School system stalling, Government Reform Commission says
Loudoun County’s Government Reform Commission accused Loudoun County Public Schools of evading their questions during a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the School Board on Thurs., Dec. 19.
The commission surveyed county government and the school system in months after August about how the two bodies could share consolidate departments to share services and save money.
It is tasked with reviewing various aspects of county government and making recommendations about how they could be more efficient.
James Rohrbaugh, the co-chair of one of the commission’s subcommittees, said they surveyed both bodies on 34 areas that services might be consolidated.
It took the county three weeks to respond after the survey was given out in August, and the school system eventually gave a response in November after meetings.
Rohrbaugh told the joint boards that the lack of cooperation from the school system made it impossible for the commission to make any kind of recommendation.
He said only two areas were identified out of 34, whereas the county identified 18.
“The document goes on to state, ‘we do not believe that there are any areas where consolidation would be beneficial for cost savings,’” Rohrbaugh said, reading the school system’s response. “But then it states, ‘as a larger entity, could we take over some of the county functions? Yes, but we would need more staff to do so.’”
The school system also stated in their response that doing so would interfere with the School Board’s constitutional right to run the school system.
Superintendent Edgar Hatrick, who attended the meeting, said he thought they had complied with the commission’s request.
“If there’s more information that is requested, we will certainly try to provide it,” Hatrick said. “We’ve submitted this information to the School Board ... we thought were answering the questions they were after.”
Rohrbaugh said the document was focused entirely on the reasons why services couldn’t be consolidated, which he said was against the nature of the process.
“This process has made clear to me that there are many more [areas] that deserve objective consideration and that the response to our request clearly indicates that objective consideration has not yet occurred,” Rohrbaugh said.
Hatrick said later that he wasn’t sure that more conversation would yield the result the commission was looking for.
“Because we didn’t provide the answer you wanted doesn’t mean the answer we provided is wrong, but it certainly does indicate that we need to talk about it more,” Hatrick said.
Both sides agreed that there needed to be involvement from the School Board and the Board of Supervisors to help guide the process.
“It has to be a face-to-face collaboration, it’s just not working,” School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) said. “What’s killing this whole process … the communication is just not there. I think, somehow, the School
Board needs to take that under advisement.”
Supervisors Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin), a former School Board member, suggested that the School Board appoint a school system staff member to the commission.
He said that trust issues between the two boards could slow down the process.
“If you consolidate it, who controls it?” Higgins said. “We need to build a framework under which that trust and control can be established and balanced so everybody’s comfortable with what happens.”