The Superintendent for the State of Michigan, Mike Flanagan, has been traveling the legislative circuit this past month touting the merits of districts working together. Although this may seem like a novel idea for the school districts “downstate,” your school districts have been working together for many years.

In 2005 we adapted an idea from a northern Michigan business cooperative and formed the Mecosta-Osceola Personnel Cooperative (MOP Co-Op) with the intention of sharing expertise, cost and convenience.

Since its inception, the MOP Co-Op has expanded to add cooperative partners in other community businesses and agencies.

The premise behind the idea is pretty simple: cooperation helps put dollars back into the classroom. The more the local schools began to work together sharing services, other advantages came to the forefront:

1) the MOP Co-Op could adjust to the district’s specific needs, whether short or long term;

2) the Co-Op could find the specific expertise at a reduced cost --— the district didn’t have to buy a full person for their needs, only for the portion of time they needed;

3) common product and item purchasing increased, allowing for consistent training for repair, maintenance, and replacement of equipment;

4) response to technological emergencies were faster with multiple cross-trained staff available for interventions; and

5) cooperation has no limits! The Cooperative has the ability to coordinate the sharing in the areas of technology, purchasing, maintenance, business services, transportation, Early Childhood programming, and non-instructional staff; anything that can be shared can be put into the cooperative.

Since its inception, the MOP Co-Op concepts have been duplicated and improved throughout the state.

Today the MOP Co-Op concept is voluntary; tomorrow it may not be. Mr. Flanagan believes there are millions of dollars to be saved in school system consolidation of services, and cooperation on noninstructional activities between districts will be the key to Michigan’s future success.

He may be right, but the application of the concept will be the tricky part; the plan for Wayne County might not work here in the north and vise-versa.

The Governor and legislative bodies have been looking for ways to shrink school districts, and this is their latest angle — districts must balance the smaller objective of saving dollars with the larger political battle over the right size of educational systems in Michigan.

Politics aside, cooperation is always a good thing. We just have to make sure that we have the flexibility to adapt the concepts to our neighborhoods.

Knowing the temperature of Lansing, it probably isn’t going to happen that way, so get ready! I don’t think it is “if” Lansing acts, it’s “when….”

Dr. Finch can be contacted at cfinch@moisd.org or followed on Twitter at CFinchMOISD