ELKINS – Tucker County Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Eddie Campbell, and members of the Tucker County Board of Education met with neighboring boards Wednesday evening in Elkins to explore options in sharing services regionally. Yearly meetings are required by House Bill 2940.
House bill 2940, signed into law in 2013, requires school boards and superintendents have yearly meetings to explore possibilities local school districts might employ to better work together in sharing necessary functions and resources resulting in greater efficiency, less duplication and potential cost savings for each participating school board.
Campbell said no decisions were made during the gathering, but said the meeting is an exercise in developing dialog with one another and exploring options while learning the positives and negatives of each option.
“We met in Elkins with board members and superintendents from Randolph, Barbour, Upshur and Preston counties,” Campbell said. “We formed work groups to discuss a list of questions, and worked to identify the advantages and disadvantages of sharing administrative services and purchases. We also worked to pinpoint who should be responsible for making the decisions to share services – if should that be a RESA decision, or if that should be left for negotiations between county administrations.”
Campbell said the groups talked about what incentives the state should offer for those who decide to collaborate on purchases and personnel.
“We explored what the state could do to help in the facilitation of personnel sharing,” Campbell said. “We also discussed who would be the best entity to determine the effectiveness of the sharing of personnel and purchasing.”
Howard O’Cull, executive director of the West Virginia State Board Association and Jim Crawford, president of the West Virginia State Board Association, facilitated the regional meeting. Campbell said O’Cull gave a legislative history of the county boards of education.
“We learned that in West Virginia in 2013-2014, there was one teacher for every 14.3 pupils and one administrator for every 163 students,” Campbell said. “In the state, there are approximately 38,500 employees in the public education field. 19,500 are teachers and approximately 14,000 are service personnel. That means there are approximately 5,000 administrators.”
Campbell said the Tucker County School system is not “top heavy,” meaning the county does not have lots of top administrative staff.
“Our folks, like Jonathan Hicks, perform three different jobs,” Campbell said. “Other counties might have three people to fill those positions, but our administrative personnel tend to wears many hats. To share services with other counties for these services would not benefit our county because we already pay folks to perform those duties.”
Campbell said some of the disadvantages of sharing positions or purchases include the geography of the area and the different policies and procedures each county has adopted.
“We, as different counties, would have to realign some of our policies to be more consistent if we shared personnel,” Campbell said.
Campbell said a final report will be compiled and presented to the West Virginia State Board of Education related to the discussion held Wednesday. Campbell was appointed to the committee to help prepare that report.
“Overall, I think this was a good session,” Campbell said. “I truly think there is a need for regional county boards to gather and share their concerns and issues. Sharing gives folks a different perspective and a different lens to look through to solve issues. As superintendents, we have the opportunity to gather at regional meetings and share our concerns and solutions. These meetings allow our boards to meet and discuss issues – that is something they do not get to do often.”