For Immediate Release - September 02, 2010

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES $450,000 IN FUNDS TO SUPPORT SCHOOL DISTRICTS EXPLORING REGIONALIZATION

Lieutenant Governor Murray announces funds to identify efficiency in budgeting and capacity in teaching and learning

WORCESTER - Thursday, September 2, 2010 - Building on the Patrick-Murray Administration's efforts to strengthen partnerships with cities and towns across the Commonwealth, Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray today announced a total of $450,000 in regionalization planning and implementation grants that will be distributed to eight school districts statewide. The grants will help school districts explore efficiencies in budgeting through expanded partnerships and increased capacity to improve teaching and learning in schools.

The Patrick-Murray Administration has focused on school district regionalization as a way to help school districts discover new opportunities for shared budgeting to purchase goods and services, build teaching capacity and share best practices and educational approaches to help all students access a 21st century education. Today's announcement follows the first round of planning grants announced last year, which led to a new partnership between the towns of Ayer and Shirley.

"Our school districts are facing increasing expectations at a time when our resources are most challenged," said Governor Patrick. "We view regionalization as a real opportunity to help districts achieve efficiency in the way they spend their money and share expertise on what's working in classrooms."

The announcement comes as Lieutenant Governor Murray welcomed municipal and planning officials from across the Commonwealth to the 2nd Annual "Regionalization Tool Kit: A Practical Guide to Sharing Municipal Services" Conference held today at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

"The Patrick-Murray Administration recognizes and understands the needs of our school districts during these challenging fiscal times," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "These planning grants give districts a chance to identify near-term solutions that will deliver long-lasting impacts."

The planning grants being distributed are supported by funding from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund as part of the $1.8 billion that Massachusetts received through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Governor Patrick advocated for education to be included in ARRA and directed these funds be utilized for planning for regionalization.

"Regionalization provides school districts of all sizes and locations to make decisions about the best way to fund and operate schools," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "We have long been committed to encouraging local conversations about the great potential held in regionalization."

Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester agreed. "We want to provide every support we can to help districts build on their successes and take education reform to the next level," Commissioner Chester said. "Regionalization is about educational capacity and utilizing stretched resources in a way that provides maximum benefit for our students."

Of the eight grants, two are for transition costs for new regional districts that were recently approved: Ayer-Shirley, which is receiving $300,000; and Berkley-Somerset, which is receiving $75,000. These regional districts, which were approved in 2010, are the first two new regional school districts approved in Massachusetts since 1995.

The remaining grantees are in the midst of considering either creating a new regional district or expanding an existing one. They include:

Chatham/Harwich: $15,000

Mahar: $10,000

Mendon-Upton/Hopedale: $10,000

Old Rochester: $10,000

Pittsfield: $10,000

Southwick-Tolland/Granville: $10,000

Additionally, the Administration has reserved $10,000 to conduct statewide studies to identify best practices and the challenges of school districts as they consider and review regionalization.

"This grant award will allow Mahar Regional School District, in collaboration with the Towns of Orange and Petersham, to explore the expansion of the regional system to include kindergarten through sixth grade. Regionalization has the potential to reap great benefits, not only in providing cost-effective services but also in expanding current opportunities for our school children. I applaud the Mahar Regional School District, the Towns of Orange and Petersham, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for recognizing the potential to maximize scarce resources and for taking this necessary first step in the regionalization process," said Senator Stephen M. Brewer.

"I am pleased that the Governor has committed these funds for the Somerset-Berkley School Regionalization proposal. This project highlights Governor Patrick's continued support in advancing public education in the south coast," said Senator Joan M. Menard.

"Commitment to providing quality education remains a top priority in Massachusetts, even during these troubling economic times. This state grant being awarded to the Old Rochester Regional School is welcomed because it will expand educational opportunities for students, in addition to providing relief for taxpayers," said Senator Mark Montigny.

"I am very pleased that this funding has been made available to help the Mendon-Upton Regional School District fully explore all of its options. In these tough times when money is tight, it is important for local entities to explore regionalizing to produce more cost-effective services. This grant will help these school districts perform the research necessary to determine whether or not this is the right move for them," said Senator Michael O. Moore.

"I think it is important for communities to explore the possibilities for coordination and cooperation on all kinds of services, including education," said Senator Stan Rosenberg.

"During these volatile and uncertain economic times, it is imperative that every governmental entity explores proven methods to provide essential services with greater efficiency and long-term cost savings. This timely grant will be utilized in ensuring the many potential fiscal advantages provided by pooling their competitive purchasing power together. I am appreciative that the Governor and the Legislature are working together to offer our communities the tools to explore regionalization efforts," said Representative John Fernandes.

"Regionalization is important for the area and this grant will assist the communities in continuity, regionalizing earlier grades and should assist the towns economically," said Representative Anne M. Gobi.

"After several months of working with the Governor's office to secure funding, we are pleased to announce that the Department of Education has awarded a $10,000 grant to the Southwick-Tolland Regional School District to study the feasibility of including the Town of Granville in the regional school district. I want to express my appreciation for Governor Patrick's cooperation and willingness to release funds for this professional study. A regionalization plan, if implemented, would have long-term fiscal impacts for the towns of Southwick, Tolland and Granville. School administrators and residents must carefully consider regionalization plans that may be developed as a result of this study. State funding means the towns will not have to pay for the study out of annual town appropriations," said Representative Rosemary Sandlin.

"This planning grant will be very helpful to the stakeholders - Marian, Mattapoisett and Rochester - on their decisions on regionalization," said Representative Bill Straus.

To become a regional district, participating communities need to develop a regional agreement which then has to be approved by the Commissioner and voters in each participating district.

For more information about today's announcement, please visit www.doe.mass.edu. To learn more about the Patrick-Murray Administration's regionalization efforts, please visit www.mass.gov/governor/regional.

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