Removing "the imaginary line" between Rockwood and Parkway School Districts for community education activities was the essence of a concept broached at Thursday evening's meeting at in Ellisville.
Rockwood's Community Education Director Mike Seppi said he attended Parkway's Board of Education meeting on Wednesday evening to accompany the presentation given by Parkway's Communications Director Paul Tandy about exploring what the two districts might be better able to handle together.
Rockwood's Community Eduation programs currently include special interest activities for adult literacy, aquatics, outdoor education, school-age care, visual and performing arts, as well as youth and adult sports. It also incorporates enrichment classes, such as for martial arts, magic, animal care, world languages and drivers' education. As reported in Eureka-Wildwood Patch, the program also last year.
"With community education programs being self-funded, it's important to think about how we can sustain that for the next 5 to 10 years. We were looking at opportunities to grow, and had an informal conversation with Parkway," said Seppi.
"We quickly found commonalities, and it made sense to have more discussions."
Seppi outlined a gradual approach to the endeavor. They intend to create committees comprised of representatives from both districts in the areas of programming, communications and finance/human resources. They will meet over the next six months, with the goal of providing recommendations to both districts' board members next fall. Rockwood board of director Steve Smith will join these conversations, basically serving as a board liaison.
Thursday night's presentation to board directors was informational only, with no action required at this time.
Seppi was quick to point out this new, potential endeavor "doesn’t mean what we’re doing today is not good." Rather, it’s about how to maintain and increase the program, and engage the community, he said.
He said both districts send three catalogs to their constituents each year, and they now question whether there would be synergies in doing a combined catalog.
"The two districts currently are not in direct competition with each other, but a lot of times we work with the same outside service groups. There may be economies of scale there," said Seppi.
Other examples of how the two districts' staffs might benefit from sharing ideas are that Parkway hopes to do online registration while Rockwood already has that in place. Parkway does adult enrichment and travel programs; Rockwood will like to initiate that option.
Only One Other National Example of This Cooperation
Seppi said he searched for other K-12 districts who were sharing resources for community education programs, and could only find one. It was a case in which three small districts combined forces to serve 12,000 students total, which still is much smaller than Rockwood's nearly 22,000 students.
Seppi said those districts' officials said they would share their joint power of agreement, and lessons learned from the combined effort.
Seppi said no joint efforts with Parkway would occur until after July 1, 2013. "If we do things together, we should do it very intentionally, and with a multiyear integration. We would want it to be long-term commitment, and do it right."
Smith said he believed this was another example of how forward-thinking Rockwood is. "It seems a lot of what we do is about 'here's what needs to happen and how much more money does it take.' In this case, it would take no money at all. I'm a firm believer that things happen because people make them happen."
Rockwood Board of Education President Janet Strate asked for other examples about what community education activities might be combined.
"I don’t want to speculate," said Seppi. "But our after-school enrichment programs deal with the same outside organizations, so scheduling might be something to look at."
He also emphasized sports programs, because Parkway doesn’t have recreational sports. "We just finished basketball, for example, and many participants in our program are Parkway families who indicated in our survey they wished it was offered there, too," said Seppi.