In a move designed to save money by consolidating resources, District 75 and District 120 now share a superintendent and select services. The goal of this partnership is to provide greater communication and continuity from Pre-K through high school within the communities that the districts serve.
“We are operating now as one community, so you don’t have this feeling of separation,” said Shane McCreery, director of human resources for District 75 and District 120.
The process began with discussions between the previous superintendent of District 75, Dr. Andy Henrikson, and the current superintendent of District 120, and now 75, Dr. Kevin Myers when Dr. Henrikson started to consider retirement. Dr. Henrikson had also worked as a superintendent in Lake Forest where the shared services model was implemented.
“What we really started to focus on was how all the students that attend District 75 have potential to come into District 120…. What we thought could happen [with shared services] is more alignment between those two districts; you could reallocate resources then,…[and with shared services,] there remains some continuity between both districts,” Dr. Myers said.
A shared superintendent means that Dr. Myers will oversee both educational districts, which includes meeting with two different school boards. It also means he will be more removed from the students at MHS and the high school building, where he has been the superintendent for four years, as he gets to know the workings of District 75 better.
“When you start getting on any team, or getting to know new people, you’re developing those relationships, so that emphasis right now is really getting to know people and understanding their culture and habits,” Dr. Myers said.
Changing from two separate superintendents to one also means reducing the cost to the community. This money can either be amounts saved or can be redirected into the schools and classrooms.
“When we looked at both districts for this upcoming year, District 75 will save just under $150,000 and District 120 will have a reduced cost or savings of roughly $170,000, so between the two districts, you’re looking at $320,000 in decreased costs,” Dr. Myers said.
Besides saving money through a shared superintendent, the districts will also save money through the shared services.
“For example, the salt that maintenance uses during the winter, well, 75 and 120 now buy that in bulk and share it,” McCreery said. “When it comes to skilled positions, 120 has some staff that are licensed plumbers, and if there’s a leaky pipe over at 75…they can just ask one of our staff to run over there. We do the same thing with technology: our technology people are shared.”
Costs will also be saved not by cutting jobs, which is a key difference between shared services and district consolidation, but by expanding existing positions as people retire.
“The whole goal of the shared services was to consolidate positions as they became available…. No one is getting fired or losing their job, but as there’s attrition or retirements, you’re going to see those roles merge,” McCreery said.
In addition to savings, another benefit of shared services is more alignment and consistency between middle school and high school curricula.
One example of the need to streamline information comes from the lack of continuity some high school teachers have noticed in students coming from eighth grade.
“Both in English and in math, there’s been articulation groups meeting for the last year where they’re asking for a common experience for eighth graders so that the ninth grade teachers know where kids are at with those common experiences and can work from that,” Dr. Anthony Kroll, principal, said.
Dr. Myers stated that while current high school students will not see any noticeable effect, students in the elementary and middle schools eventually will be able to have the same ID from kindergarten through high school while the parents will have similar processes for registration.
“The process for our parents, so whether it’s registration, coming in for curriculum nights, those will all be more streamlined, so a parent would then see the consistency from the time their child entered [the schooling system],” Dr. Myers said.
Another foreseen benefit will be the ability for different clubs at MHS to collaborate with clubs at middle schools, thereby increasing the connectivity of high school students with middle school students.
“What I hope is there’s a bigger partnership taking place, so…different clubs, activities, and programs [will] be able to partner up, like with reading, like having some of our juniors and seniors go down and mentor and read with other students more frequently,” Dr. Myers said. “[There are also] service hour opportunities for National Honor Society…. Our kids can do [service] opportunities [at middle schools], probably with greater frequency.”
With the two districts combining, teachers will also be able to gain new perspectives by learning from others in the other district.
McCreery said, “When we’re talking about staff training and doing equity training, now 75 and 120 can do that together, so it exposes the staff at 75 to some training opportunities that they may not have had otherwise or vice versa.”