The Keller school district gains insights from an ongoing relationship with a group of similar districts in nine other states.While officials from the member districts of the Mid-States Benchmarking Consortium meet in person just once a year, administrators exchange ideas and information on a frequent basis over the phone and Internet.Keller Superintendent Randy Reid and two other KISD officials attended the annual summit Oct. 22-24 in Naperville, Ill., near Chicago.“These are districts with significant similarities from other regions that deal with some of the same challenges,” Reid said. “Throughout the year we share budget information, staffing formulas, performance data and more.Keller joined the consortium under the leadership of former Superintendent James Veitenheimer, who also brought his new district, Deer Valley in Arizona, into the group. Keller hosted the 2009 meeting.Most of the member districts, one per state, are suburban and range in size from 18,000 to 40,000. The states represented are Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. In comparison to Keller, some of the districts have half as many students who are economically disadvantaged and others twice as many.Reid said that officials talked about challenges with budgets and closing achievement gaps. He found a visit to newly renovated Naperville Central High School of interest because KISD officials are looking at potential upgrades for older Keller schools.For many of the sessions, representatives of member districts met with those who have similar jobs.In one session, superintendents met with a representative of the U.S. Department of Education.Reid said the education department official wanted to get feedback on national grants for prekindergarten programs.“While we all believe in pre-K wholeheartedly, other issues are not fully funded,” he said.All the superintendents are dealing with the impact of a reduction in federal funds for special education.The best part of the conference, Reid said, is sharing best practices.“If you can pull one or two things from each of these visits, it makes it worthwhile,” he said.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland