June 19, 2018
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Penquis area school districts to revisit consolidation

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — School officials in SADs 4, 68 and 41 — districts that have not complied with the state-required administrative consolidation — will return to the table this week to reconsider the possibility.

The Guilford, Dover-Foxcroft and Milo area superintendents and directors will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 22, at the SeDoMoCha School complex. The meeting is open to the public.

“I know the angst that people certainly had going through the [first] process, … but the law has changed,” SAD 68 Superintendent Al Smith said Monday, referring to the original state consolidation law, which has since been revised. “I think there are some opportunities now that weren’t there before, and I think it is a valuable process to go through.”

Since the Legislature passed the consolidation law in 2008, SAD 68 has discussed partnering with SAD 41 in Milo, SAD 4 in Guilford, and SAD 53 in Pittsfield, without success. The district also had attempted to form an Alternative Organizational Structure, or AOS, with the Greenville schools, but Greenville residents rejected the proposal.

“I know SAD 68 is more than willing to move forward with some type of an Alternative Organizational Structure configuration of SAD 41, [SAD] 4 — either or both,” Smith said. While last year’s effort to consolidate with Greenville relieved the district of the approximately $200,000 state-imposed penalty it would have faced, he said SAD 68 could face such a penalty in the future if it does not continue efforts to consolidate. While the penalty would be significant, he said it is not the sole reason to look at consolidation. It also would bring some educational opportunities to students, he said. SAD 68 directors, who held a consolidation workshop last week, want to see some kind of consolidation effort, he noted.

SAD 4 held a regional informational workshop last month to discuss the new changes in the consolidation law regarding an AOS. After that discussion, however, directors elected not to pursue an AOS. Instead, they voted 15-0 to contact area districts to determine the interest in forming an efficiency committee, according to SAD 4 Superintendent Paul Stearns.

While an efficiency committee would not relieve any school district of state-imposed penalties for not consolidating, it would formalize what sharing of services the local districts have done successfully for years in the area, Stearns said Monday.

“We have a long history of sharing and cutting costs by helping each other out, and rather than have that happen in a haphazard manner, this would make that a formal agenda,” he said. AOS 94 (Dexter-Harmony), Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft, SAD 41 and the Greenville School Department have expressed an interest in this effort, he said.

While SAD 4 directors have consistently said over the past three years that they do not want to consolidate merely to conform and avoid an approximately $142,000 state-imposed penalty, Stearns said he and his ad hoc committee would attend this week’s meeting to explore the options further.

Grateful for that support, Smith said, “I really do believe people are coming to the table in good faith and really want to do what’s best for kids in the area, and this will certainly give everybody an informed opportunity to move forward with it or not.”

Smith said he hopes the ad hoc committees receive enough information this week to share with board members, so the boards can decide whether to pursue an AOS at their next meetings. “We would have to have all this said and done, so to speak, so a vote would come before the public in January,” he said.

SAD 41 Superintendent Michael Wright was out of the office Monday and could not reached for comment.

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