The school districts that merged in 2009 to form AOS 99, the Mid-County School District, have decided to end the arrangement and return to their previous structures — SAD 20 in Fort Fairfield, SAD 42 in Mars Hill and Blaine, and the Bridgewater School Department — to better serve the educational needs of their communities.
Each school board voted earlier in the fall to move forward with the development of a dissolution plan that would take effect June 30, 2012.
“Parents and taxpayers have told us they prefer district leadership that is on-site and available to deal with the unique issues and challenges of each of the local school systems,” said AOS 99 Superintendent Marc Gendron, formerly the superintendent of SAD 20.
AOS 99 was established July 1, 2009, to provide system, transportation and special education administration, as well as the implementation of business functions including accounting, reporting, payroll, financial management, purchasing, insurance and auditing.
AOS 99 Assistant Superintendent Roger Shaw, formerly the SAD 42 superintendent, said that AOS 99 was formed, in large part, to avoid state-imposed penalties on districts that didn’t regionalize. However, in the last session, the Legislature passed a law that removes those penalties as of July 1, 2012.
“We avoided paying about $350,000 in penalties, and that was good, but that was the only real savings we can attribute to the AOS,” Shaw said. “Now that the Legislature has taken the penalties away, local school boards can decide what’s best for their districts and still share services when, where and with whom it makes sense.”
Bridgewater, for example, contracted for superintendent and special education services before the formation of the AOS and will do so again once the AOS is dissolved.
Both Shaw and Gendron agree that the sharing of “best practices” and ideas between districts has occurred, and will continue as both districts move forward.
The SAD 20 and SAD 42 school boards, and the Bridgewater School Committee, each voted unanimously to approve and submit the final dissolution plan to the state commissioner of education at meetings held Dec. 13. The plan has been submitted to the commissioner in accordance with the interlocal agreement the three districts crafted when they initially came together. The next step, after commissioner approval, is to hold a referendum vote in each of the four communities that are part of the AOS.
The referendum in each of the towns will be held Monday, March 19.
If any of the four towns vote to approve the dissolution, the AOS will be dissolved June 30, 2012, and all administrative and personnel contracts will expire on the same date. Staffing decisions, including the hiring of a superintendent, will be at the discretion of the individual local school boards in each of the School Administrative Units and any real or personal property acquired for the operation of the AOS central office will be distributed to member school units based on the average amount each contributed to the AOS budget.
“During the duration of the AOS,” said Gendron, “the districts have benefited by sharing experiences and resources. While this must continue, each district school board has come to recognize that district leadership that is on-site — available and focused on the unique issues and challenges of each local school system — is ultimately best for the students of that district.”
To help explain the dissolution plan, public hearings will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at Central Aroostook High School, 6 p.m. March 5 in the superintendent’s conference room at Fort Fairfield High School, and 6:30 p.m. March 6 at the Bridgewater Civic Center.