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COLLABORATION OF 4 DISTRICTS BEING PURSUED

An effort spearheaded by the Cheektowaga-Sloan School District has moved past theory, with boards from all four districts in the Town of Cheektowaga meeting regularly to study joint planning and other ventures.

Cheektowaga-Sloan School Board President Edward Bednarczyk, who initiated the idea last spring, said that quarterly meetings are planned and that the first meeting in August was well attended by board members from all four districts in the town.

Cheektowaga's four school superintendents have met regularly for many years to explore cost-saving collaborations.

"Now we want to try taking it a little beyond that," Bednarczyk said. "We'd like to take a leadership role on this issue."

He said the town's school districts are already way ahead of other areas just now gearing up for Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra's push for regionalism among schools.

Giambra's administration recently began working with schools across the county to determine whether collaborations are possible and, in some instances, consolidation, such as is being considered by Depew and Lancaster districts.

Several years ago, two independent studies were done on possibly consolidating Cheektowaga's school districts.

Although the studies pointed to cost savings from collaborations, both showed that savings from a consolidation would be negligible.

The findings contrast with harsh fiscal realities faced by the four districts, particularly in Cheektowaga-Sloan, where the annual budget proposal often goes down to defeat.

"The doors are open," said Cheektowaga-Sloan School Superintendent James P. Mazgajewski. "If there is a way to effectively save dollars, we'll do it."

Cheektowaga's first joint board meeting produced a "Top 10 list" of areas not being suggested for possible collaboration:

Substitute hiring.

Health insurance.

Joint teacher in-service.

Transportation bids.

Town lobbying.

Shared teacher services (not related to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services).

In-school suspension program.

Special-education services.

Teachers center.

Coordinating calendars.

Bednarczyk pointed to progress establishing a liaison with the town. Another meeting of the four boards is tentatively planned for early November.

Cleveland Hill School Board President Robert Polino said that everyone at the first meeting was eager to work together in the future to find new solutions to common challenges.

"I think it's just great. Now we can come together and compare notes," Polino said.

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