School Administrative District 31 hopes to seek final state permission today to form an alternative organizational structure with the Greenbush school system after having recently received an initial OK from the state.
“We’re moving at warp speed,” Superintendent Jerry White said Wednesday of the district’s application.
White hopes the Maine Department of Education will answer the AOS application within a week or so, he said.
State education Commissioner Susan Gendron approved the idea on April 28, with a proviso: that Greenbush, which already employs White as a part-time superintendent, and SAD 31 continue to work with SAD 41 to achieve savings and improve efficiencies, White said.
Like SAD 31 and Greenbush, officials from East Range II Community School District, SAD 30 and Unions 107 and 110 seek to form an AOS within northern Penobscot County and surrounding areas. The schools of Chester, Lincoln and Mattawamkeag formed RSU 67 a year ago, while Katahdin region school efforts to create an AOS have stalled.
By state law, school officials have until July 1, the start of the 2010-11 state fiscal year, to finish forming the AOS — presuming voter approval — or they could face stiff penalties. The law’s intent is to use consolidation to improve efficiencies and lower education costs by combining school systems. Initially, AOS sizes were set at more than 1,000 students, although a later law overturned that, White said.
White said that the proposed SAD 31-Greenbush AOS would save as much as $40,000 annually while serving about 856 students, according to 2006 student population figures, which the law requires using as a benchmark.
White believes that there could be a vast increase in efficiencies and in the value of services shared among SADs 31 and 41 and Greenbush, such as teacher training and staff enrichment. Also, under the proposed AOS, SAD 31 and Greenbush day-to-day routines would remain unchanged and the towns that both serve would retain control over their schools that they have always enjoyed, he said.
“It won’t reduce costs, but it will improve efficiency,” White said.
The principals, curriculum coordinator and superintendents of SADs 31 and 41 and Greenbush have met several times during the school year to find services to share, and began sharing SAD 31 curriculum coordinator Catherine Menard’s efforts in September.
Finance office services are also shared among the three systems, White said.
SAD 31 serves Burlington, Edinburg, Enfield, Howland, Maxfield and Passadumkeag. SAD 41, which serves Atkinson, Brownville, LaGrange, Lake View Plantation and Milo, had discussed consolidating with SAD 31 officials a year ago, but those talks never came to a vote.
If the AOS gets final approval, SAD 31 and Greenbush will seek voter approval during a June 15 vote. That will come after SAD 31 holds a public hearing on the AOS plan at Penobscot Valley High School of Howland on June 1 at 7 p.m., White said.
“We are on an extremely tight timeline,” White said.
SAD 31 and Greenbush officials were scheduled to meet Wednesday in Greenbush to complete the AOS agreement, White said.