June 18, 2018
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Veazie school withdrawal committee hosts public meeting about plan to go solo

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

VEAZIE, Maine — In less than two months, Veazie residents will take to the polls to decide whether its school should go it alone.

Veazie’s withdrawal committee and the RSU 26 board held a public meeting to bring some of those potential voters up to date on the town’s plan to leave the school district.

RSU 26 includes Veazie, Glenburn and Orono schools, but Veazie and Glenburn are attempting to withdraw and, if successful, would leave Orono as the sole member of the school district.

After a dozen meetings between the Veazie and Glenburn withdrawal committees and the RSU 26 school board, agreements were hashed out in August.

About 20 residents attended Tuesday night’s meeting, where Janine Raquet, chairwoman of Veazie’s withdrawal committee, gave a synopsis of the plan. Veazie students would continue to have a choice of high schools, but Orono High School would take any students who aren’t able to attend any of the choice schools.

Veazie also would share special education services, business office services and some teachers with the school district. Veazie also would use the services of RSU 26 Superintendent Douglas Smith if he remains with the school district.

If Glenburn withdraws successfully, however, Smith would work as superintendent of Glenburn school and Orono and Veazie would have to make another superintendent arrangement.

Rob Tomilson, another member of Veazie’s withdrawal committee, said during the meeting that the committee expects Veazie could save $170,000 annually in taxpayer allocations if it withdraws.

He argued that the town “would have 100 percent control over its budget,” and decisions on teacher contracts wouldn’t be made by a school board with members from two other communities.

Dick Leonard of Veazie said he didn’t believe the withdrawal committee could accurately predict how taxpayers would be affected by withdrawal this early on, but townspeople could be sure that “whatever money spent will be spent here in Veazie, as opposed to maybe doing maintenance in Orono or adding teachers in Glenburn.”

Rod Hathaway of Veazie was a member of the committee that set up the RSU 26 consolidation and school board. He said consolidation hadn’t brought all the benefits, such as reduced property taxes, the state had said the mergers would bring about.

“I, too, am disappointed that we didn’t achieve the outcome that consolidation was supposed to bring us,” he said.

Raquet said the town would send a newsletter to residents highlighting the reasons for the withdrawal attempt and detailing the plan. She said the town will have to hold its own public meeting on the withdrawal, hopefully on Oct. 25.

In order for the withdrawal to pass in the November election, at least half of the number of residents who voted in the latest gubernatorial election would have to cast votes, and a majority of those voters would have to vote in favor of withdrawal.

Glenburn will host its own public meeting on the withdrawal plan and November vote at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Glenburn School.

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