Glenburn meets two months before residents vote on school district withdrawal

Posted Sept. 12, 2012, at 9:41 p.m.

GLENBURN, Maine — A quiet, quick, sparsely attended public meeting at the Glenburn school Wednesday marked one of the final steps toward the town’s potential withdrawal from the school district it shares with Veazie and Orono.

Residents in Veazie and Glenburn will decide at the ballots in November whether they want their schools to operate alone. Both communities are attempting to withdraw from the school district. If successful, that would leave Orono as the sole member of RSU 26.

Veazie’s committee held its own public meeting Tuesday night in advance of its withdrawal vote. Now that both teams have held the required public meetings, they will submit the withdrawal agreements they worked out with the RSU 26 board to the Maine Department of Education for final approval. Each town already has received initial approval from the Department of Education commissioner.

Only four Maine towns have reached that point in the process, according to Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin. The other two are Frankfort and Arundel. Twenty-one communities have voted to form withdrawal committees.

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. In Glenburn’s case, at least 970 residents need to vote in the election, according to Michael O’Connor, spokesman for the withdrawal committee.

Glenburn and Veazie voters heavily favored forming committees to explore withdrawal during special elections held in March. Members of the community behind the withdrawal bids have said the benefits of regaining full control of their schools outweigh the benefits that were supposed to come from merging together.

“The system is not working as it should as far as having everyone come together to work as a group,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor also said costs to Glenburn would increase about $40,000 in the first year after withdrawal because the town would have to pay the full amount of Superintendent Douglas Smith’s contract, as well as some other service costs and fees.

However, O’Connor argued, Glenburn also wouldn’t have to pitch in to pay for a portion of the costs of infrastructure improvements in coming years at Orono’s aging schools. The town could also make its own choices for its schools without being outvoted by representatives of other communities on a school board where each town has its own interests and priorities for its schools.

O’Connor thanked the school board for its cooperation throughout the withdrawal negotiation process.

“It could have been a much more unpleasant experience, but it wasn’t thanks to the professionalism of those on the board,” O’Connor said.

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