Could all Hancock County school districts merge to save money?

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - A citizens group in Hancock County says merging the Bay-Waveland School District with the Hancock County School District would save millions and improve education. But as WLOX News found out, it's not an easy sell.

With about 1,800 students, the Bay-Waveland School District is considered small. But the Alliance for Good Government says it's top heavy.

"Per student, we have the most administrators out of any of the school districts on the Gulf Coast," said Ron Thorp with the Alliance For Good Government. "The Bay-Waveland School District has a monster of bureaucracy for administration."

According to Thorp, 21 administrators for 1,800 students is too many. Hancock County has 4,400 students, and just one additional administrator. Thorp believes merging would bring immediate savings.

"Combining the two school districts, administratively, could probably eliminate at least 15 or 16 positions, if not more, saving the tax payers millions of dollars in duplications."

The Alliance points to a state study conducted two years ago which recommended districts with fewer than 2,000 students merge with a nearby school district.

"The State Department of Education is recommending that school districts throughout the state streamline their spending, not to exceed $460 per student in administration. Bay-Waveland is now spending, like, $873 per student," said Alliance Chairperson Lana Noonan.

The Bay-Waveland School Board is just beginning its budget talks, and the board chairperson admits cuts need to be made.

"I think we will see a significant cut in our administrative cost,"said School Board Chairperson Sherry Ponder.

But Ponder doesn't believe consolidation is the solution.

"We're a small district and we have great benefits from being a small district."

Alliance members say the money saved on administration could be put to work in the classroom.

"I think it's worthy of investigation and research. I think everybody in the area, especially the business people, are saying we need to look at ways at getting a better bang for our buck. Get more for our kids," said Alliance Member Jim Thriffiley.

The Alliance has already presented the idea to the Bay Saint Louis City Council and the Bay-Waveland School Board. The group plans to also visit the Waveland Board of Alderman and the Hancock County School District.

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