Yarmouth school, municipal boards explore collaboration

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council and School Committee met Aug. 20 to discuss ways to improve their collaborative efforts.

The two boards agreed to work together to identify shared services and to save money.

Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci said the purpose of the meeting was to show how much the two groups already collaborate, and to brainstorm ways to improve the sustainability of town services more efficiently.

“If we work together more often than just during budget season, we will have a better relationship,” she said. “This is about saving money, but also about improving town and school services for the taxpayers.”

Town Manager Nat Tupper said the Town Council would like to have a positive and active roll in the decision-making process of the School Committee.

“The council is not looking to help with contract negotiations, but would like to participate in some respect,” Tupper said. “Let’s figure out a way to make this relationship work.”

School Committee Chairman David Ray said the idea of collaboration between the two groups is “terrific,” but there are some decisions that should be left to the separate boards.

“There are decisions we have to make as a School Committee because we were elected to do so,” he said. “But there are places where the Town Council and School Committee could intersect.”

The town garage is one area the two boards could collaborate on in services and expenses. Currently, the garage space is provided to the school Transportation Department at a low cost, but there are problems with the garage itself.

Councilor Erv Bickford said the building is too small for school and town needs, and he would like to see the council and School Committee find a way to work together to find a solution.

According to Tupper, the garage has structural problems, safety and environmental hazards, staffing problems, and the parking lot is in disrepair.

“This project could have a large price tag, but we could collaborate to find a fix,” he said.

Facility maintenance is another area where Tupper said the school and municipal areas could pool their resources. School and municipal buildings need custodians, clean windows and maintained lawns, he said.

In addition, energy assessments could be done by the same contact instead of using separate companies for the town and schools.

Other collaborative efforts could include shared public health services, cable television and programming, emergency management plans, and business management services.

Tupper also strongly encouraged merging capitol improvement plan schedules.

“To me, this is an easy one,” he said. “If we communicate about the CIP, we will both know what projects are approaching, how much they will cost, and what the debt schedule is.”

Another idea is to share meeting space. Tupper said there are many groups that want a place to meet, but there is not enough room in the Town Hall. He suggested the schools get involved and offer community groups space to meet.

“This would be good for people who do not have children in the system,” he said. “They could feel a connection to the schools instead of just opening a tax bill every year.”

Within the next few weeks Tupper and Paolucci will choose some of the suggestions to focus on and will schedule another joint meeting.

The next School Committee meeting is Thursday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. in the Log Cabin. The Town Council will meet Thursday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Log Cabin.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net