Now that we are in the thick school budget time again, it is a good moment to bring up the longer-term question of sharing superintendents among the South Fork’s smaller districts. This could provide a path for cost reductions, making more money available for education and activities.
In our opinion, sharing superintendents could signal that the doors are open for academic collaborations, and could lead districts to find other ways to be more efficient. If two or more small schools could work together at the most senior levels, it would be a precedent — and an example for other districts — that cooperation is better than isolation. For example, Bridgehampton’s middle and high school students might partner up, post-pandemic, with the younger ones from Sagaponack for projects at the Sprouts farm stand at the eastern corner of the Bridgehampton campus. Maybe it would set the stage for a shared prekindergarten program. Maybe Sagaponack could get a technology boost from Bridgehampton staff and students who are clearly leaders in robotics programming.
Negatives could include Sagaponack and Bridgehampton voters who might start to eye each other warily over the idea that one district was subsidizing leadership of the other, so a fair compensation agreement should be carefully worked out. The other obstacle is each district’s viewpoint — one that the vast majority of public schools hold — that the unique character of their own schools and individual needs should be preserved and prioritized, but this might come at an unnecessarily high cost to taxpayers.
Shared leadership doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement between two districts. Greenport and Southold tried it and did eventually part ways, but for at least six years the system worked. Most important, taking small steps now toward collaboration might pay off in a big way over time for students.