ERIC Identifier: ED259874
Publication Date: 1983-00-00
Author: Hanuske, Sarah
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural
Education and Small Schools Las Cruces NM.
Shared Services for Rural and Small Schools.
Shared services means that individual school districts reach out beyond
themselves to maintain or enhance their educational position. The resulting
provision of services may be known by a variety of names: cooperatives, leagues,
consortiums, collaboratives, or pairings. The aim of sharing services is to
provide pooled resources without overemphasizing regulatory functions.
WHY ARE SCHOOL DISTRICTS EXPLORING THE SHARED SERVICE CONCEPT?
School revenues based on enrollments are not adequate as school populations
decline and costs rise because of inflation. To improve educational
opportunities, meet federal mandates, and keep schools open, small districts
have had to seek alternatives. Through shared services, a comprehensive
educational program can be offered even though the school is not comprehensive.
Sharing allows small communities to keep their schools and, in the case of high
schools, their identity and vitality.
WHICH SHARING STRATEGIES HAVE BEEN EXPLORED?
Most contact in the past between rural and small schools has been through
athletic competition. Now these schools are promoting academic cooperation.
Teachers have taken itinerant positions, students have been bused to single
locations, equipment and texts have been rotated, and two-way telecommunication
has brought together teachers and students of different districts.
In exploring ways for two rural school districts to share services, 84
strategies were listed on a survey, including the following:
--Instructional materials --Equipment --Teachers --Administrators --Support
personnel --Curriculum development --Courses --Staff development --Inservicing
--Purchasing --Counseling services --Community services --Board development
--Planning --Instructional television --Transportation --Media centers
--Community colleges --Vocational education centers --Special education
--Testing --Financial management --Federal programs --Athletics
Sharing ventures may be for limited purposes, such as sharing a physics
teacher or having a joint drama production, or for more permanent programs such
as a regional vocational education center. They also can encompass large program
areas that provide a variety of services and programs.
HOW DO SCHOOL DISTRICTS INITIATE A SHARING RELATIONSHIP?
The following guidelines are suggested for increasing the probability of
--Joint planning, development, and evaluation
--Clearly written agreements
--Voluntary participation. Partners are always able to withdraw with enough
--Equitable cost sharing. Each partner might contribute an amount based on
total district enrollment or dollars per student enrolled in the program, swap
teacher services or use of facilities
--A designated individual responsible for managing the program and
coordinating the planning
--Willingness to take chances
--Promotion of programs within participating schools
It is important to focus on the future of the school district in the planning
stages. Enrollment and revenue projections and the costs and benefits of the
alternates should be presented at public hearings for community members. In
addition, the educational program and the social and economic impact the school
district has on the community should be reviewed. It is important to have
community support of the respective district boards.
WHAT MECHANISMS ARE USED TO MAINTAIN SHARED SERVICES'
Where pairing occurs, the two school boards usually act as the governing
board. If more school districts are involved, a representative board member from
each participating school district may be elected or appointed to the governing
As the cooperative relationship becomes more formal and provides a variety of
services, the board of directors may be elected from a broader community base.
Advisory committees also may exist. It is important to involve local board and
community members, teachers, and administrators regularly to develop
The coordinator must possess good leadership skills. Along with any
administrative staff, this person must implement what each small district by
itself cannot offer and thus avoid the bitterness of forced reorganization.
Evaluation of programs and procedures should be built into the organization's
Over 30 states now provide some kind of sharing arrangements. One benefit of
a regional organization is that it eliminates the need for a district to seek a
partner each time a specific need for sharing occurs.
ARE THERE SHARING VENTURES WHICH CAN BE CONDUCTED OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL SYSTEMS?
High school course offerings can be expanded by using community colleges,
universities, correspondence study, and televised college courses.
Community colleges can provide vocational education or advanced courses for
which no qualified high school faculty are available or in which few students
Correspondence and televised college courses can be monitored by teachers as
independent student study projects.
Community agencies and businesses can be explored for possible educational
WHAT ARE SOME PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH SHARED SERVICES?
