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updated: 8/4/2011 4:53 AM

Mundelein area schools cut deal to share services

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Two Mundelein area elementary school districts are following the lead of neighbors to the east by entering into a cost-cutting pact to share services.

The school boards of Mundelein District 75 and Fremont District 79 have approved general guidelines for an agreement that will initially have Debbie Petric, the bilingual administrator for District 75, spend one day a week helping Fremont launch its bilingual program.

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It is just the first of several areas officials in both districts say they will explore for possible sharing. Special education and transportation are other areas for potential sharing.

"We'll have two board members and they will have two board members who will look at (the agreement) every year and say, `What are the possibilities?'" said District 75 Superintendent Cynthia Heidorn.

Under the deal, Petric will remain a District 75 employee with Fremont paying one-fifth of her salary and benefits, or about $21,500.

"It's really hard to find a bilingual administrator," said District 79 Superintendent Jill Gildea. "This benefits both districts. She will be able to mentor us."

Another possibility involves the use of four bus routes operated by Fremont that carry special education students. Specifics for that and the bilingual administrator arrangement still need formal approval by both boards.

The partnership is patterned after one recently enacted by Oak Grove District 68 and Libertyville District 70. Those districts are sharing three employees working in finance and buildings and grounds.

District 70 employees will manage overall finances and payroll for both districts, and a new person will be hired for the buildings and grounds position. District 68 will pay $130,000 a year for the services, representing a savings of about $50,000 in salaries each year of the three-year agreement.

The District 75 and Fremont agreement is for one year, as Petric will be retiring at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

"We thought this was great way to try this position first, kind of put our toe in the water of shared services," Gildea said.

Local districts in general are looking for similar opportunities in light of pending state directives. One of them, sponsored by state Sen. Susan Garrett of Lake Forest, will require districts each year to summarize in a report created by the Illinois State Board of Education how they are trying to improve efficiency through shared services or outsourcing.

Bidding and purchasing, office functions such as payroll or accounting, information technology, grant writing and administrative positions are among the services that can be shared or consolidated, according to Senate Bill 2134.

"Schools should do everything they can to be more efficient with taxpayers' dollars," Garrett said.

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