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School boards in RESA VII participate in collaborative meeting in Bridgeport

On Wednesday, 7 of 12 counties comprising Regional Education Service Agency District VII held special board of education meetings simultaneously in Bridgeport.
 
During the state legislature's 2013 session, House Bill 2940 passed and required "...all county superintendents of schools and members of county boards belonging to the same regional educational service agency shall meet together to identity administrative, coordinating and other county level services and functions that may be shared..."
 
Representatives from Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Monongalia and Taylor counties sat down together with the goal of finding way to share services with one another.
 
Dr. Barbara Parsons, Monongalia County School Board President and Financial Officer with the West Virginia School Board Association said collaboration was the original goal when they started meeting before the legislation passed.
 
"Let's find ways that we can create some economies of scale, save some money by sharing services and let's sit down and work on it."
 
After a brief introduction, the boards split up an formed groups, mixing with other counties.
 
"They break up into groups and work on paperwork," Howard O'Kull, Executive Director of the WVSBA said. "They'll look at some state statistics regarding enrollment, financial figures, things unique to the region as far as services that are already provided."
 
The information provided broke down state statistics --such as the per pupil expenditures at public school in the state was less than the national average at $11,113 in the 2013-2014 year-- but also broke down statistics strictly for RESA VII such as pupil to administrator ratio (174.77) and expenditures for instruction and instructional support ($401,932,708) for the 2012-2013 school year.
 
The groups collaborated to discuss what each county could bring to the table to share so every county could more efficiently use their dwindling funds.
 
With Monongalia County one of the only to see an increase in enrollment while other are burdened with decreases, Parsons said she thinks they have insight to offer to others.
 
"We're looking at 'Aren't there ways we can share some of the things we do?' because we have expertise in the business office, we have expertise in the administrative office," she said. "Maybe if we could get all of these groups together to talk about that, we could help the counties that are experiencing the biggest declines."
 
Similar meetings are taking place in the other seven RESA districts and O'Cull said they will significant in determining the future of education in the state.
 
"I think it's very important because West Virginia is facing a persistent decline in the number of students we have and the more this decline continues, which it's projected to, then the less monies a lot of counties will have for administrative services."
 
RESA VII is the largest in terms of the number of counties included. A second meeting will be held in Elkins on August 27 for the remaining five counties, Barbour, Preston, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur.