June 18, 2018
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Withdrawal negotiations wrap up in Orono/Veazie/Glenburn school district

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — The RSU 26 board of directors and committees from Veazie and Glenburn completed withdrawal negotiations during a meeting Tuesday night, nearly two months after discussions began.

The withdrawal committees will draft final versions of their agreements to be vetted by the school district’s attorney before going to the board for a vote. The Maine Department of Education then would need to approve the plan before residents vote on whether to go through with the withdrawal.

If both Veazie and Glenburn withdraw, Orono will be the lone member of the school district.

In an 8-4 vote Tuesday, the school board accepted a deal that resolved one of the major bottlenecks in the withdrawal agreements. Veazie’s withdrawal committee was interested in contracting with the school district to guarantee that Orono High School accept all Veazie students who want to attend the high school. As part of the agreement, the school district would receive up to $900 per tuition student from Veazie per school year, according to Superintendent Douglas Smith.

That proposal originally appeared only in Veazie’s plan, but the board agreed to extend the offer to Glenburn as well.

The tuition contract that will appear in the final Veazie and Glenburn proposals mimics a similar agreement that the Department of Education approved when Orrington and Dedham formed an alternative organizational structure and made a tuition deal with Brewer.

Orono representative Lisa Buck said she “had a fundamental difficulty with this concept” and wouldn’t support it. She said the agreement bound Orono High School to accept any students from Veazie and Glenburn and could throw off the “balance” of the student population at the high school.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the school board accepted recommendations from Smith and the school district’s administrative team on how to spend the $265,000 residents voted in May to add to the school budget.

Included in the list of additions is $62,000 toward systemwide services, including the district’s central office in Glenburn, special education and technology. The remainder of the $265,000 was divided to restore teaching positions at the district’s schools.

Not included in the list of restored positions is the vice principal position in Glenburn, which the board voted to eliminate during a period of budget cuts earlier the year. Smith said he discussed the need for the assistant principal position in Glenburn with the school’s principal and the principal said that he felt he could do without and that he and his staff would rather see other items put back.

That former assistant principal, Jeff Paul, was hired by the school district last week to take over as Orono Middle School’s new principal.

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