ROCKLAND, Maine — Beleaguered Regional School Unit 13 is facing a breakup as the chairwoman of the board is leading an effort for Rockland to withdraw while Thomaston residents are working toward a similar goal.
Board Chairwoman Esther “Tess” Kilgour was seeking signatures Wednesday night on a petition to have Rockland consider withdrawing from RSU 13. Kilgour said she wanted the city to explore all options.
Kilgour said two weeks ago that the turmoil in the district was due, in part, to some people wanting to run the district in the old SAD 50 way while having SAD 5 pay for it.
RSU 13 consists of the former SAD 5 (Rockland, Owls Head and South Thomaston) and SAD 50 (Thomaston, St. George and Cushing).
Her effort comes as signatures are being collected in Thomaston on a petition that asks the Board of Selectmen to begin the process of having that town withdraw from RSU 13.
One copy of the petition, which was left on the counter at the Thomaston Grocery store on Tuesday afternoon, had 18 signatures on it by early Wednesday morning.
Thomaston Town Clerk Joan Linscott said Wednesday that 128 signatures are needed on a petition to require selectmen to act on an issue.
The petition is being spearheaded by resident Noreen Mullaney, who was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Marla McGeady, one of two Thomaston representatives on the RSU 13 board, said she is not surprised by the petition, pointing out that she had heard from residents who have raised that action as a possibility.
“This does not surprise me under the current circumstances,” said McGeady, who has been on the board for three months. She said she is trying to remain optimistic but it has been difficult because of the turmoil on the board.
“There’s perpetual divisiveness,” she said, to the point that people from various sides physically sit on different sides of the tables during meetings.
But most frustrating, she said, is that in the past three months, there has been nothing discussed about academics.
McGeady said she did not want to say whether she supports the effort. She acknowledged that withdrawal is a huge undertaking, pointing out that it has taken St. George three years to get to the point it is with its withdrawal plan.
St. George and RSU 13 are preparing to negotiate terms of that town’s withdrawal. St. George residents are expected to vote in November on withdrawing. If approved, the withdrawal would take effect July 1, 2015.
The other Thomaston representative, Darryl Sanborn, said he would seek out the petition and sign it.
“The joining of SAD 5 and SAD 50 was a shotgun wedding at the hands of the state,” Sanborn said, adding that a divorce was needed.
The enrollment for RSU 13 in 2012-2013 was 1,960 students, with Rockland having 763, Thomaston 355, St. George 273, Cushing 205, South Thomaston 188, and Owls Head 177.
One signature on the petition was from veteran SAD 50 and then RSU 13 custodian and crosswalk monitor Sigrid Keyes. She retired as custodian two years ago after 36 years.
Keyes said she was opposed to the consolidation from the start and supports local community schools rather than larger consolidated schools.