BAR HARBOR — There could be advantages to teachers, principals, custodians and other school workers being employed by the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) instead of by their individual schools, say members of the MDIRSS board.
The committee established earlier this year to make recommendations about the school system’s organizational structure presented a preliminary report to the school board last week. The committee of seven board members identified a number of strengths and weaknesses of the current structure and offered some preliminary ideas for improvement.
“We all agree that it would be in the best interest of our communities and the children and families … to increase the central authority of the (school system) and to decrease redundancy,” the committee said in its report.
“In particular, it seems likely that educational services can be improved and waste reduced if we are able to centralize hiring and staffing, centralize insurance, centralize transportation, continue to move toward a consistent centralized curriculum [and] centralize special education.”
The school board voted to ask the committee to continue exploring various change options, but with a special focus on the idea of having all school personnel employed by the MDIRSS.
“One of the reasons they are interested in this is insurance,” said Superintendent Howard Colter. “The way it works now, the cost [of insurance] is based on the number of employees in each school, so there can be a huge difference in rate increases. If there was one employer, then there would be a larger pool, and your experience rating wouldn’t jump so much.
“I think part of the enthusiasm for this idea [of centralized staffing] isn’t so much about dissatisfaction with the way people are hired now, but the insurance part of it,” Colter said.
He said there would be many details to be worked out before finalizing any centralized staffing proposal.
“For example, would it mean that someone who is teaching in one school could be assigned to another school? Could you move principals between schools?”
Even if the school board decides that centralized hiring is a good idea, Colter said, “It would involve going to each town and explaining it to the voters and asking for their support for having their school employees becoming employees of the (MDIRSS).
“That can’t be done overnight. It couldn’t be done for this next year.”
The MDIRSS encompasses eight towns: Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Trenton, Cranberry Isles, Frenchboro and Swans Island.