May 23, 2018
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Rockland-area RSU to mull St. George withdrawal plan

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland area school board will have its attorney review a proposed withdrawal plan submitted by St. George, the board’s chairwoman said Monday night.

The St. George Withdrawal Committee submitted its proposed agreement to the district on Nov. 22.

The plan calls for the district to withdraw as of July 1, 2015. Before that can occur, a referendum would be held in town, likely in November of 2014, according to Terry Driscoll, a member of the withdrawal committee. Residents agreed in May to proceed with the withdrawal process.

He said the attorney will review the proposal and make recommendations to the board.

Driscoll said the proposal submitted to the district is similar to ones approved by the state education commissioner for other school district withdrawals across the state.

The commissioner must first approve a negotiated agreement between the district and the withdrawal committee before the proposal can go to St. George residents for a binding vote.

The town is proposing that the St. George School, which currently serves students in grades K-7, be turned over to the town at no cost. Plans are for it to operate as a K-8 school again, as it did before eighth graders were transferred in September 2013 to Oceanside West High School. All equipment, books and supplies at the school would be retained by the St.George Municipal School Unit. Five buses would be retained by St. George at no cost.

Any debt or lease payments associated with the school or equipment at the school would become the responsibility of the town school unit.

St. George would share in 19.34 percent of the district’s surplus, reserve accounts and liabilities.

Employees assigned to the St. George School as of June 30, 2015, would become employees of the St. George school system.

All students entering grades eight through 12 at RSU 13’s Oceanside high schools would have the right to remain there in 2015-2016 with the tuition rate to be determined by state law. In the ensuing nine years, St. George students would have the right to attend Oceanside in grades nine through 12, according to the St. George proposal.

In September, RSU 13 business manager Scott Vaitones estimated that the district would see a net loss of $1.25 million in revenues with the withdrawal of St. George. He stated in his projections that there was no easy way to determine the reduced expenses at the high schools if St. George students did not attend. Currently, about 100 students from St. George attend the Oceanside high schools.

Driscoll said that the withdrawal process has reached the stage it has because of the failure of RSU 13 to accept proposals by the town that he said would have ensured a stronger education for St. George youngsters. The town had asked the district to allow it form a local school committee within the district and to allow the town to spend more money at the St. George School if the added money all came from the town but those requests were rejected.

Residents had expressed some optimism last year that with a new board chair and new superintendent the town could work out its disagreements with RSU 13. But that did not happen.

The relocation of the eighth grade students from the St. George School was another of the major reasons behind the effort to withdraw.

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