DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Some representatives of SADs 4, 68 and 41 believe changes made in the state law now make school reorganization more palatable.
For the past few months, an ad hoc committee consisting of Guilford, Dover-Foxcroft and Milo area directors has been meeting to study the recent changes made by the Legislature regarding alternate organizational structures, or AOS.
On Wednesday night, committee members agreed to ask their respective boards to vote next month whether to file a notice of intent to form an AOS and if so, with which districts. If the votes are affirmative, a meeting will be held on Sept. 21 to discuss the formation of a Regional Planning Committee.
The districts would avoid hefty penalties if a reorganization plan were approved by voters and the Department of Education. SAD 68 has thus far avoided a penalty because it voted last year to regionalize but its partners at that time, SADs 41 and 12, did not.
“There are four areas in the state where reorganization has not occurred, four geographic areas and maybe a fifth,” Norman Higgins, a Maine Department of Education consultant, said Wednesday. Those areas are southern Piscataquis County; the upper Kennebec Valley Region from Madison to Bingham; Millinocket and East Millinocket; the Penobscot Peninsula of Blue Hill, Deer Isle and Stonington; and the St. John Valley. The latter area had a plan ready to go last May but temporarily shelved it because it was too much, too fast, he noted.
Other areas — such as Orrington and Dedham — are actively engaged in implementing their reorganization plans, according to Higgins.
School districts have three options regarding reorganization: continue to do nothing and face the penalties; form a Regional School Unit, which is the twin of a school administrative district, where everything is shared; or form an AOS, a cousin of the old school union system.
Under the latter system, districts would share a central office, a superintendent, and specialty education services. An AOS board would govern the fiscal and financial management of the central office. The districts would still maintain their own school boards and their individual budgets, but each would share in the costs of the central office and superintendent, Higgins noted. The contracts of those superintendents displaced by the move must be honored, he said.
If the local boards vote to file a letter of intent, a Regional Planning Committee consisting of representatives of each district will be organized and a plan developed. After the plan is approved by the Department of Education, a public vote must be held 45 days later.
For those districts that want to vote on Election Day in November, plans must be submitted to the Department of Education by the end of this month, Higgins said. To avoid future penalties, the districts would have to get a plan voted on by Jan. 31 which means the plans must be submitted to the DOE by Thanksgiving, he noted.