THE experiment appears to have been a success.
A year ago, Reynolds School Board hired Raymond Omer as superintendent. But the Reynolds offer came with a twist — it didn’t require him to give up his position as West Middlesex Area School District superintendent, a role he had filled since 2018.
For the next year, Omer pulled double duty running the day-to-day operations in both districts.
School boards in both districts appear to be satisfied with his work — they approved a contract that will keep Omer as superintendent of both districts through the 2027-28 school year.
Under the contract, Omer will earn $180,755.98 next year, split equally by the two districts. The division comes to less than $91,000 for the 2023-24 school year.
The average superintendent salary in Pennsylvania was $153,812 in the 2020-21 school year, according to a study by the Pennsylvania Clearinghouse for Educational Research’s most recent report on superintendent pay, but the price tag certainly hasn’t gone down in the two years since.
That means Reynolds and West Middlesex are saving more than $60,000 — each — in the first year. And that might be just the proverbial tip of the proverbial iceberg. That 60 grand doesn’t include Omer’s benefit package, also split between the two districts.
West Middlesex School Board President Andrew Erb told The Herald’s David Dye that Omer’s five-year contract would save both districts $1 million over the course of the pact.
Omer’s contract with Reynolds and West Middlesex — and a similar arrangement involving Dr. Terence Meehan, superintendent for Wilmington and Neshannock school districts — are setting a template for education throughout Pennsylvania.
In Dye’s article, published Monday, officials from both districts cautioned that Omer’s contract is an agreement to share services — the two districts also share special education director Scott McCaskey, which will save almost $40,000 in salary — and not a prelude to a merger, which would be difficult because Reynolds and West Middlesex do not border one another.
The warning is necessary because Pennsylvania school districts have not been receptive to mergers.
Since a wave of school consolidations 60 years ago, there has been only one school district — Central Valley, formerly Monaca and Center Township school districts in Beaver County — born of a merger, even as western Pennsylvania’s population has diminished with the decline of its industrial base.
The old adage about school mascots being the most difficult animals to kill seems appropriate here.
And especially in an election year, it’s worth noting that Omer’s job is twice as difficult in one respect — he has to satisfy not one, but two, school boards likely to change personnel during the course of his agreement.
But sharing services is a way to eliminate expensive redundancies. And having two school districts with a single administration offers opportunities for complementary services by, for example, having a single set of special education programs for both districts.
The early results of Omer’s experiment are promising. Other school districts would do well to emulate it.
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