WISCASSET, Maine — The state Department of Education has called a public meeting for Tuesday night at Wiscasset Middle School, so residents can weigh in — perhaps one last time — on the withdrawal agreement between the town and Regional School Unit 12.
Residents will have the opportunity to express concerns on the agreement, which is tentatively scheduled for a townwide vote Nov. 5. The DOE has approved the agreement between the town and RSU 12, pending results of Tuesday’s hearing, which begins at 7 p.m.
No voting is planned at the meeting, however. So just what could happen Tuesday night to change the plan that will go before voters?
“I have absolutely no idea,” said Jefferson Slack, a member of both the town’s RSU Withdrawal Committee and the Board of Selectmen. “If people object to parts of the agreement, would it need to be reworked? I’m kind of on pins and needles about this meeting.”
Ed Polewarczyk, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, also is unsure as to what could happen Tuesday night to affect a change in the agreement.
“This is an opportunity for the public to voice opinions and express their concerns,” Polewarczyk said. “They have been given conditional approval pending this public hearing. I don’t know if that would cause any changes. I think the chances of that are slim.”
According to legislation, RSU 12 Board Chairwoman Hilary Holm will chair Tuesday night’s session. The town’s RSU Withdrawal Committee, its consultants and the town attorney also will sit at the front table.
Slack said it is his information that no one from the DOE will be present.
“This is their meeting,” Slack said, “and they won’t be there. This is going to be run by the RSU, who we’re withdrawing from.”
Slack said he would like to see a solid turnout of residents.
Polewarczyk concurred. “Please come and try to understand the language,” he said. “From the selectmen’s standpoint, it has a great impact on the people of Wiscasset.
Polewarczyk emphasized how important it is for people to understand the costs of running their own school system — not just during the first year but in subsequent years. According to the agreement, Wiscasset High School would need to continue to accept students from other towns in the far-flung school unit for the first year, and Wiscasset residents would absorb a steep tax increase that first year.
“If it doesn’t come out at this meeting,” Polewarczyk said, “it really needs to come out before the people vote in November.”
Polewarczyk said he has read the lengthy agreement, and that the relationship between Wiscasset High and the other towns following the first year of a withdrawal is not clear to him. The other RSU 12 towns would need to find another high school for their children.
“That would be one of my questions,” he said. “What would happen after the first year? That wasn’t clear to me after reading this language. It’s not an easy question at all. Relative to that, the language is silent. I just want to make it clear that we’re not committed.”