June 20, 2018
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Midcoast school boards back proposal to revamp high school, post-secondary education

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — School boards in the region have been backing a package of rules for the creation and governing of the proposed Many Flags project aimed at revamping high school and post-secondary education in the region.

Final votes are expected in October.

But there are some skeptics of the proposal that calls for a high school, vocational school, community college, university and industry training centers on one campus.

The Regional School Unit 13 board voted unanimously in June to accept the first draft of a package of rules that would govern the Many Flags operation. The Five-Town Community School District voted unanimously in July on the same package.

RSU 13 covers Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing. The Five-Town CSD covers Camden, Rockport, Hope, Appleton and Lincolnville.

Both districts expect to present the revised final set of rules at their October meetings.

The Regional School Unit 40 board voted in August to give backing to the first draft of rules, but there was opposition with three board members opposed and one member abstaining.

RSU 40 includes Waldoboro, Warren, Union, Friendship and Washington.

One of the RSU board members who voted against the package was Ann Donaldson of Union.

Donaldson said she is a strong supporter of regionalization of educational programs but said that can be accomplished without the additional layer of administration and costs associated with Many Flags.

The local school districts should be able to regionalize programs such as special education, advanced placement courses, transportation and food service without Many Flags, she said.

Donaldson questioned why Oceanside High School needs a new building and why the University of Maine at Rockland needs a new facility.

The votes of the board follow a May meeting in which representatives of all the districts that will be part of Many Flags attended to hear a presentation on how the district would be governed.

That plan called for the creation of an 11-member Many Flags Board. The members would be appointed by the boards of the participating districts.
RSU 13, SAD 40, and the Five-Town CSD will each have two representatives on the Many Flags board. Each of the islands — Vinalhaven, North Haven, and Islesboro — will have one board member, and both the Maine Community College System and the University of Maine system will have one representative on the board.

The first action to be required of the new board will be to hire an executive director, develop a budget and determine a cost-sharing formula.

Donaldson said she sees no need for a separate administrative arrangement that will usurp the authority of the locally elected boards of each district.

“I don’t like something that operates from the top down,” the Union woman said.

The Many Flags committee is making changes to the proposal based on input it received from the individual boards over the summer and will submit the revised plan before the expected October votes.

There is no site selected yet for where the campus would be located. The Many Flags Foundation had an option to buy property on Route 131 in South Thomaston but let it expire in December.

The state has yet to approve money for the project. There is no location selected yet for a site.

In 2007, the estimated price of the Many Flags proposal was $64 million.

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