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posted: 9/11/2012 10:59 AM

Two Lake County school districts realize savings through sharing

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  • Mytzy Rodriguez-Kufner is the bilingual coordinator for Mundelein District 75 and Fremont District 79.

    Mytzy Rodriguez-Kufner is the bilingual coordinator for Mundelein District 75 and Fremont District 79.
    Courtesy of Fremont School District 79


Depending on the day and the tasks at hand, Mytzy Rodriguez-Kufner could be helping teachers in Mundelein District 75 or Fremont District 79 -- or both.

A new arrival for both elementary districts, the bilingual coordinator represents a continuing and expanding partnership to maximize resources by sharing services and expertise.

"She coaches teachers," said District 75 Superintendent Cynthia Heidorn. "She just coordinates her schedule and lets us know where she is."

The two districts had a similar arrangement last year, with Debbie Petric spending one day a week helping Fremont launch its bilingual program. Petric retired after the 2011-12 school year and Rodriguez-Kufner, who most recently worked at Round Lake Area Unit District 116, was hired.

"We've had a strong bilingual program for 12 years now. They were growing their program," Heidorn said. "It made sense when our director retired to hire one together."

Besides working with teachers, Rodriguez-Kufner prepares state and federal grants and collects data regarding language learning and skills among other duties.

Last year, Fremont paid 20 percent of the bilingual coordinator salary but is funding 50 percent this year.

"As the student population shifts, those needs change. We've expanded her role here," said Fremont 79 Superintendent Jill Gildea.

The districts began working in tandem last year by approving general guidelines for sharing resources to operate more efficiently.

"We started out slow and have been building positions as conditions warrant," said Wells Frice, District 75 school board president.

The two also share a bookkeeper and recently began sharing costs for busing students with special needs. Diamond Lake District 76 and Mundelein High School District 120 also share the cost of that service, which is provided by Fremont.

Heidorn estimated her district, which two years ago closed Lincoln School after the 2010-11 school year because of declining enrollment, will save about $140,000 through the three shared services. Fremont will save a similar amount.

Sharing services is becoming more common as districts try to be more efficient. Kurt Valentin is the assistant superintendent of finance and operations for Libertyville District 70 and business manager in Oak Grove District 68, for example, while Scott Blumberg is the director of business services for both districts.

Under a new state directive, the public will find it easier to gauge the efficiencies. Districts must report what they've done in the previous fiscal year to improve efficiency through shared services or outsourcing.

The standardized report is to be about a page long and span dozens of areas including but not limited to insurance, transportation, or supplies, for example. It also is supposed to include a list of potential shared efficiencies for the next fiscal year and any "anticipated barriers" to implementation.

Due by Oct. 15, the reports must be approved by school boards and posted on district websites. They also will be available on the state board of education's website. And, based on data supplied by school districts, regional superintendents of schools are required each year to publish a summary report of the efficiencies.

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