May 21, 2018
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Brewer school board supports contract with Dedham, Orrington

By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — The Brewer School Committee has cast a unanimous vote of confidence in a contract with Dedham and Orrington to provide secondary education to their high school students.

The contract, which allows Brewer to charge the sending districts for a portion of debt service associated with money borrowed for improvements at Brewer High School, will be presented to residents in Orrington on Wednesday night and to residents of Dedham next week.

A referendum vote to create an Orrington-Dedham alternative organizational structure, which would include the contract with Brewer, is scheduled for Jan. 31 in both towns.

“This will come up again once the communities have agreed to it,” Mark Farley, chairman of the Brewer School Committee, told fellow board members Monday night.

Orrington’s public information meeting about the AOS and the proposed contract is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, with the regular school board meeting held afterward at 7 p.m. Dedham officials expect to present the plan to residents at 6 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Dedham School.

The draft 10-year contract with Brewer is modeled after one created by Mount Desert Island Regional School System and its sending communities, Farley said.

“It allows us to charge for up to 10 percent of the tuition rate for debt service,” he said.

The towns would be charged under the proposed contract based on the amount of improvements at Brewer High and the number of students from each town attending the high school.

“For the first year of the contract, there should be no cost to the sending communities,” Farley said. “Legally this is probably the only way we can receive money from those communities without affecting our funding from the state.”

To get the most out of the contract, Brewer would have to invest around $12 million at the high school, which is very unlikely, he said.

Before the committee’s vote of confidence in the nonexclusive contract, member Amanda Bost, who has been in on the talks with Orrington and Dedham, said she was pleased with the final version, even though it would not create as close a partnership as she thought it would.

“I think it’s a contract we can live with,” she said.

Under the proposed Orrington-Dedham AOS, the Dedham School Department would have its own budget and the Orrington School Department would have its own budget, and there would be a combined superintendent and special education office, Orrington Superintendent Allen Snell has said.

The AOS board would have six members — four from Orrington and two from Dedham — and would be charged with hiring a superintendent and creating a central office budget, he said.

If residents in the towns of Orrington and Dedham ratify the AOS at the Jan. 31 referendum, the Maine Department of Education will waive the penalties for the 2011-12 school year, Snell said.

Orrington was charged nearly a $120,000 penalty this school year for not consolidating under the state’s 2007 school consolidation law, and Dedham was assessed around $60,000.

Since the SAD 63 communities of Holden, Eddington and Clifton and the CSD 8 towns of Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn also are trying to form a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade AOS, the Brewer School Department also has been conducting talks with them about a nonexclusive contract, Farley said.

“We’ve actually already sent it to them,” he said after Monday’s school board meeting.

During Monday’s meeting, the school board also:

• Revised two policies regarding school discipline. The revisions essentially ban the use of physical force to restrain students.

• Held the first reading of a hazard communications program policy that requires all hazardous materials on school grounds to be clearly labeled.

• Approved applying for a Healthy Maine Partnership grant.

• Increased science credits earned for classes with labs starting in the 2011-12 school year from 1 credit to 1½ credits a year. The classes include honors physical science, lab biology, honors lab biology, lab chemistry and lab physics.

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