MCS invites Andes and Roxbury school boards to explore shared services

By Joe Moskowitz
Acting quickly, the Margaretville Central School (MCS) Board of Education took steps last Wednesday to stabilize its administrative and teaching staffs in a way that could conceivably change the way schools in this area are managed.
In just one meeting, the board hired a new principal, filled several other positions, and agreed to make overtures to neighboring districts about sharing, possibly even the position of district’s superintendent.
The meeting began with Board President Terry Johnson thanking Linda Taylor for her years of service to the district. Taylor has resigned to take an administrative position elsewhere. Superintendent Tony Albanese, who announced his resignation the week before Taylor quit, promised that everything possible will be done to provide a smooth transition. The board of education helped by hiring Collin Clark as the school’s building principal. Clark, who was being considered for a position at Hunter-Tannersville Central School, had been serving as an MCS guidance counselor since the middle of the last school year.

Board reaches out
But the big surprise came near the end of the meeting when Johnson read a letter, sent over his signature, to Roxbury Central School Board President Ed Fersch and his Andes counterpart John Hopkins.
The letter read, “As you are aware, there are many financial constraints that our districts are facing today and will continue to face in the future. Margaretville is not only facing those constraints, but is also undergoing changes in our administration.
“At our regular meeting on August 20, the Board authorized me, by resolution, to request an open dialogue with your board to discuss the possibilities of collaborative services, up to and including Superintendent of Schools. Please let me know if you are interested in this discussion and provide possible dates you are available for the same. I look forward to working with you to provide a high quality education for our children in a cost effective manner. Thank you for your consideration in this respect.”

ACS Board had met
The Andes Board met the next evening and had not yet received the letter. The RCS Board held its August session the week prior to the MCS meeting. But Roxbury Board member Ed Dalasi said that even though he hasn’t seen the letter, he is in favor of sharing everywhere possible if it can save money. Albanese will continue as MCS Superintendent until November.
The idea of sharing the position of superintendent is not a new one. There are at least five superintendents in New York who oversee the operations of more than one district. 
Most are on Long Island, but there is one in the Catskills. In 2012 Downsville Central, its enrollment down to 279 students and frustrated by what its board president called a lack of viable candidates, despite an annual salary in excess of $100,000, turned to its neighboring district, Roscoe for help. Roscoe, with just 235 students and stymied in its efforts to merge with Livingston Manor, readily agreed to let its superintendent, John Evans work for both districts. The pay is good. At about $160,000 a year, he got a $50,000 raise with each district paying half of his salary. He gets one benefits package
 and the schools split the cost. 
He is not reimbursed for driving the 14 miles between the schools.  

Sharing a superintendent does mean more work for building principals and support staff and they are compensated. They get as much as $5,000 a year in stipends. 
 A BOCES spokesperson said the Downsville district saved $69, 000 in salary and benefits last year and 
Roscoe saved $55,000.

Evans said there are additional 
savings. For example, the schools now share a language and science teachers and they have merged their two sports’ programs with Livingston Manor. 
Evans is in the middle of a five-year contract with Roscoe. 
The arrangement with Downsville is still considered experimental and is renewed on a year-to-year basis.
The board also 
hired a new reading teacher, Amy Korol, and appointed Diane Mohar, tax collector. 
In addition, the board also hired a new music teacher, Jennifer Sobas   She is replacing Cassandra Olin, who left to take a similar position at Schoharie Central School.

MCS has a projected opening day enrollment of 389. That number is expected to increase but is a far cry from the “Baby Boomer” years when the district enrollment flirted with 900.

Beth Smith is in charge of the buses and she told the board that because of fewer kids, one bus run will be eliminated. 
The run that used to include Bull Run, Swart Road and Route 28 in Margaretville, and routes 28 and 38 in Arkville will be integrated into other existing routes. That means bus number 87 will be semi-retired. Just a few months after purchasing a new 60-passenger bus for $120,000, MCS now owns three spare buses. One was planned. A bus designed for disabled passengers is no longer needed for that purpose, and now one run has been eliminated. Smith said the bus that can accommodate disabled students will be used sparingly to keep it in good condition because a replacement, if one is ever needed, may be very expensive. She said mechanically all of the 
buses are in great shape, but a hole as small as a quarter inch is enough for the State Department of Transpiration to order it out of service. 
 She said she is hoping an additional layer of undercoating will keep the road salt from eating away at the buses. 
 She said the buses on the Fleischmanns routes will remain packed.