HOULTON, Maine — After months of planning and a wait-and-see attitude about regionalization, SAD 29 has received permission from the state Department of Education to move forward alone under the state regionalization law.
SAD 29 Superintendent Steve Fitzpatrick said Thursday that he was pleased with the decision. “It comes after a lot of work on the part of everyone in the district.”
This past November, district voters turned down a proposed consolidation plan that called for SAD 29 in Houlton, SAD 70 in Hodgdon, SAD 14 in Danforth, Community School District 9 in Dyer Brook, SAD 25 in Stacyville and the municipal units of Hersey, Moro Plantation, Orient and Bancroft to consolidate to form the Tri-County Regional School Unit.
Once that happened, all the members of the RSU except SAD 29 submitted a plan for an Alternative Organizational Structure. The alternative called for those districts and towns to partner on reorganization. That plan subsequently was approved by all of the partners and the Department of Education.
SAD 29 chose to move forward alone and submitted an alternative plan asking Education Commissioner Susan Gendron for permission to do so. In early December, it was announced that SAD 29’s plan was turned down.
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 units governed by regional boards.
After more study, officials from SAD 29 again asked the department for permission to move forward alone earlier this year.
This time, the plan was approved.
Fitzpatrick said that the approval means the district won’t face a $195,000 financial penalty for not complying with the law.
The district now has more than 1,300 students, which is above the minimum of 1,200 needed under the law to form a regional school unit.
Fitzpatrick said Thursday that as SAD 29 moves forward, the district does not plan to close any of its four schools and will continue its past practice of collaborating with other districts to enhance services and purchasing power.
“That kind of collaboration is nothing new to us,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have always looked for ways to save money and stretch our dollars and will continue to do so.”
He also noted that the district has seen growth in the past few years at the elementary school level. The superintendent said that just a few years ago, there were approximately 50 pupils at the Wellington School in Monticello. Now, Fitzpatrick said, the elementary school has more than 70 pupils.