NORTHWOOD | A state official has told members of the St. Ansgar and Northwood-Kensett school boards their prospects are good for a successful superintendent sharing arrangement.
Roark Horn, executive director of School Administrators of Iowa, led a discussion on a possible sharing agreement during a joint between of the two school boards on March 25 in Northwood.
"The reason I have such hope for this is because of the individual we are talking about," he said, referring to Michael Crozier, the full-time superintendent for Northwood-Kensett.
Jody Gray, the current full-time superintendent at St. Ansgar, is planning to retire at the end of the current fiscal year.
The school districts are considering having Crozier split his time between the St. Ansgar and Northwood-Kensett districts after Gray retires, an arrangement that would save both schools money.
Horn said superintendent sharing agreements sometimes don't work out, but "it can be a positive thing, with the caveat that it is set up well."
A shared superintendent needs to be fair and trustworthy, according to Horn.
The individual also must be good with finances, possess time management skills and be an advocate for students, he added.
"I've known Mike for many years, and he checks all those boxes," Horn said.
Both school districts have excellent principals who will be able to handle picking up additional duties that a superintendent normally would do, according to Horn.
St. Ansgar had a short-lived superintendent sharing agreement nearly a decade ago with Riceville.
Tom Hamrick, who had been the full-time superintendent at Riceville, was the shared superintendent for St. Ansgar and Riceville from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.
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After Hamrick announced in May 2011 that he would be resigning to move to Madison, Wis., where his wife had just received a new position, the St. Ansgar School Board decided to drop the superintendent sharing agreement with Riceville.
"In the end it (the sharing agreement) was detrimental to our district," said St. Ansgar School Board member Tara Bork.
Horn said that was a situation where a smaller district was looking to a larger district -- St. Ansgar -- for help, which can be an issue.
However, the St. Ansgar and Northwood-Kensett districts are more equal when it comes to size, Horn said.
The current enrollment at Northwood-Kensett is 511 students. St. Ansgar's enrollment is 577.
Bork said if the districts decide to share a superintendent, they must make sure everyone understands what their role is ahead of time.
Horn agreed, noting the districts would have to make sure the other administrators are not overworked.
Steve Groth, president of the St. Ansgar School Board, said when he was looking at surrounding school districts a possible superintendent sharing partner, "Northwood stood out" because it is in good financial shape.
He also said St. Ansgar is already sharing a few other positions with Northwood-Kensett, and those arrangements "are going in the right direction."
Groth said he hopes doing even more sharing "makes our district stronger and gives more options to kids."
Horn said when talking to the public about sharing, school officials need to make it clear they are talking about staff rather than students so parents of kindergarten children in the eastern part of the St. Ansgar district won't worry about them having to ride the bus to Northwood.
Deb Athey, business manager for Northwood-Kensett, said the district has been able to hire a few additional half-time teachers with the money saved from the staff sharing it already does.
Crozier said that makes a big difference in a time of "low to non-existent supplemental state aid."