Editorial: Rooting for Mundelein's bold plan to share superintendent
Decades ago, schools in Mundelein investigated consolidating, and they have revisited the idea several times since then.
But the concept always has been stalled by concerns about loss of control, uncertainty regarding savings and the difficulties imposed by a patchwork of four public elementary school districts that contribute students to Mundelein High School District 120.
Now, District 120 and Mundelein Elementary District 75 have come up with a creative way to test the concept, at least in part. One of the most visible steps is shared leadership. High school Superintendent Kevin Myers will also oversee District 75 after next year, when District 75 Superintendent Andy Henrikson plans to retire.
Proponents see several benefits and point out the districts have been moving closer together for years. They share some technology staff and instead of District 120 adding athletic fields, the high schoolers have been using some owned by District 75.
Now, both school districts say, they'll be able to better coordinate elementary and high school education and steer more money toward classrooms.
We've always been a proponent of governments sharing staff and services, and in other school districts such arrangements seem to be working fine. Libertyville District 70 and Oak Grove District 68 in Green Oaks share a business manager and other staff. District 70 and Gavin Elementary District 37 share a teacher for hearing-impaired students. And there are other examples across the suburbs.
Sharing a superintendent is a bit more of a leap. Myers praised the two boards of education as "visionary" for backing the move, which grew out of a committee of board members, teachers, parents, and community members from each district.
We'll go along with visionary. It's a bold move, and we're rooting for it to succeed. A detailed to-do list for the coming school year will help leaders of the two school districts set the stage for the change.
We hope it opens the door for broader cooperation between the two districts, and also with Diamond Lake Elementary District 76, Fremont Elementary District 79 and Hawthorn Elementary District 73, which also send all or some of their students to Mundelein High School.
Full-on school consolidation brings with it many considerations -- possible economies of scale vs. possible costs for staff salary equalization and student transportation, plus the effect on tax rates and even local identity. A recent Better Government Association analysis found school consolidation might benefit some areas, but not all. In any case, it requires a referendum and can take years.
Yet, doing nothing isn't a good option in an era of uncertain funding. We congratulate the two Mundelein school districts for proceeding in a way that will have measurable results and perhaps will set an example for others in the suburbs and across the state.