Shared superintendent talks continue betwixt Morenci and Hudson 03.17.2010

Written by David Green.

 By DAVID GREEN

Efforts to create a shared superintendent role between the Morenci and Hudson school systems are moving forward, with approval of a plan possibly coming in April.

The boards of education from both schools met first in Hudson and then in Morenci Monday to present an update to the public and answer questions about the proposal.

The plan calls for Hudson superintendent Dr. Michael Osborne to split his time between the two districts. Details of the proposal continue to be studied by the committees representing the two districts.

The committees have the benefit of following a cooperative agreement already in place between the Reading and Jonesville districts, explained Morenci board president Scott Merillat.

The committees will rework that document to fit their needs before submitting the proposed contract to an attorney for review.

If the two boards come to a mutual agreement, approval of the contract could come at Morenci’s April 12 board meeting. Merillat said a starting date for the new arrangement has not yet been discussed.

By reducing administrative costs, both districts aim to direct more funds to the classroom and reduce expected layoffs due to the financial shortfall that Michigan schools are experiencing.

Districts of this size, Osborne said, need to consider alternatives to prevent consolidation.

“It would be wonderful if we can find cost savings and still have Bulldogs and Tigers and the rivalries that we now have,” he said.

The shared superintendent document refers to the two committees as a council, with three members from each district’s school board. The council’s powers are limited to the superintendent agreement.

The council would have the authority to negotiate any changes in the cooperative agreement and to resolve any disputes. The group would schedule regular quarterly meetings.

Merillat said one of the council’s duties is to create a calendar listing the events that the superintendent is expected to attend.

“It seems to be one of the issues that comes up the most when people ask about whether this is going to work,” Osborne said.

Osborne said he’s spoken with the Jonesville/Reading superintendent who is pleased with how the arrangement is working, both personally and professionally, and the boards from both schools are also pleased.

“I think that’s where the real key is, both boards understanding that the superintendent is divided between the two districts, but also for the superintendent understanding that it will require a little more effort to attend events.”

Some give and take will be needed, he said, with an understanding that he can’t be everywhere at once.

During the school day, Osborne expects to be based two days in each district and alternate between the two for the remaining day of the week. Special situations will alter that basic arrangement.

Trust will be needed that the superintendent will represent both districts fully and equally, Osborne said, with Morenci continuing to have strong representation and Hudson not losing  anything through the arrangement.

Morenci middle school principal Kay Johnson congratulated both boards for approaching the issue with an open mind.

The two boards have the opportunity to be leaders in defining what small, rural schools are going to look like, Osborne said.

Morenci elementary teacher Robin Borton expressed some concern about the lack of an opportunity to sit down with Osborne as might happen when a superintendent candidate is considered for employment.

Hudson board member Marsha Evenson described Osborne as an “awesome asset” to the Hudson district. She’s heard from teachers at all levels that he devotes considerable attention to their concerns.

Osborne said he would be pleased to meet with teachers, but he doesn’t want to act presumptuously when the agreement has not yet been made final.

Osborne said he started his educational career in a school in inner city Chicago and later returned to Toledo where he helped organize a Lutheran school. He served as both a teacher and administrator there. He was later employed at in St. John’s Lutheran school in Adrian before taking the administrative position as Hudson’s high school principal. That job later included the junior high principal role, also.

“People are people no matter where you go,” he said. “I’ve been cussed out in the private school and cussed out in the public school.”

Merillat said there has not been any discussion about salary or length of contract. Initially the council has spoken about a one-year agreement to see how the arrangement works.

Contractual issues will be discussed when the council meets in Morenci March 23.

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