ORRINGTON, Maine — New rules that went into effect this summer regarding alternative organizational structures under the 2007 school consolidation law are allowing communities such as Orrington and Dedham, and Eddington and Clifton, to keep local control.
“The AOS structure changed” and now “it’s very similar to the old school union,” Superintendent Allen Snell said at Tuesday’s Orrington School Committee meeting.
Community leaders in town and nearby Dedham are working together to create a new cost-saving regional school unit.
Under the proposed AOS, “The Dedham School Department will have [its] own budget and the Orrington School Department will have its own budget,” Snell explained Wednesday. “And there will be a combined superintendent and special education office” that will fall under the AOS.
Earlier this month, SAD 63 and CSD 8 approved an AOS plan that is very similar to the one being considered in Orrington and Dedham. The SAD 63 and CSD 8 plan made formal a partnership that has been in place for years, Superintendent David Anderson, who serves both SAD 63 and CSD 8, said Wednesday.
“This makes it official,” he said.
Under the new AOS rules, a school unit may keep its own school board and assign members of that panel to the joint AOS board.
In the Orrington-Dedham partnership, “the AOS board will have six members, four from Orrington and two from Dedham,” Snell said. “That’s based on the population” and each vote is weighted. “That AOS board would be charged with hiring a superintendent and creating a central office budget.”
Dedham and Orrington have already agreed that the AOS office will be located in Orrington, since Center Drive School has more space, he said.
Most of the school consolidation plan is complete, but one big piece that remains to be worked out is a nonexclusive contract with a community that provides secondary education.
With a majority of the high school-age students in both communities attending Brewer High School, the decision was made to contract with Brewer.
“Under the K-8 contract, they would become our public high school, but school choice is still preserved,” school board Chairman Kyle Casburn said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Details of that contract are expected to be presented to the public in December or early January at the latest, Snell said.
“We would discuss it in an open forum, then [the school board] would vote on it and then we would vote on it as a town,” school board member Glendon Rand said.
The Orrington School Committee will next meet Dec. 1. On Dec. 7, some members of the panel will meet with their counterparts from Brewer and Dedham. Orrington and Dedham school officials then will hold an AOS planning meeting Dec. 15. In order to consider the final AOS draft, which will include the contract with Brewer, the Orrington school board is likely to hold a special meeting in mid-December, Snell said.
“By Dec. 15 we hope to have the whole plan complete, then we have to submit it to the state,” he said. “Once the state approves it, then we have to set up a day for the [public] vote and hold public hearings” in both Orrington and Dedham.
“We would hope to have a [public] vote in January or February,” Snell said.
If approved by residents, the new Orrington-Dedham AOS school board will need to be appointed. The new board would hire a superintendent and create a new school budget before the July 1, 2011, start date.
Voters in the SAD 63 communities of Holden, Eddington and Clifton and the CSD 8 towns of Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn approved their AOS in the Nov. 2 election by a nearly 2-1 vote, Anderson said.
“The next step is to form the AOS board,” which will immediately be tasked with negotiating a nonexclusive contract with Brewer, he said.
The AOS board for SAD 63 and CSD 8 will consist of seven members, one from each town, and will have weighted votes based on population, Anderson said.
Since each school unit will maintain its school board and each community is represented on the joint AOS board, “there will still be local control,” Anderson said.