May 20, 2018
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SAD 68 seeking exemption from consolidation

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — SAD 68 directors are seeking help from the state since there is no interest from neighboring districts to join them in consolidating administrative offices.

Over the past few months, directors in the Dover-Foxcroft area have been in discussions with SAD 41 (Milo area) and SAD 4 (Guilford area), but directors in those two communities have since chosen to work with other districts.

SAD 41 is working with SAD 31 (Howland area), and SAD 4 has expressed an interest in possibly partnering with Union 60 (Greenville area) or AOS 94 (Dexter-Harmony region).

“We were disappointed in the sense that we definitely saw the education value and opportunities to grow, but yet each community has to make decisions that they feel is best for themselves,” said SAD 68 Superintendent Alan Smith recently. “Now it’s up to us to make our own decisions as to what we need to do next.”

It’s the second time SAD 68, which operates a kindergarten through grade eight school and pays tuition for high school students to attend independent Foxcroft Academy, has tried to find a partner to comply with the state education reorganization law and avoid an approximately $200,000 penalty. The district attempted in January to form an alternative organizational structure with SAD 41, SAD 12 (Jackman area), and the Shirley, Beaver Cove and Bowerbank School departments, but only SAD 68 residents supported the move. The other communities rejected the proposal.

After that defeat, SAD 68 applied to the Department of Education for “doughnut hole status” but that request was denied. State law allows for an exception for districts that exhaust due diligence regarding consolidation but are unable to find willing partners. Under that exception, districts would not be penalized if they could find efficiencies elsewhere.

SAD 68 avoided the penalty for the year but was advised by state education officials to continue its search for a partner.

With the intentions of SAD 4 and 41 known, SAD 68 directors recently directed Smith again to seek a doughnut hole status. As part of that process, Smith mailed to the state last week a notice of intent to file an alternative plan. If the plan is approved and the state grants the district doughnut hole status, no further action is needed by the district, he said. If the plan is not accepted, the district will have to move forward with some other opportunities or options, Smith said.

“We do have obviously a unique set of circumstances now, we have no one to reorganize with,” Smith said. In addition, the district has more than 1,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12, which fits the adjusted state criteria.

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