News and Tribune

January 25, 2013

Greater Clark County Schools mulls outsourcing, school closures

Board of Trustees struck down both measures with last administration

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Studying the costs and benefits of school closures and outsourcing various services have been outlined as bullet points by Greater Clark County Schools’ strategic planning committee.

Both measures were explored by the district’s previous administration under former Superintendent Stephen Daeschner, but the discussions were ultimately ended or overturned by the school board.

Superintendent Andrew Melin said the finance subcommittee listed the examination of the financial impact of outsourcing as something the district needs to perform.

However, he said a study isn’t the same as execution.

“This is not to say that we are planning to outsource,” Melin said. “This is the fact that we need to at least look at whether there are any financial benefits to do that. Obviously, you need to be sensitive to your staff in that regard and there are a lot of different models out there in regard to outsourcing.”

New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools Corp. voted to outsource its custodial services with Sodexo in October 2011. In November 2012, Sodexo told the district it lost twice the amount of money it expected in the first year of the contract. The district extended the contract until May 2013 and paid an extra $150,000, but it’s planning to find another service provider.

Greater Clark’s last discussion on outsourcing ended abruptly after former Chief Financial Officer Thomas Galovic was directed to find vendors.

After the board voted to seek requests for vendors in June, 2011, board members Kevin Satterly and Jerry White interrupted Galovic’s presentation at a meeting five months later to present a budget reduction plan that did not include employee outsourcing. The board voted to end the discussion on outsourcing that night.

Melin also said the committee listed potential school closures as a cost-cutting option the district needs to consider. He said capacity studies of the schools can reveal which buildings have the smallest enrollment along with other inefficiencies — and see if consolidation of schools or closure needs to occur.

“Again, not to say that we are looking to shut down schools,” Melin said. “But we need to be studying what are the pros and cons of that moving forward.”

Daeschner’s administration also examined school closures. His plan outlined the closure of Maple Elementary School in Jeffersonville and transferring its students and some of its staff to Spring Hill Elementary School. After scores of parents, teachers, students and community members came out in opposition of the plan, the board voted unanimously to keep the school open at a meeting in November 2011.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Melin said he’s not sure how the board will take those studies, but the strategic planning committee wanted the board to have a chance to see what it views as important.

“I don’t know where the board will ultimately stand on this,” Melin said. “The strategic plan is developed by a committee that involves a large constituency of our stakeholders. The finance steps identified by the committee were not made by the board, but the members on that committee. 

“Once the plan is finalized, the board will review it and have an opportunity to weigh in on any part of our plan.”

The Strategic Planning Committee is made up of more than 90 people, including community members and education professionals. 

Melin said some of the other suggestions in the plan include finding ways to attract and retain students in the district.

 

SAFETY

Travis Haire, assistant superintendent, at the Tuesday night meeting presented safety plans and an overview of what the administration has already done in schools to the board.

He reviewed the intruder drills performed at all of the district’s schools. He said administrators met with local police and fire officials to discuss findings from those drills, but said public safety officers were largely very happy with the results of those exercises.

He said the district is working with law enforcement to investigate the possibility of giving police the ability to access school camera systems, which he said he thinks could be accomplished easily.

Tony Hall, board member, said he likes the initiatives he’s seeing with the schools, but wants to see more police presence inside the buildings.

“I really appreciate what Travis has done and what you’re looking at,” Hall said. “No matter what you do with all these scenarios and with all the cameras, to me, it goes back to how you stop a bad guy with a bullet is with a good guy with a bullet.”

Melin said the district is working with police in local municipalities within the district to see about getting more officers in the schools. He said some schools don’t have officers in them five days a week, but the district also needs to examine funding considerations to get officers.

Greg Zoeller, state attorney general, issued a release earlier this month supporting legislation to provide grant funding for school-resource officers to districts that need them. But Melin said if that funding isn’t recurring, the board needs to consider whether they can afford to keep those officers on the payroll.

“We don’t want to commit to hiring people and then from year to year, be sort of held hostage in that way,” Melin said. “[Charlestown] mayor [Bob Hall] and I talked about this fact that if we went 50/50, if we could make that happen.”

 

MONEY MATTERS

The board also heard a presentation from Chief Financial Officer Thomas Dykiel about the district budget’s state.

Dykiel said property tax caps hit the district by about $800,000 less than expected, but still cost the district about $1.8 million. However, an ending cash balance in the general fund of about $1.45 million and $1.6 million in the rainy-day fund are positive notes to close out 2012.

However, he said the next state enrollment count in February could hurt the district if they’ve lost students or had students graduate before the end of the school year. He said he’s also unsure of whether special-education students — who get more per capita funding in districts — will be counted.