ELLSWORTH, Maine — Residents of Ellsworth, Lamoine and Hancock all voted on Tuesday to withdraw from Regional School Unit 24, ending a year-and-a-half-long process.
A preliminary count around 8:15 p.m. in Ellsworth showed unofficial results there at 1,635 to 454 in favor of forming an independent school unit for the 2014-2015 school year, according to Heidi-Noel Grindle, Ellsworth’s city clerk.
“Failure was not an option,” Mark Rosborough, who was chairman of this city’s withdrawal committee, told about 30 other withdrawal supporters at City Hall after the count on Tuesday night.
“I’m glad the citizens of Ellsworth have had a chance to reconsider membership to the RSU without a gun to our head,” said Gary Fortier, chairman of the City Council.
In a statement emailed shortly before 10 p.m., RSU 24 Superintendent Suzanne Lukas said, “Now our district can return our full attention to the education of students and the important work the teachers and principals do on a daily basis. The tremendous energy we have been directing toward school and program improvements will remain unchanged because the work we are doing is the right thing to do for all our children regardless of the community in which they reside.”
Ellsworth students make up more than 40 percent of the district’s population and tax dollars from this city account for about a third of the district’s budget, so the withdrawal will dramatically change the makeup of RSU 24.
Students from other communities still will be able to attend Ellsworth High School.
The town of Hancock voted almost 6-to-1, also in favor of withdrawing from RSU 24. Of the 711 voters, 592 voted yes, 108 voted no and 11 left the question blank.
The town of Lamoine also voted to withdraw from the RSU, by a vote of 399 to 187.
RSU 24 was formed five years ago when districts across Maine were consolidated in an effort to cut administrative costs. This district included Ellsworth and 11 towns to the east of the city.