BOSTON—The Special Commission on School District Collaboration and Regionalization submitted to the Legislature today a report containing a series of recommendations to support inter-district collaboration and regionalization.
“This report is the culmination of the hard work of legislators, municipal stakeholders, and education advocates,” said Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Jamaica Plain), Co-Chair of the special commission and Senate Chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Education. “It’s an important step in the process of making our education system more efficient in a time of economic uncertainty and better able to serve the needs of our students.”
“I am extremely grateful for the dedication and hard work that members of the Commission committed to this study and final report,” said Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), Co-Chair of the special commission and also House Chair of the Education Committee. “The recommendations in this report will help to advance discussions among school districts and communities throughout the Commonwealth about opportunities to increase efficiency and strategies for sharing and preserving critical education services and programs in order to ensure that all our students may access an excellent public education.”
One such recommendation is a diagnostic self-assessment tool that can be used by local stakeholders to perform an objective district capacity analysis. The results of the assessment can guide conversations about regionalization and collaboration and inform other strategic planning decisions. The report also offers proposals to address existing barriers to regionalization and collaboration and suggests ways to facilitate greater collaboration and regionalization across the state.
“The conversations about regionalization and collaboration may be difficult at best. This report provides opportunities for all stakeholders to focus their discussions on specific subject areas using a common vocabulary that all may understand,” said Paul Schaefer, Director of Finance and Operations at King Philip Regional School District and Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials (MASBO) designee. “This report will also assist the stakeholders in their strategic planning efforts necessary to bring these discussions to a successful conclusion. It was an honor and a privilege, as a representative of the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials (MASBO) to participate in this worthwhile endeavor.”
“The Special Commission on School District Collaboration and Regionalization brought together representatives of key stakeholder groups from across the Commonwealth,” said Beth Gamse, Principal Associate at Abt Associates and Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) designee. “The group was focused relentlessly on how regionalization and/or collaboration across district boundaries could be helpful to our state’s students, and the result is a report that lays out strategies and suggestions with a clear goal: how to help our schools and districts continue their pursuit of an excellent education for all students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
The final section of the report examines the role of educational collaboratives in the regionalization and collaboration process. Prior to recent reports of financial mismanagement at the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, the commission had determined that collaboratives have the potential to expand cost-sharing programs and initiatives throughout the Commonwealth, but only in conjunction with the development of better performance measures, oversight, and accountability standards. The report acknowledges the ongoing investigations surrounding the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, and offers several recommendations to improve the governance and structure of educational collaboratives statewide.
The Special Commission on School District Collaboration and Regionalization was established through Chapter 188 of the Acts of 2010, An Act relative to municipal relief. Among its provisions, the legislation required the creation of “a special commission to examine efficient and effective strategies to implement school district collaboration and regionalization.”
The Commission held eleven meetings and one public hearing between December 2010 and July 2011, during which members examined the relevant research and literature on regionalization and collaboration, reviewed current statewide activities and initiatives, and gave careful consideration to information presented by various stakeholders and testimony submitted by members of the public.