Collins-Maxwell district likely faces whole grade sharing after the next two years

Marlys BarkerTri-County
Times Editor
Collins-Maxwell district likely faces whole grade sharing after the next two years

On May 24, at the second community forum held since Dr. Tom Lane became the interim superintendent at Collins-Maxwell Schools this year, Lane gave his opinion on what needs to happen so that the students of Collins and Maxwell, and even Baxter, have the best possible education for the future.

Lane said for the next two years, Collins-Maxwell needs to take advantage of operational sharing. They already have plans to share a transportation director, who is also the athletic director, with Baxter. But, for superintendent, business manager and curriculum director positions, he advised, they should go forward in a sharing agreement with Ballard for the next two years.

After the next two years, he said, it is time for Collins-Maxwell to look to the “best partner” they’ve had for nearly 30 years — Baxter — for whole grade sharing (WGS). “I’m proposing that in the year 2018, we enter into a WGS agreement. It would save money … and give kids all kinds of enhanced opportunities, while buying more time to make all kinds of other decisions,” Lane said.

Lane was also frank about something else: “We need to come to terms to prove that we can be good partners, and then we need to reach out to other folks.” He said he doesn’t think that Collins-Maxwell and Baxter will survive long, with the way schools are funded, if they don’t reach out to other districts around them and create an even larger, regional district.

Of the 100 or so people in attendance at the forum, which was this time held in the Collins gym, there were many questions, but no apparent hostility. One question asked several times was, “Why is Lane proposing that Collins-Maxwell do operational sharing with Ballard right now and not Baxter?”

Lane said that while sports sharing is “easy,” other types of sharing are more complicated, and with all the turmoil that has been evident in the Collins-Maxwell district during recent discussions about WGS, he thinks it best that Collins-Maxwell seek help at this time from a more neutral partner.

“Todd Martin and I are good friends,” Lane said of Baxter’s superintendent, who was sitting at the forum with several members of the Baxter board. “We trust each other. I think it would be hard for Todd to be a shared superintendent right now – there’s been enough angst right now with all that’s gone on. I don’t think that’s probably a good fit for us right now… We were looking for a team – a nonthreatening team – that buys us two years.” Lane said Ballard has that team, and hopefully the money they can bring in from an operational sharing agreement over the next couple years will be a benefit to their district, as they help out their smaller neighbor.

Lane also answered questions about how much of Ballard’s time will be spent working with the Collins-Maxwell district over the next couple years. He said they will spend about 20-25 percent of their time working with Collins-Maxwell, which is what the district will pay them for. Does that mean there might be increased responsibilities for the C-M principals? Yes, he said, and, there would likely be a need for additional office staff to help with the day-to-day operations of the district.

As Ottie Maxey, Ballard superintendent, comes in and gets to know the Collins-Maxwell staff and people, Lane said he has already agreed to continue to help out if needed.

Another important question and concern that was raised by a woman in the audience was how, since school board members can change every few years and some of Collins-Maxwell’s board members are quite young, will they be able to stay on the right course and make the right decisions for all the changes that lie ahead.

Lane commended the Collins-Maxwell board, and said they’ve had an extremely tough year, and they’ve been growing as a board through all the bumps along the way.

“How do we keep them well informed, and knowing what their job is? How can we make sure that our school board understands fully the job that’s in front of them…,” he stated of the questions. “A good superintendent helps that… Training helps that… New board orientation helps that… I think our board has grown recently; I think they’ve come a long, long way … but that needs to be part of the culture here … as new members come on board … make sure they quickly become informed about the district.”

The forum ended with Tom saying he’s there for 37 more days, or as long as he can help. He gave out his phone number and email address so people could reach him with additional questions.

“We’ve got to be together. We have to be together. I never at one time thought about Maxwell or about Collins without thinking of them being together,” Lane said, as he brought the forum to a close. “We have some challenges ahead, and we are much better to meet those challenges together. I truly believe we can salvage this … but we’ve got to make good choices moving forward.”