed, he said. And open enrollment creates a competitive environment.


“If we’re all trying to maintain our identity and do the best we can for our community, why can’t we do it together?” he asks.


Guenther has been sharing his vision with other area districts, and officials are in preliminary talks about creating what Guenther calls an “academic co-op.” He’s in the process of scheduling a meeting with school board representatives from surrounding districts.


Since everything is preliminary, Guenther would only name Juda as a district involved in the discussion. He’s also in talks with school organizations at the state level and with legislators.


Albany already has been sharing a school psychologist with Juda for two years. Next year, the two schools will share a psychologist with Monticello after roles were shuffled to accommodate the needs of all three districts.


Juda also approached Albany about a girls co-op softball team, but such a change wouldn’t occur for at least a year, if at all, he said. Albany already has co-op sports programs with Evansville for wrestling and Belleville for football.


Districts of similar sizes surround Albany, which has about 420 students.


Guenther said an effort could include every district in the area, and the goal would be to set a prototype that could be used throughout the state.


“Some of it is just a concept—resources, people, administration—that could be shared,” he said. “I think each situation is going to be very unique. It’s going to take careful planning.”


An example he gave was teaching Spanish between three districts. Instead of all three having the same high school offerings, one teacher could focus on advanced Spanish while the two others could teach at the elementary and middle school levels.


Aside from teachers moving between districts, students also could switch schools for particular subjects, such as having certain schools focused on technology or family and consumer education.


“We’d be able to take those things and raise them to a whole new level by not trying to do them at three, four, five different schools,” Guenther said.


Any effort faces logistical challenges, and any implementation likely wouldn’t occur until the 2011-12 school year, he said.


An “academic co-op” could basically eliminate open enrollment and competition by working out agreements cooperatively, yet still retaining each district’s identity, he said.


“We’re all trying to do the same thing,” he said.



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