School reps discuss sharing of resources

VIENNA – Representatives of several area school boards gathered Saturday in Vienna to discuss the possibility of sharing some services or programs in the future.

Howard O’Cull, executive director of the West Virginia School Board Association, said Saturday’s meeting at the Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna was the fifth of eight scheduled meetings taking place this summer throughout West Virginia.

The next meeting will be Thursday in Wheeling. Saturday’s meeting included school board members and administrators from Wood, Wirt, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Calhoun and Tyler counties.

“(Saturday’s) meeting reflected the concerns of this region in regard to sharing of services and administrative services. The region has some concerns that this process might lead to consolidation of school boards – that’s a concern that hadn’t come up in other regions, but they do have that concern – and that we’ll get away from some of the local autonomy we’ve had,” he said.

That type of consolidation is not something under consideration, O’Cull said. The meetings are being held to consider the feasibility and practicality of boards getting together to talk about the possibility of sharing services and programs that might create greater efficiency.

“It’s so that more moneys can go to the classroom and more kids can be instructed that way. It will also look at how moneys might be used and resources for student achievement,” he said.

One of the biggest ideas to come out of the meetings to date has been the idea of boards of sharing legal services among several counties in the same region, O’Cull said. Purchasing services in a cooperative effort among several counties is another idea that has been raised, he said.

“In fact, this region is doing some of those things already, including individual arrangements with counties and also through the Regional Education Service Agency (RESA). It re-affirms some of the things already being done and some new ideas came out as well,” O’Cull said.

O’Cull said the meetings are being done under a bill passed by the West Virginia Legislature calling for discussions among the state’s county about sharing services. In September, a report on the series of meetings will be prepared for the Legislature. O’Cull will also be returning to each region to share the results of the report with local officials by the end of the year.

Meetings similar to Saturday’s program are also scheduled during the next three years throughout the state.

“I think that after that time, we will have enough study and enough work to see if this is feasible,” O’Cull said.