Recently, the Lake Placid News ran an article reporting that two small districts in upstate New York – Lake Placid and Saranac Lake – were going to explore options for funding a consolidation study. A discussion at a joint meeting of the two schools boards teased out the idea that a third district – Tupper Lake – might also benefit from participation in the study. The article hinted that student transportation, business operations and curriculum, were all areas that could benefit from a combined administration. The consolidation of two small, local school districts would have been improbable just a few years ago; now it seems to be a foregone conclusion.

The Lake Placid News article is not headline news. It is simply the latest in a large stack of articles gathered from publications across the United States and Canada. These articles reflect the current reality of school boards having to respond to demands by their constituents to run their “businesses” more efficiently. Tax payers don’t want fewer educational opportunities for our children, they just don’t want to spend so much money to make it happen.

When this happens in the private sector, investors point to financial metrics like earnings per share or revenue dollars per employee. Calculating and then publishing these numbers allows companies to compare their performance to that of their competitors. But how is efficiency measured in a school district? The Council of the Great City Schools has attempted to answer this question with their “Managing for Results in America’s Great City Schools” project. This initiative provides over 300 key performance indicators (KPIs) which districts can use to measure their performance and gauge their “efficiency” through comparison of their performance to that of their peers.

Once a district can measure their performance through KPIs, they must then find ways to actually operate more efficiently. For example, they must figure out which schools can be closed while preserving as many educational programs as possible. They must figure out which bus routes can be cut while keeping ride times within state guidelines. And, they must figure out how to find these savings with fewer staff resources at their disposal.

How do they do this? Look for my next blog on Solutions for the Consolidating District to learn more.

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