Allegany County, New York, has 12 school superintendents for 5856 students
Allegany County, Maryland, has 1 school superintendent for 8500 students
A column by Andrew Harris
The recent news of Dr. Derek Schuelin being abruptly placed on administrative leave was a bit of a bombshell to little Andover Central School District. Schuelin had only been on the job for a year and the action take by the school board indicates the reason was serious. He was reportedly given the Wall Street treatment: School officials gave the Dr. a few moments to collected his personal belongings under supervision and escorted him out of the building.
Andover school taxpayers took a big hit with that move. The cost of hiring, orienting, educating, and then terminating an school superintendent is hard to calculate but undeniably expensive. The average school superintendent in New York state makes $205,000 per year. The contracts are pretty generous and due to a scarcity of school superintendents, sweetened with great benefits, administrative leave/leave of absence back doors, confidentiality galore, and plenty of perks.
In Allegany County, New York is there a scarcity of school superintendents? Hardly.
Based on the available data*, Allegany County has a school superintendent for every 588 students across 12 districts. Those students also have a principal, usually a very highly-qualified teacher-turned-administrator.
In the Canaseraga Central School District, Superintendent Chad Groff has a student body of 199 pupils. Whitesville’s Tammy Emery has 179 students in the school system. In Wellsville, Superintendent David Foster has the largest student body of 1,077 students. Of course these professionals are also charged with managing the staff, busing, and facilities of the district.
Somehow, a few hundred miles away, in another rural American county, Jeffery Blank is able to handle administering to 8,500 students as the sole public school superintendent. Blank is responsible for managing over 20 schools, hundreds of teachers, school buses, and sporting event complexes.
Does this make you wonder why we, nearly the poorest and highest taxed county in the nation, seem to be content with this situation?
Allegany County is also perhaps the most conservative population you will find, our government is a Republican monoculture. The paradox can’t be avoided or misconstrued or blamed by Albany Democrats. Allegany County isn’t even trying to address this (and other similar bureaucratic issues) with the force one would expect from a 100% Republican county government.
Perhaps we are helpless to this situation and state laws governing our education system demand this duplication of administrative services? If so, I’m hoping that one of the county school leaders will reach out with an explanation as to why this can’t happen in Allegany County New York.
I am writing under the assumption that we are not helpless to make changes, this is a call to action.
Andover and Whitesville have already joined athletic programs due to a lack of students. It is time to join administrations and take advantage of the departure of Dr. Schuelin. When Andover school board officials begin the process of hiring a new school superintendent, they should be the leader in the county and say NO MORE. Be the agents for change, not the status quo.
Allegany County, Maryland isn’t going to happen overnight. Consolidating services is always crippled by the cries of job losses and the general fear of change. The most effective plans for change use attrition to reach a goal over a period of time. Consider a 10-year plan which allows for a painless process.
Our school supertendents are highly educated professionals who understand these dynamics better than myself. School board members, teacher union representatives, and county officials could come together any time and start outlining a plan to move toward Allegany County, Maryland.
The time is now, using the opportunity at Andover Central Schools as the template for a long term plan to consolidate our school systems. Many of our public schools are in a unique financial situation, in fact the state has told many of districts that they are holding too much money in the bank. Instead of a taxpayer rebate, districts are responding to the state chiding by launching capital improvement projects. More overhead and increased operating expenses are inevitable, which could mean more taxes.
School populations are shrinking, as are the number of new teachers and administrators.
School taxes are at the point of causing economic harm, and poverty.
Wages in Andover are directly impacted by taxation. Ask any of the small business owners who just paid their school taxes. The first question any potential new business asks is, “Well, how much are the taxes?”
Often that eliminates that potential new business, taxpayer, and job creator.
The caculus is not going to improve for the taxpayer, student, or resident of Allegany County without reformative action. In my memory, this is an opportune time to take action and to be honest, start acting like conservative Republicans! The political and economic conditions couldn’t be more agreeable, and Andover Central School District offers a great place to start on a ten, fifteen, twenty year plan for the entire county. By just announcing that such a plan is taking shape, our economic prospects improve, and more so with every phase of implementation.
In 2032, Allegany County New Yorks’s public schools could look much different, school taxes could fall dramatically, easing poverty and increasing private investment. Think of Belfast, or Whitesville, or Friendship where small businesses have been replaced by a Dollar Store. The only operations that can afford to property taxes are national mega-corporations, Mom and Pop are long gone.
That cycle can be reversed with leadership or it can continue on with the same result. The good people in Andover, Whitesville, Wellsville, and every other school district in Allegany County, New York want to be more like Allegany County, Maryland. Can anyone explain why that can’t be the case?
*data from: https://data.nysed.gov/profile.php?county=02
*Disclosure: My partner is a teacher at Whitesville Central School