VIP Focus: Creating an Environment of Collaborative Creativity

DashBoard, May 6, 2015

Submitted by Judy Wright, Consulting Partner, Plante Moran

It’s no secret that school districts across Michigan have been using all of their creative forces on a regular basis to balance their budgets. As a result of relatively flat funding, enrollment shifts and the recognition that the landscape may not change in the near term, districts have been doing an outstanding job of working collaboratively with one another to find ways to bring high-quality programming to students year in and year out.

Programs such as the implementation of countywide computer systems in Oakland County allow for the sharing of services and staff when needed and reduce the need for on-site technology staff at each location. Many other intermediate school districts throughout the state also offer this service to their local districts. Districts are talking to one another more than ever about providing services—such as transportation, food service, business office administration, psychology staff, technology directors, and the list goes on and on—on behalf of a few districts, rather than each one operating independently.

Boards of education should ask the questions, “Can we provide this service for others?” and “Can others provide this service for us?” in such a way that may allow for dollars to be reallocated to other initiatives in the district. Asking the questions and being open to engaging in the conversation can lead to helpful solutions for the community.

Clearly, sharing services is a large balancing act with many vested parties, but collaboration may allow districts to focus their energies on those things they do best (and most efficiently) and help out a neighboring district that may be willing to use that service.

Recognizing that each district has different strengths to bring to the table and keeping the lines of communication open has led to some very creative solutions in managing district operations—and each year we find more creativity in the conversation as districts strive to keep the maximum amount of dollars in the classroom.

We applaud boards of education, school administrators and community members on their willingness to engage in discussion, do the appropriate analysis and determine: “How can we do the most for the students with the resources at our disposal?” Plante Moran has been a part of many of these conversations and would be happy to discuss how to work through this process in your community.

For more information on how to implement the best collaborative solutions for your district, please email or call Judy at 248.223.3304.

Judy Wright is a partner and leader of Plante Moran’s education consulting practice. Plante Moran is one of the nation’s largest accounting, tax and consulting firms and offers comprehensive services to K-12 education clients. The K-12 team has worked with more than 200 school districts, ranging in size from 1,000 to over 100,000 students, and includes auditors, CPAs and consultants across multiple disciplines.

VIP Focus articles are company-sponsored advertisements and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of MASB. It’s intended to provide Very Important Partners with a space to share information of value to you and your district.

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