ELLSWORTH, Maine — Area residents will be one step further along in the process of creating a new school district when they elect a school board on Tuesday.
The school district was created after a year-and-a-half long process that culminated in a November election, where residents opted to withdraw from Regional School Unit 24. The school district currently serves Ellsworth and 11 other nearby communities.
Eight candidates are running for five available seats on Ellsworth’s school board. They are Dawn Hudson, Marsha Boles Jude, Paul Markosian, Brenda Thomas, Russell White, Heather Bird, Andrea Perry and Darren Richardson. The two candidates receiving the most votes will serve three-year terms. The two candidates who are next in line will serve two-year terms, and the fifth place vote-getter will serve a one-year term.
“It’s great that we had eight candidates,” said city manager Michelle Beal, adding that the number of candidates demonstrates the community’s high level of commitment to the school department.
As of 1 p.m. Monday, 50 absentee ballots had been returned to the city clerk’s office.
Once the school board is in place, the first order of business will be to elect a new superintendent. The search for one already has been set in motion by Jack Turcotte, a former superintendent who was hired by the city of Ellsworth to assist with the transition to a new school board.
Turcotte has begun soliciting applications for the position in order to present a search committee with options. The search committee will consist of members of the school board, the public, the school system and city government.
Turcotte said he has been in conversations with administrators from RSU 24, as well as the new school districts in Hancock and Lamoine, to discuss the possibility of sharing services and costs, including special education, school lunch and technology. He said Ellsworth will definitely not be sharing a superintendent with either of those towns.
The time frame the city has had to build a new district has been tight. Ellsworth elections are being held one month after similar votes to create new school boards were held by the two other towns that withdrew from RSU 24 — Hancock and Lamoine.
Once in place, the Ellsworth school board will have about five months to set a budget, make sure everyone has insurance and staff a new administrative office, among other tasks.
“We’ve had two months of quick action to get us moving forward, and Jack [Turcotte] does a great job,” said Beal.
“Things are moving along,” said Turcotte. “Generally people are encouraged by the progress.”