Towns to vote on school consolidation June 1

Posted May 13, 2010, at 9:01 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:30 a.m.

MARS HILL, Maine — After rejecting an earlier plan for consolidation, school systems in central Aroostook County are sending a second plan for regionalization to voters in their member towns next month.

The school boards of SAD 42 in Mars Hill, SAD 20 in Fort Fairfield and the Bridgewater School Department have been given state approval to form an Alternative Organizational Structure, or AOS, named the Mid-County School System. A referendum vote to approve the new AOS will be held June 1 in all of the towns in the proposed system.

If approved, the AOS will allow all three school districts to combine central office functions, including district administration and business offices, and special education administration and transportation director responsibilities.

Roger Shaw, superintendent in SAD 42, said the integration of these services would be phased in over a three-year period for an estimated total cost savings of $200,000 for all of the districts.

“We anticipate between $12,000 and $15,000 in savings for the AOS during the first year,” Shaw said Thursday. “We expect to see between $75,000 and $100,000 in savings the second year and a total of $200,000 in savings by year three.”

Shaw said the proposal also allows SAD 42 to avoid approximately $62,000 in annual penalties imposed by the state Department of Education for school districts that fail to reorganize by July 1. An $86,000 penalty will be avoided by SAD 20 if the proposal is approved, and the Bridgewater School Department will not be assessed $11,000 in annual penalties if the plan is approved.

The Department of Education approved the plan in early April.

Shaw acknowledged Thursday that if any one of the local districts rejects the plan, it will not go into effect. Still, the superintendent said he believes communities are looking favorably upon the proposed AOS.

“The SAD 42 school board, the SAD 20 school board and the Fort Fairfield, Bridgewater and Mars Hill town councils have all voted to endorse this,” he said. “We think it is a good plan. I think there is a general belief out there that this is the way to go. This seems to be something that will work.”

If the plan is approved, only one superintendent will oversee the AOS by year three.

Shaw said the schools involved will have to share some services under the plan, but added that the schools still will retain their independence, and their school boards will remain unchanged.

The referendum question will ask, “Do you favor approving the school administrative reorganization plan prepared by the Mid-County School System reorganization planning committee to reorganize SAD 20, SAD 42, and Bridgewater School Department into an alternative organizational structure, with an effective date of July 1, 2010?”

The polls will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 1 in the member towns.

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