June 19, 2018
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Regional school plan hits roadblock with RSU 40 rejection

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

WALDOBORO, Maine — The Regional School Unit 40 board threw a big wrench in the long-planned Many Flags project that could eventually have created one campus for a high school, vocational school and post-secondary educational facilities.

The RSU 40 board voted 7-6 Thursday night to reject the governance plan for Many Flags, One Community. RSU 40 represents Waldoboro, Warren, Union, Friendship and Washington.

The vote came two hours after the RSU 13 board in Rockland gave its unanimous backing to Many Flags and one day after the Five-Town Community School District that represents Camden, Rockport, Hope, Appleton and Lincolnville gave its unanimous support.

The Region 8 vocational board had given its unanimous approval on June 27.

Alan Hinsey, the project coordinator for the Many Flags project, said after the Thursday night vote that he does not know what will be the next step. The vote in Waldoboro was a reversal from two months ago when the same school board had given preliminary approval to the governance rules.

If the board had approved the rules, the next step would have been the creation of a Many Flags board this fall, with that new group determining a cost-sharing formula for the organization. The RSU boards in the region would have appointed members to the Many Flags board.

The added costs and the additional layer of administration were cited by the RSU 40 board members who voted against the package of rules presented to them Thursday night.

“This is a clouded whirlpool of confusion,” said RSU 40 board member Guy Bourrie of Washington.

Board member Gail Hawes of Union said some of the goals of the Many Flags proposal — common schedules among all the school districts in the midcoast, regional transportation and regional food service — can be accomplished without the additional layer of administration.

Hawes noted that the statewide school consolidation pushed by the state five years ago has not saved any money for RSU 40 and she did not see how Many Flags would save any money.

Board member Darrell Goldrup of Waldoboro said that RSU 40 pays $763,000 to Region 8, which operates the regional vocational school, Mid-Coast School of Technology, but the district has little say.

“How can I look people in the eyes who are trying to keep their home and tell them we need more money?” Goldrup said.

Board member Tod Brown of Warren urged the board to approve the governance plan. He said if the district tried to work with other districts for regional services it would still cost more money.

“It’s worth taking a look,” Brown said.

Tori Manzi, who serves both on the Five-Town CSD board and on the Many Flags steering committee, tried to assure the RSU 40 board that Many Flags was no longer just about creating a new physical campus, as had been the original effort.

“We don’t think of a campus anymore. That’s a dream,” Manzi said, noting that the state has yet to set aside any money for a new campus.

Many Flags had originally been proposed as a new high school for students going to Rockland District High School in Rockland and Georges Valley High School in Thomaston, with the intention of locating the vocational school, a community college and technical college on the same grounds. RDHS and GVHS have sinced merged into Oceanside High School.

The governance plan had called for RSU 13, RSU 40, the Five-Town CSD and Region 8 vocational district to each have two members on the new Many Flags Board. The community college system, the University of Maine and the three local Penobscot Bay islands combined (Vinalhaven, North Haven and Islesboro) would each have had one member on the board for a total of 11 board members.

Some RSU 40 board members voiced concern about that makeup, noting that one school district could also have two of its members on the Region 8 vocational board serve on the Many Flags board, giving that district too much weight.

Brown said that was a nonissue.

“The problem is everyone lives somewhere, unless that person lives in the Cloud,” Brown said.

Hinsey said he had planned to make a presentation to the island school districts after receiving the approval of the four mainland boards.

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