EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — They have two schools to consolidate, but other than that massive job, the new Great Northern School System AOS 66 was operational Thursday, just in time to avoid $108,000 in fines for violating the state’s school consolidation law, Superintendent Quenten Clark said.
After elections that saw the residents of East Millinocket, Medway and Woodville vote overwhelmingly in favor of creating the alternative organizational structure from the former Union 113, the AOS 66 school board held its first organizational meeting on Wednesday and elected its members, Clark said.
“There’s not much difference here in terms of organization. The goal was to get it done for July 1 to avoid the penalties for next year,” Clark said Thursday. “We got her done.”
East Millinocket residents voted 93-11 and Medway residents 72-2 in favor of the AOS on June 23, while Woodville residents voted 18-0 on Tuesday to form the AOS, school officials said.
Former Union 113 Chairman Greg Stanley was elected chairman of the new AOS board, with Amy Linscott elected vice chairwoman and the Union 113 administrative and office staff being reappointed to their positions on Wednesday, Clark said.
Forming the AOS saved the three Katahdin region towns about $108,000 next year in fines levied on municipalities that fail to comply with the reorganization law. Clark has said that East Millinocket faced an approximately $60,000 fine; Medway, about $40,000; and Woodville, the smallest of the three towns, about $8,000.
Stanley has said consolidating East Millinocket, Medway and Woodville schools as an AOS would help guarantee the continued life of Schenck High School, which serves the three towns.
Board members chose to call the system Great Northern as a tribute to the former Great Northern Paper Co., which was the Katahdin region’s primary employer for most of a century, and because “Great Northern” also gives the location and flavor of the area, Clark said.
Besides, the name Katahdin already was taken by another school system.
“There were a lot of good years with Great Northern and they wanted to keep the name alive,” Clark said.
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.
State education officials approved Union 113’s attempt to form an AOS in April. Local school and town officials had a tough job complying with the July 1 deadline, but came through it well, Clark said.
Now school workers must begin to close Opal P. Myrick School in East Millinocket and move grade-school facilities there into Schenck, a laborious process that Clark said likely would take until school starts in September.
In addition to the move, some aspects of the high school need to be remodeled to accommodate the smaller-sized students who will have their own wing, Clark said.
Thursday was also Clark’s last day as superintendent of SAD 58, which covers Avon, Eustis, Kingfield, Phillips and Strong in Franklin County, he said.