Taking a closer look at school district consolidation
Paula S. Campbell
The purpose of school districts is to support and improve student learning. To that end, districts build schools, create policy, hire staff, and pass a budget. That done, school boards partner with the superintendent and staff to implement this plan and, at the end of the day, assess how affective it has been.
This process is not as linear as it sounds, of course, but does define the necessity of reassessing the structure of our schools and districts to make certain those structures support student learning.
Current discussions between the Grass Valley School District and the Nevada City School District are meant to do just that. Together, the two school boards first asked if together we could better support student learning. Not knowing the fiscal realities of consolidation, our answer was a tentative yes.
With expert and professional support from Superintendent of Schools Holly Hermansen and her office, Grass Valley School District and Nevada City School District are proceeding to evaluate the fiscal realities of consolidation.
The discussion at our joint board meetings has focused on increased opportunities and choice for both students and families; invigorated professional development for teachers with a larger, joint staff; more varied and interesting curricular offerings including the arts, career technical classes, foreign languages, perhaps International Baccalaureate. Economies of scale, creative use of facilities, plus an increase in the number of students could enrich the learning experience for students from both Grass Valley and Nevada City.
Over the past 20 years, public discussion of this issue has centered on savings on the administrative side of school consolidation. While it is easy to see how these savings could be put into place, consolidation would also bring changes in state and federal special purpose funding, revenue limit funding, and expenses in every category.
All of these issues will be studied and evaluated to create a proposed three-year plan that will guide future discussions.
Our two districts came together as willing partners to examine the possibilities for our students. We invite the other districts in our county to the table. All board meetings are open to the public, with agendas and minutes posted on our websites.
Our county is blessed with supportive families, talented teachers and administrators, an interested community and wonderful, creative students. We must all work together to best use our resources to create the schools our students deserve.
Paula S. Campbell is a trustee and current president of the board of the Nevada City School District.
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