Two School Districts Facing Challenges

   As the Springs School Board continues its struggle to find ways to pay for educating students while not asking taxpayers for more and more, a cost-savings idea is gaining ground. The notion of eliminating the district superintendent’s position and handing those duties to the school principal was discussed at a forum on Dec. 22. Meanwhile, in the East Hampton School District, the board is grappling with the prospect of overcrowding in the elementary and middle schools even as the last details of its recent $79 million expansion are finalized.
    In Springs, money problems are acute. Taxes in the hamlet are already among the highest in East Hampton Town. The school’s enrollment has surged in the last decade, with an increasing proportion of new students classified as English-language learners, which adds to staffing requirements. To be sure, the recent discussion of combining the superintendent’s and principal’s roles (plus an assistant or two) was inconclusive. But from an outside perspective it seems dicey for a district facing many challenges to have so much riding on a single person.
    Springs has somewhere just under 1,000 students to provide for and keep tabs on, whether at the Springs School itself or at East Hampton High School. It also provides bus transportation for Ross School students and those who attend the classes of the Board of Educational Services. Along with financial oversight and matters concerning the physical plant, that seems enough for one person to keep tabs on without also adding the many academic challenges and day-to-day difficulties arising at the elementary school itself. One person might be able to do the job, but whether it would be done well is another matter. The decision-makers in Springs should find out exactly how its superintendent and principal have divvied up their responsibilities before taking what may turn out to be a counterproductive step.
    On Tuesday, East Hampton’s board was expected to discuss the size of classes at the John M. Marshall Elementary School. Though this district has deeper financial resources than Springs, the willingness of taxpayers to come up with money again for new construction is probably limited at this point.
    Both districts’ problems are pressing and will make for a difficult year ahead for their elected boards and administrators.