School board plots post-election reorganization course

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FARMINGTON – With the majority of both school boards and several local political figures weighing in against the proposed Western Mountains consolidation plan, MSAD 9’s board is looking out beyond the November 4 election.

The board unanimously approved giving Superintendent Michael Cormier the authorization to submit a letter to the Department of Education should the Nov. 4 ballot’s consolidation question be voted down. That letter would announce MSAD 9’s desire to form a regional school unit consisting of only its current nine member towns.

There is some evidence that such a proposal, which would need the commissioner’s approval, would be successful. While below the 2,500 student limit which is most commonly quoted as the minimum for most new districts, MSAD 9 is close with 2,432. Nearby neighbors, such as the proposed Jay/Livermore/Livermore Falls collaborative, would be unsuitable in terms of size and valuations differences. Furthermore, as Chairman Raymond Glass noted, MSAD 9 has a history of working with its neighbors to save money.

Indeed, Cormier said that any new plan would likely contain information about past budgets to help illustrate that point.

“It was my thought that we would show all we’ve done in the past three budgets,” Cormier said, “because it shows that we have been reducing costs even before this.”

Even as a solo district, MSAD 9 would still need to show the 5 percent reductions in transportation, facility maintenance and special education costs.

“I’m so anxious for use to do this,” longtime consolidation foe Director William Reid, of New Sharon, joked, “call me and I’ll drive [the letter] down to Augusta personally.”

Should the consolidation plan pass, the districts would proceed with the Regional Planning Committee’s schedule.

In other business, the board officially sent the proposed modifications to the Extra Curricular Activity Participation Regulation back to the policy subcommittee for further review. Those modifications would have granted the administration of schools additional powers to determine when a student broke the law.

The revision adds language that helps set parameters for that undefined amount of time. However, more controversially to the school board, the revision also adds a requirement that students suspected of being involved with a crime must agree to authorize law enforcement to release “any discoverable information about the student’s alleged conduct.”

If the student, along with his or her parents, refuses to sign the release form then the student is banned from extracurricular activities for a year.

At the previous meeting, seven directors expressed their displeasure with the alteration in a nonbinding straw poll. Several cited the concept of a student being asked to “sign over his rights” as the reason. This evening’s binding vote was 10 in favor of sending the regulation back to the policy committee, with 4 opposed.

“I am in favor of the existing policy. I would suggest,” Director Neil Stinneford, of Weld, said, “that the policy committee not send anything back.”

Cormier said that current policy gave no guidance.

“The policy is silent right now to guidelines,” he said. “It would be great to have something down in writing that parents and students were aware of.”

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