June 22, 2018
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RSU 17 panel submits reorganization plan

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

State education officials on Friday received a proposal to consolidate the school administration of more than 20 northern Penobscot County towns into one regional school unit serving 2,031 students. State officials will begin their review of the plan over the next few weeks.

Under the proposal, the schools of SADs 30, 31 and 67, Union 110 and several communities around them, including Woodville, Lowell and Seboeis Plantation, will be governed by a 14-member school board representing three wards, SAD 67 Superintendent Michael Marcinkus said.

Five apiece will represent Lincoln and the towns of SAD 31. Four will represent the towns of SAD 30 and others near there, including Chester and Mattawamkeag, which belong to SAD 67, said Hugh Hussey, the organization’s vice chairman.

That does not include the Katahdin region towns adjacent to Woodville — East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket — that are forming their own alternative organizational structure.

“I think we worked hard to make it a fair governing proposal,” John Neel of Howland, the committee’s chairman, said Friday. “We made it as fair as we could. With the way we have it now, no one group [of towns] can control things.”

Robert B. Kautz, facilitator of the RSU 17 organizational committee, brought the plan to the Maine Department of Education in Augusta on Friday, to make the project’s deadline. He could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.

“It’s going to be a very involved project … to craft the policies and procedures to operate all these schools under one superintendent,” Hussey, of Passadumkeag, said Friday. “Whoever gets elected on that board will have a lot of work ahead of them.”

The plan represents the work of weekly meetings held by 15 to 25 committee members that began in early September, after four meetings in July and August, plus the work of a failed regionalization effort last year, Hussey said.

“This has been a very long and involved process,” he added. “We have gone back and forth on a number of issues. What we have settled on as a plan best represents all the communities within the RSU and laid out the best funding formula to best distribute the costs.”

The committee voted to approve the proposal, with some minor alterations, at a meeting at the regional vocational technical school in Lincoln on Thursday. The plan was among 15 submitted and awaiting state review as of Friday, said David Connerty-Marin, Department of Education spokesman.

Two others, from the Brewer and Jay areas, are expected in Augusta in a few days, he said.

Statewide, another 15 have been approved by the state and local voters. Another six are approved by Education Commissioner Susan Gendron and awaiting voter approval, Connerty-Marin said.

Committee members don’t see any immediate net cost savings with the regionalization effort, Hussey said.

Savings with the elimination of two superintendents’ positions, and possibly other cuts caused by the elimination of administrative redundancies, likely will be consumed by attorney’s fees associated with solving regionalization and consolidation issues over the next year or so, he said.

A copy of the approved plan was not immediately available Friday.

Change is likely to occur during the plan’s review process. It must be approved by the Department of Education and voters before it can go into effect in September. A referendum is scheduled tentatively for Jan. 27. At least one public meeting for discussion of the plan is likely to be held beforehand, Neel said.

“This is the framework of the reorganization,” Neel said of the proposal. “The state will probably change it. They change plans all the time.”



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