BLUE HILL, Maine — There will be a familiar face to lead School Union 93 in the coming year.
The union joint board last week hired former superintendent Mark Hurvitt as the union superintendent. Hurvitt, who serves three days a week as the superintendent in Vinalhaven, served as superintendent for Union 93 from 2003 to 2006. He will replace Art Wittine, who retired at the end of December.
Union 93 includes the schools in Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine and Penobscot, and through a contractual agreement, Surry.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Hurvitt said he looks forward to returning to Union 93 as superintendent. With his children older now — one in college and one in high school — he said he can better handle the schedule of a union superintendent, which involves many night meetings.
“This is a good fit,” he said. “I know most of the people, the school boards, the selectmen, budget committees and just people in general. That makes it much more appealing than going to a town where I don’t know anyone.”
The union faces a number of organization challenges in the coming year, Hurvitt said, starting with the consolidation law.
“The last chapter of consolidation hasn’t been written yet,” he said. “That’s still a cloud hanging over Union 93.”
Legislation last year postponed penalties for towns that voted against consolidating, but they could be imposed this year depending on action by the state Legislature.
“That’s another piece of the puzzle,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see if the Legislature has the stomach to stick it to the towns that voted ‘no.”’
The question of the Surry school also will be one the union board has to face in the coming year. Most of the Union 92 schools joined Regional School Union 25, but Surry opted to join with the peninsula schools from Unions 93 and 76. When voters defeated the consolidation plan, Surry was left without a superintendent and has contracted with Union 93 for superintendent and other administrative services.
Under consolidation, school unions were not allowed to grow or add new towns, Hurvitt noted.
“I’m sure Surry is feeling up in the air,” he said.
The union also will need to look at possibly developing a more formalized relationship with Union 76 in certain areas. And the district will need to be ready to implement a Response to Intervention curriculum by September, he said. The curriculum is a federal mandate designed to bring students who aren’t receiving special education services up to grade level.
The state’s budget woes will have an impact on the union schools, Hurvitt said, but the effect may not be as significant as in other districts around the state. All the schools in the union are minimum receivers, meaning that theoretically they receive just 50 percent of special education costs from the state.
Because they receive less from the state, he said, the cuts in state subsidy affect them less severely than some other districts.
“There’s never a good time to be a minimum receiver,” Hurvitt said. “But now is better than most.”
Hurvitt said he likes the model of five small schools that contain kindergarten through eighth grade, which seems to work well and is a good place to educate children.
“They are good schools, people are doing good things; they’re upbeat and I think the kids are getting a good shake,” he said. “I’m looking forward to leading the charge down there.”
Hurvitt is expected to start working at Union 93 by July 31 at the latest, but said he could start earlier. He said he will be working with the boards from Vinalhaven and Union 93 to develop a schedule that works for both districts.
The Union 93 board approved a two-year contract for Hurvitt at a salary of $100,000 for the first year.