FORT KENT, Maine — The proposed restructuring plan combining SAD 27 and SAD 10 into one administrative unit received a unanimous endorsement from the Fort Kent Town Council on Monday night.
Voters from the eight municipalities that contain the two districts will vote on the Alternative Organizational Structure at a special referendum Jan. 27.
A public hearing to explain the proposal is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 15, at the Fort Kent Community High School.
In a November referendum, voters turned down a proposed alternative operating structure combining SAD 10, Allagash; SAD 27, Fort Kent; SAD 33, St. Agatha; SAD 24, Van Buren; and the Madawaska School Department into one administrative unit.
The reorganization plan and the referendum were in response to the law passed in June 2007 requiring that the state’s 290 school districts be reorganized into approximately 80 regional school units governed by regional school boards with the goal of streamlining operations and reducing costs.
Earlier this month, Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron approved the AOS combining SAD 10 and SAD 27.
While the two districts will now operate under one superintendent for administrative purposes, the structure allows each to retain its own school board. The AOS also provides for a “super school board” with members from the local boards.
Allagash currently sends its students to elementary and high school in Fort Kent since the town’s one consolidated school closed in 1995 due to declining enrollment.
“The [Allagash] students are already here,” Don Guimond, Fort Kent town manager and school reorganization committee chairman, said. “All this plan is doing is formalizing what is already going on.”
Taking no action, the town manager warned, sets a school district up for annual financial penalties.
“SAD 10 and SAD 27 are looking at $175,000 in penalties,” he said. “In the St. John Valley these are the only two [districts] moving forward; everyone else is waiting.”
SAD 33, SAD 24 and the Madawaska School Department, Guimond said, have opted to discontinue any reorganization discussions pending future legislative activity, which could revise the consolidation law’s requirements.
“There will be some slight savings with the elimination of the part-time superintendent in Allagash and some in the business manager areas,” Guimond said. “Are there other efficiencies to be had? There could be.”