CLARKS SUMMIT — One school district in Lackawanna County has hired another to handle its finances, something that’s never been done in northeastern Pennsylvania before.
The administrators who came up with the plan said it may be the start of a trend.
Abington Heights’ superintendent Dr. Michael Mahon spoke more like a CEO than an educator when he told us about the school district’s latest.
“In a way, it’s kind of a business thing. We are a vendor in a way for Lakeland, and Lakeland is hopefully relying on us to provide a great service for them.”
Employees in Abington Heights’ business office were hired by a neighboring school district a money maker for Abington and a money saver for the Lakeland School District.
The superintendent there, Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones hatched the plan with Abington that may be historic for northeastern Pennsylvania.
“I know that the state had made a push for consolidation in the past but I don’t think many school districts have followed into that path,” said Billings-Jones.
When Lakeland’s business manager left the district last year Billings-Jones found that hiring another school district to handle finances would be cheaper than hiring more personnel or a private company. Lakeland will pay Abington $55 an hour for payroll work. The superintendent said it makes good business sense, but it’s also a good example of consolidation, something state lawmakers have been pushing.
Lakeland administrators think they may have some up-front costs but they’ll start to see savings in the next few months.
“I think anytime is a financial concern, particularly because of the economics now. But we’re always looking to save and always provide the best services,” Billings-Jones added.
The deal between Lakeland and Abington Heights’ business office was more or less made on a handshake. Paychecks for Lakeland employees will come from the Abington Heights business office for the remainder of the school year and administrators say they’ll see how it goes. if it goes well, then there will be a long term contract.
Abington Heights’ superintendent has the long-term future in mind, too.
“If we are successful, we do great things, and we can work this and find we can expand it in some way well maybe that’s possible,” said Mahon.
Meaning, Abington may expand its business and pick up more districts as clients.