Some specific problems occur at different levels of a cooperative
At the regional educational agency level, finances may be a problem.
Partially funded by state and district user fees, the Regional Education Agency
(REA) may have to search for alternate funding sources. Distances which staff
must travel to remote schools to deliver services may be a contributing factor
to attracting and keeping staff. As cooperating agencies provide more and more
direct services, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) may feel undermined.
Other problems to overcome are differences among school districts caused by:
--School calendars --Scheduling --Length of periods --Course accountability
--Transportation --Mistrust --Teacher contracts --Teacher benefits and salaries
--Teacher travel time during instructional day --Local pride --Traditional
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF SHARED VENTURES?
Program offerings in small schools can be maintained and often expanded in
the areas of vocational education, foreign languages, fine arts, mathematics,
At the faculty level a balanced staff can be maintained. Academic expertise
and support can increase between districts. Organizational services at the
management level can be shared, and federal mandates more easily met. Procedures
can be improved as the result of sharing policy development among school
Transportation facilities can be shared. Expenditures can be decreased
through joint purchasing and sharing of text books, supplies, equipment and
Community cooperation and support increases with the development of common
policies, calendars, and schedules. Local communities support cooperative
involvement because students are the focus of the endeavor.
SUCCESSFUL EXAMPLES OF SHARED SERVICES
Vocational education in a van provides 9-week courses by traveling to several
rural South Dakota districts.
Seven districts in Connecticut have a shared-services arrangement which
includes the superintendent, director of instruction, federal programs, special
education directors, and a legal agent.
Funds from the Appalachian Regional Development Act provide eight school
systems with health programs, screening of second and seventh graders, school
campus safety inspections, and CPR training for students and teachers.
In California, a small school district which could no longer afford
maintenance costs contracted with the neighboring school district for
Eight districts in central Alaska with Athabascan Indian student populations
formed a consortium which applied for funds to develop an Athabascan social
A community college in Iowa offers one-half day courses in office practice,
health aide, engines construction, and vocational agriculture to high school
students from a 9-school cooperative. Monthly meetings are held by the covering
body of superintendents and personnel from the college.
Pairing between two rural school districts in Minnesota has one school
district instructing grades K-3 and 7-9 while the other has grades 4-6 and
10-12. Some teachers travel between schools and all activities are paired.
Decisions are made at joint school board meetings: however, the school districts
have remained separate governmental units.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bussard, E. PLANNING FOR DECLINING ENROLLMENT IN SINGLE HIGH SCHOOL
DISTRICTS. New York: Educational Facilities Labs, 1981. ED 204 100.
EDUCATION...THE NAME OF THE GAME IS...COOPERATION AREA-WIDE PLAN for
1979-1983. Marshall, MN: Southwest and West Central Education Cooperative
Service Unit, 1979. ED 186 192.
Hanson, J. T. DEVELOPMENT OF RURAL COOPERATIVES. Manhattan, KS: Rural Small
School Educational Conference, 1980. ED 198 981.
Lawrence, T. REGIONAL EDUCATION SERVICE CENTERS IN TEXAS. R and D Speaks
Conference, 1980. ED 195 384.
Lewis, A. C., and others. CREATIVE IDEAS FOR SMALL SCHOOLS. Arlington, VA:
American Association of School Administrators, 1981. ED 197 903.
Olsen, S. A. AN EXPLORATION OF INTER-DISTRICT SHARING ALTERNATIVES FOR BELLE
PLAIN AND HLV. Cedar Rapids, IA: Grant Wood Area Educational Agency, 1980. ED
Sloan, C. A., and R. S. Nolin. THE SURVIVAL OF SMALL AND RURAL SCHOOLS:
CONCEPTS AND PRACTICES. 1980. ED 194 246.
Stymanski, R. TREMPEALEAU COUNTY KELLOGG PROJECT: FINAL PROJECT SUMMARY. La
Crosse, WI: West Central Wisconsin Consortium, 1981. ED 218 033.