Hearing set on dual-county school consolidation

Posted Jan. 11, 2011, at 10:24 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 7:24 a.m.

MILO, Maine — Officials in SAD 41 (Milo region) and SAD 31 (Howland region) have found enough common ground to propose an administrative consolidation, despite the fact they are located in different counties.

“I think there’s not a whole lot to dislike about the plan,” SAD 41 Superintendent Michael Wright said Tuesday of the proposal. “For the most part, people see the advantages of it.”

SAD 41 directors have set a public hearing on the proposed plan at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12, at the Penquis Valley Middle/High School cafeteria. A referendum vote will be held in each district Tuesday, Jan. 25.

If both districts approve the proposal, an Alternative Organizational Structure, or AOS, board would be created and would hire a superintendent. The new AOS would become operational July 1.

The plan, which has been approved by the Department of Education, would allow both districts to comply with the state administrative consolidation law and avoid penalties. For SAD 31 the penalty is $105,000 per year and for SAD 41 it is $113,000.

“I have said right from the beginning, since I arrived here, that a long-term relationship with another school district ought to be about something other than just escaping a penalty. It ought to be about making things better for kids, it ought to be about some long-term savings,” Wright said. “We think we can accomplish that in this plan.”

Months of discussions revealed that both districts, each located about 10 miles from LaGrange, the center point, have a lot in common, according to Wright.

The proposed plan not only would eliminate the penalties but also would combine the central offices of the two districts for an estimated savings of $75,000 over three years, Wright said. In addition, it could provide opportunities for students, he said. For example, the districts could share foreign language or Advanced Place-ment teachers, and student activities.

“I think it’s up to us to look at the possibilities and make some of these things a reality,” Wright said.

Unlike previous plans with other districts in Piscataquis County, this plan has the support of both boards of directors, the regional planning committee and municipal officials, according to Wright. He encouraged residents to support it at the referendum vote.

“I think it’s the right thing for us to do,” Wright said.

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