September 30, 2014

When two become one

AE and AGS discuss consolidation

Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted
ARENAC COUNTY — The current AuGres-Sims School District (AGS) K-12 building has been welcoming AuGres area students since 1948. Arenac-Eastern School District’s (AE) K-12 building was built somewhere around 1946 – a combined 122 years of history. But after an Oct. 13 AGS Board of Education meeting, the prospect of the two districts consolidating is growing. AGS Superintendent Ga-ry Marchel says since he plans on retiring on June 30, 2009, the board was originally planning on contacting AE regarding a dual superintendency. But a comment from a citizen in attendance lead to a discussion about the possibility of a closer partnership. According to Marchel, said citizen asked “Why don’t we just consolidate the districts?” From there, he says the board had a serious discussion regarding the issue. Next, Marchel says he contacted AE Superin-tendent Rocky Aldrich about the possibility of combining the districts. Aldrich passed the word along to the AE Board of Education. “I contacted my board last week and let them know AuGres was interested in meeting with our board and doing this,” Aldrich said, adding the talks of consolidation are really nothing new. “These talks have been going on [since] before I got here four years ago.” However, four years ago, the districts weren’t as financially strapped as now. Also, AGS wasn’t short of a Spanish teacher, principal and art teacher. AE is also missing an administrator that took a position at a different district this year. The schools combined to lose 63 students this year, as well. With the shortage of administrators and Marchel’s looming retirement date, both superintendents say the time is ideal for talks of consolidation and shared services. Shared services had been used until recently, as Aldrich says the districts were sharing a business manager. Mike Dewey, Superintendent of the Bay-Arenac Intermediate Schools District, which partners with both AE and AGS, says the consolidation could have some benefits. “There could be some major cost-savings,” he said, adding these could come from sharing facilities and saving on utility-costs in the shared facilities, teachers and buses. “You could probably offer more variety of curriculum, especially at the high school level,” Marchel added, referencing the aforementioned absence of Spanish and art classes offered at AGS. According to Dewey, though, consolidation does have its criticisms. “When you start a new district, it’s just that, a new district. … It’s a new school district from ground zero,” he said. “All the employees would be laid off in the new district.” Dewey added the district would need to create a new board, find a new name and rehire new teachers and staff out of a pool of existing staff and new applicants.

See the whole story in the Oct. 22 edition of "The Arenac County Independent.

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