GUILFORD, Maine — SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns recalled listening in recently on a Department of Education teleconference call and hearing officials refer to Regional School Unit 4 and its financial figures.
Stearns said he could hear school officials talking in the background of the teleconference call remarking that the figures were too large for the Guilford-area schools.
They were, Stearns said, because the state officials were talking about RSU 4, not SAD 4, which they now call RSU 80. He said he also fielded some telephone calls from educators later inquiring about the figures mentioned during the call.
“What we’re finding is there is some confusion,” Stearns said Monday.
SAD 4 — along with SAD 1, now known by the state as RSU 79, in the Presque Isle area, and SAD 25, which the state considers RSU 89, in the Sherman Station area — were three districts that elected to keep their school administrative district designations as the law allowed.
“The law states clearly that we can continue to do business as SAD 4,” Stearns said. The Legislature during the reorganization of regional school units did so to allow districts to avoid additional costs such as relettering buses and letterheads. The problem, he said, is that the Department of Education named another new organi-zation in the Litchfield area as RSU 4. “Why they did that is beyond me.”
“What I’m finding is that in dealing with the Department of Education, they don’t know the difference between RSU 80 and SAD 4,” Stearns said.
SAD 1 Superintendent Gehrig Johnson said Monday it could be confusing since everything from his district is labeled SAD 1. “Every single thing coming out of the state department should have SAD 1 on it. If they want to use RSU 79, fine, put a slash,” he said.
“We are not, as far as we’re concerned, RSU 79. In our view, when that law was passed it allowed local systems to keep their names, which means exactly what it said,” Johnson said.
Jim Rier, the DOE’s director of finance and operation, said Monday he does not see a problem with the new RSU designations but noted that Stearns had shared his concerns with him. While the three districts may refer to themselves by their SAD names, they are tracked and reported to the state as RSUs, as the law requires, Rier stated. The numbers were given to the school districts as they reorganized. The department didn’t preserve any numbers, he said.
“I don’t know where the confusion is coming from,” Rier said.
Stearns believes it will be just a matter of time before the confusion gets worse. “When you’re talking about large, large amounts of data being shuffled back and forth between local units and the state department, it wouldn’t be unheard of for an individual to really not understand SADs,” he said. SAD 4 has been known by that name since 1958, he said, and the district intends to keep it that way.
Stearns said he will however, make sure the district’s correspondence includes the addition of RSU 80 to help prevent problems. He also noted that he had called RSU 4 officials and cautioned them to keep a careful lookout for financial forms and paperwork to make sure the school units are not being confused.
The reorganization status of all Maine school systems can be found at: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/plansandresponses.html