Principals of Merging

Upon visiting the newly merged Central Valley School District-hailed as the first voluntary merger of independent school districts in the Commonwealth in anyone’s memory-the PA Secretary of Education noted last September that "No one really talks about the wastefulness behind the scenes in schools…Where there’s waste is having seven or eight different people doing payroll in a county when it could be done by one."

Note that the Secretary made the same point at a hearing of the Senate Education Committee a month earlier (a hearing at which the Allegheny Institute testified). So it would be interesting to hear how the Secretary would react to the news this morning that Central Valley High School will have not one, but two, principals: one to handle academic programs and one to handle student programs. The superintendent of the district said that "they do not want to feel, nor do I want to see, a pecking order…they are both principals."

So which principal has the ultimate authority at the district? It won’t be clear until a problem arises. But it is easy to see why merging governmental units is very difficult, especially with powerful public sector unions will resist consolidation and would strongly resist changes that would downsize the workforce. Sounds like a compromise meant to satisfy competing interests. But it certainly is a far cry from the talking points of merger proponents that claim consolidation will go a long way to wiping out duplicative functions (two police chiefs, two fire chiefs, two auditors, etc.). The teachers and administrators in the merged district that did go as a result of the merger took buyouts to leave. Imagine what an organizational chart of larger merged entities would look like.