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updated: 6/28/2011 6:39 PM

School districts share employees

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Neighboring elementary school districts in Lake County will share more than a ZIP code as part of a type of agreement expected to become more prevalent in public education.

School boards for Libertyville District 70 and Oak Grove District 68 in Green Oaks on Monday formalized a pact to share three employees for finances and buildings and grounds.

The three-year agreement, which begins immediately, calls for District 68 to pay $130,000 each year for work by two business services employees and a building and grounds director. All are employees of District 70.

Oak Grove initiated the discussion several weeks ago after its business manager and assistant business manager resigned for positions elsewhere within days of each other.

The move is expected to save Oak Grove about $50,000 a year in annual salaries.

"It's a smart way to do business," said Tony Pirih, who chairs the District 68 board's finance committee. "It's starting to take hold in the public sector."

Kurt Valentin, assistant superintendent for finance in District 70, will manage overall finances for both districts. Scott Blumberg will handle payroll for both. A new person would be hired to the buildings and grounds position, which has been overseen for several years by Valentin.

The shared service agreement outlines two dozen responsibilities. Valentin becomes treasurer at District 68 and is responsible for an array of business operations, including the budget and long-range financial plan. His home base remains in Libertyville, but he will attend District 68 board and finance committee meetings and work at the school as needed. Blumberg will work at Oak Grove.

"The first priority is to get the payroll out," said District 68 Superintendent Janice Matthews.

Valentin will be the point man for ongoing contract talks with the teachers union at Oak Grove, as the four-year contract is about to expire.

He and Blumberg already have spent considerable time at Oak Grove getting a grasp of the system.

"It's quite different," Valentin said. "There's going to be some growing pains but I'm not anticipating anything real dramatic."

Sharing is not new, as some Lake County school districts have cooperated in the past for transportation services or supply purchases, for example. But the scope is expected to increase, particularly in light of Gov. Pat Quinn's desire to cut the number of school districts.

"It's going to come, I have a feeling, but it will be awhile," said Roycealee Wood, regional superintendent of schools for Lake County. "I think that's what a lot of districts are thinking."

The agreement, modeled after that between Lake Forest District 115 and Lake Forest Elementary District 67, also calls for a special committee, comprised of the superintendents and two board members from each district, to review shared service plans and proposals.

"It's such an open-door way of progressing to more shared services," said District 70 board president Maryann Ovassapian. "This working together with District 68 -- it's a good move."