St. George to ask voters about school withdrawal

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted Sept. 21, 2012, at 1:57 p.m.

ST. GEORGE, Maine — Residents will be asked this fall whether they are in favor of breaking away from Regional School Unit 13.

The nonbinding referendum will be held Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the town office, where voting will take place for the general election. The voting for this referendum will be done at a table separate from the formal polling place, according to Town Manager John Falla.

Terry Driscoll, chairman of the Town Education Committee, said the vote is being sought to give direction to both the committee and selectmen.

The question will ask residents: “Would you be in favor of St. George withdrawing from RSU 13 and becoming an independent municipal school district.” The question further indicates that the town would operate a kindergarten through eighth-grade school in town and offer a choice of high schools for its older students.

Driscoll said that research done by the committee finds that the change would have little or no impact on local property taxes.

He said it was too early to discuss which high schools students could attend if St. George withdrew from RSU 13. He said once the committee and selectmen gauge the sentiment of voters, it could make formal contacts with other high schools.

RSU 13 consists of Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston, and Cushing as well as St. George. The district formed three years ago when School Administrative District 5 consolidated with SAD 50. St. George had been part of SAD 50 since 1963.

RSU 13 and the town have been at odds for the past two years, particularly over where eighth-graders from St. George should attend school.

At the March 2011 town meeting, residents overwhelmingly agreed to contribute an additional $50,000 to RSU 13 to allow the eighth-graders to remain in St. George. The school board last year, however, voted to send eighth-graders to Oceanside High School West in Thomaston where eighth- and ninth-graders from the other towns are enrolled.

In June, the district informed St. George that it did not consider its Town Education Committee a legal entity in the wake of requests by the committee for information.

RSU 13 board chairwoman Esther “Tess” Kilgour said that St. George is a valued member of the RSU 13 community and she realizes how passionate its residents are about their community and their children’s education.

She said the district has hired a new superintendent and asked the town to give the district time. She said the district would work with the town regardless of how residents vote on Nov. 6.

Kilgour said she had no problem with the nonbinding vote.

“I think it’s always a good thing to take the temperature, so to speak, of the community. And I couldn’t think of a better time than during a presidential [election] year,” Kilgour said.

RSU 13 has slightly more than 2,000 students in the district. Of those, 458 are from St. George, including the 178 who attend the St. George School.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/09/21/news/midcoast/st-george-to-ask-voters-about-school-withdrawal/ printed on April 25, 2014