April 24, 2018
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Hearings set for Highlands

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Public hearings will be held for residents in SADs 41, 12 and 68, Union 60 and Bowerbank before they go to the polls Jan. 27 to act on a school administrative reorganization plan.

Officials from each of the districts and communities have been working for months as a group called the Maine Highlands Regional Education Consortium to devise a plan to share administrative services as required by the Department of Education.

Residents will have two choices during the referendum vote. A yes vote means approval to enter into an Alternative Organizational Structure to work at finding additional cost savings and-or educational opportunities for students, thus avoiding a penalty. A no vote will mean residents will take the penalty and pursue finding other areas of cost savings or raise local property taxes to absorb the penalty.

“This is a huge issue, it’s an economic issue, it’s an issue of solvency of the county as a whole,” Sue Mackey Andrews, a consortium co-chairwoman, said Monday.

Looking over the data for the past 14 months, Andrews said the consortium members realized that with the continued declining enrollment in the county as a whole, the only way the districts could continue to offer quality education would be to continue with the agreements they have in place and to find more ways to share services.

Andrews said the plan has the potential for cost savings, but not so much in the administrative end since most of the districts already have pared administrative costs significantly. The consortium as a whole was upset that the state focused more on administrative savings rather than on educational quality, programs and services, she said.

Early on, the consortium adopted a vision statement to provide a community-based education system with a broad base to meet the diverse needs of all students, to create more educational opportunities for students, but not to sacrifice instructional quality and availability in order to achieve cost savings.

Under the proposed plan, the districts and the union would share one superintendent and central office, yet the individual school boards would remain in place. The existing local school boards would continue to serve each member school unit and would collaborate to serve the educational interests of all children in the system. Only the central administrative office will be under the direction of the Alternative Organizational Structure board, which would be composed of members of the local school boards.

Public hearings on the proposed plan will be held as follows:

— Bowerbank, 6:30 p.m. Jan. 5, town hall.

— SAD 41 (Milo, Brownville, Atkinson and LaGrange), 6:30 p.m. Jan. 5, Milo Elementary School.

— Shirley, 7 p.m. Jan. 6, town office.

— Beaver Cove, 7 p.m. Jan. 6, town office.

— SAD 68 (Dover-Foxcroft, Sebec and Charleston), 6:30 p.m. Jan. 7, SeDoMoCha School complex.

— SAD 12 (Jackman and Moose River), 7 p.m. Jan. 7, Forest Hills Consolidated School.

— Greenville, 7 p.m. Jan. 8, Oakes Auditorium.

— SAD 68 (Monson), 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8, Monson Elementary School.

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