BROWNVILLE, Maine — SAD 41 officials told Brownville selectmen Wednesday that discussions about the possibility of forming an alternative organizational structure with surrounding districts should be about improving services for children.
Municipal officials had asked SAD 41 Superintendent Michael Wright to attend Wednesday’s board meeting to answer questions they had regarding school reorganization and the 2012 budget. Wright not only came, but several board members and administrators also attended.
SAD 41, whose residents rejected an earlier consolidation effort, is now participating in an ad hoc committee with SAD 4 in the Guilford area and SAD 68 in the Dover-Foxcroft area to examine an AOS, a unit allowed under the school reorganization law and which provides districts with more flexibility, according to Wright. SAD 41 also has extended an invitation to SAD 31 in Howland to participate in a similar discussion.
While the district is facing a penalty of about $100,000 for the earlier rejection of consolidation, Wright said the focus of moving ahead with any change should be about the children.
“To me, personally, it doesn’t feel like a very good reason to enter into a long-term relationship with another district just to avoid a penalty,” Wright said. “I think a long-term relationship ought to be about providing better opportunities for kids, it ought to be about real savings beyond just the penalty. However, I recognize $100,000 is $100,000 and that’s real money, but it does feel like you’re being coerced into it.”
The district is always looking for creative ways to improve opportunities for students, and that will be part of the discussions, according to Wright and newly hired Penquis Valley Principal Matt Hackett.
Wright said the district already shares a curriculum coordinator with SAD 31 and has an agreement to transport SAD 68 students enrolled at the Tri-County Technical Center in Dexter.
As to the budget, Wright said preliminary information from the Maine Department of Education indicates that the district could lose up to $125,000 in subsidy next year. In addition, the $106,000 in stabilization funds the district received this year will not be available next year.
“Because of the uncertainty, you just don’t know what’s coming, which makes it tough,” Wright said. He said he expects next year to be even more challenging budgetwise.
Wright agreed that more joint meetings should be held to keep SAD 41 residents and town officials better informed.