The state’s top educator approved allowing the Katahdin Region’s largest school system to pursue becoming an alternative organizational structure and thereby saving about $108,000 in state penalties this year, officials said Friday.
Education Commissioner Stephen L. Bowen told Superintendent Quenten Clark that Union 113 fits the criteria for AOS and gave permission for the school system to formally apply for that designation, according to a letter Bowen wrote on Tuesday.
Greg Stanley, chairman of the Union 113 board of directors, said he was pleased at the news. By no means the final hurdle for the AOS, Bowen’s approval was one of the largest, he said.
“Now we have to put together a plan and take it to the towns for approval and see if we can get it done,” Stanley said Friday.
Forming the AOS would save the three towns about $108,000 next year in fines levied to municipalities that fail to comply with the reorganization law. Clark has said that East Millinocket faces an approximately $60,000 fine; Medway, about $40,000; and Woodville, the smallest of the three towns, about $8,000.
An AOS is a combination of two or more school administrative units joined to provide administrative and educational services for municipalities, in which, according to a definition provided by the Department of Education, each member entity maintains its own budget, has its own school board, and is operated as a separate unit except for administrative services and those educational services indicated in the AOS plan.
As an AOS, the union would keep its forms of administration and parents, staff and students probably would see no tangible day-to-day changes in the system’s operations, Clark has said.
“That’s what we are shooting for,” Stanley said.
School officials and board members will start working on the AOS plan by the end of the month to meet a July 1 deadline, Stanley said. Residents of the three towns would have to vote to approve forming the AOS after public hearings are held, and those votes probably would occur in town meetings.