Small school districts face unique challenges

May 30, 2019 Staff Writer

According to data, nearly three quarters of California’s 1,000 school districts are defined as being small and having an ADA of less than 2,500.  In line with that is ACSA’s membership, where a significant amount of the Regular members we serve belong to small schools, which are often found in rural and remote areas that isolate them from the main stream. Because of these conditions, intentional support for the small school district leader is necessary. That’s where ACSA’s committee for Small School Districts comes in—a group of passionate educational leaders who come together three times a year to discuss current and potential challenges and brainstorm supportive solutions that can be implemented by the organization.

“As a small school district superintendent, I face challenges that are unique and apart from my peers in a larger sized school district and this committee is focused on providing the structure of support, networking and professional development for leaders in the same position,” said Dr. Mary McNeil, superintendent of Needles USD and Chair of ACSA’s Small School Districts Committee. 

ACSA’s SSDC represents more than 600 small schools in the state when it comes to issues that relate to the uniqueness of their size.

“The SSDC has a strong relationship with ACSA lobbyist Martha Alvarez, who helps to weigh in and carry issues forward that would have an adverse effect on small school districts,” said Rich Malfatti, ACSA Staff Liaison and former small school district superintendent.

“Our Committee has developed relationships with ACSA Advocates to share our unique perspectives with legislators and elected officials so that there is an understanding of our needs in Sacramento,” added McNeil. “Committee members have participated in hearings and discussions with legislators and other government officials on issues that most recently have included the criteria for the acceptance of out-of-state credentials and issues involved with the CTC mandatory reporting of misconduct for educators.”

ACSA’s SSDC provides the pathway of opportunity for our small school district leaders to impact California policy and practice that uniquely affect them, their students, their families and their communities.

“One of the biggest achievements by the committee was the influence it had on reshaping testing results and communicating them to parents and community members,” said Malfatti.  “Having the advantage of being able to use the many resources that State ACSA has while being in the position of small school district superintendent is invaluable.”

The SSDC also provides valuable professional development opportunities at the annual ACSA Superintendents Symposium by ensuring the inclusion of a small district strand. 

“These workshops provide an opportunity to strategize and network with others who “wear many hats” while completing the same reports, meeting the same levels of expectations and doing more with less,” said McNeil.

Other noteworthy efforts of ACSA’s SSDC also includes facilitating the relationship between CSBA's Small School District Council and the Small School District Association (SSDA) Executive Committee. 

For more information about ACSA’s Small School District Committee activities and to reach committee representatives, please find us at



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