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Editorial: Superintendent sharing: pieces must fit tight

Sharing a superintendent between the Mohawk Trail Regional and Greenfield school districts is an idea worthy of consideration, even if in the past such a plan didn’t quite make sense.

Times change, and perhaps there is enough mutual benefit for the two school systems to have one top administrator that makes it the way to go.

But before there’s any kind of agreement, the pieces of this puzzle must fit snugly. Issues must be resolved so that neither Mohawk nor Greenfield feels this is an unequal relationship.

From a cost sharing standpoint, such an arrangement would seem to make sense. Having one individual handle the duties of the two school districts isn’t strictly a matter of school enrollment — there are superintendents overseeing much bigger districts around the state.

While the financial cost might not be split in half, both school districts could see some kind of savings.

After that, however, it gets more complicated.

First, there’s the realization that the two districts face different obstacles at this time. Mohawk, the more rural district of the two, has been seeing a declining enrollment these past couple of years. In contrast, Greenfield has seen its number of students on the increase.

While on the face of things this might not appear to be an issue, it becomes one because of School Choice. While it may be incorrect to say that Mohawk has recruited Greenfield students, the district has used School Choice to its advantage to help beef up enrollment, enough so that there’s a school bus run between the Mohawk high/middle school and Big Y Plaza in Greenfield.

While a shared superintendent wouldn’t necessarily change the thinking of families weighing the School Choice option, how does a joint administrator justify allowing School Choice, especially when it’s not just a loss of students but also a financial hit on the student’s home district budget?

The School Choice issue obviously is an issue that the two districts may not see eye-to-eye on.

But it isn’t necessarily the only place where there could be disagreements that would put pressure on the superintendent. Both school committees would have purely parochial expectations of what they want from this administrator, from the amount of face time to securing grants (another place where the two districts would compete).

All of these obstacles make it tougher to share a superintendent, but they don’t rule out such an arrangement.

It’s going to take intense discussion — both as individual boards and together — to see whether it can work. As long as they do that, and keep these talks transparent, the right decision should emerge.

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