When Union 113 and Millinocket Superintendent Sara Alberts retires at the end of the school year, the idea of having one boss for all Katahdin region schools probably will leave with her.
Meeting separately over the last two weeks, the Union 113 board of directors and the Millinocket school board decided not to hire a replacement for Alberts, who has been superintendent for East Millinocket, Medway, Millinocket and Woodville schools since the 2004-05 school year.
The Millinocket School Committee seems inclined to pursue hiring a part-time superintendent to shepherd that town’s schools, member Arnold Hopkins said.
“We are kind of waiting to see what the state Legislature is going to do [with state-mandated school consolidation] and we are putting out some feelers about what some of our options might be,” Hopkins said Wednesday. “I don’t think we can afford our own [full-time] superintendent all by ourselves. It’s more an economical choice than anything else.”
The Union 113 board, which represents the other towns, might hire a full-time superintendent and combine that job with another position, such as special education coordinator or school principal, member Greg Stanley of Medway said.
“I would say that we are definitely going on our own,” Stanley said of the union.
Having one person run Katahdin schools had never been tried when Alberts was hired in July 2004. It was an experiment that supporters hoped would save money.
Alberts achieved some successes, but questions over some aspects of her leadership and the towns’ multigenerational school, economic and political rivalries — and differing educational priorities — show that future consolidation of the superintendent’s position won’t work, Stanley said.
The towns have their own educational goals and want a superintendent devoted to them, Stanley and Hopkins said.
“Sara is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen, but in my own personal feeling, I think right from the beginning our vision, Millinocket’s and ours, was different,” Stanley said. “They went into this with a view of having it [be] a full-blown consolidation with the towns. Union 113 never looked at it that way. We looked at it as a cost-sharing, cost-saving thing that was maybe working toward something.”
Still, Union 113 board members want to maintain many of the savings and program sharing among the towns’ schools, and work with Millinocket to create more, Stanley said. “I think there have been successes with shared positions,” he said.
Even though he supports the law, Hopkins said he is aware that the elimination of Alberts’ position as top administrator for the Katahdin towns is probably contrary to the state’s school consolidation law. The law mandates that the Katahdin towns consolidate with other communities, possibly face fines, or declare themselves too geographically isolated to consolidate — a condition that he felt only Millinocket might fit.
“The state Department of Education is not interested in producing any more superintendents that hang there in the background,” Hopkins said.
Union 113 and Millinocket will continue to develop administrative plans. Millinocket will meet with a Maine School Management Association member within the next two months to discuss how to establish a part-time superintendent, Hopkins said.