MSAD 9 school board vote to support consolidation fails

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FARMINGTON – A frustrated school board was nearly unanimous in their rejection of a motion to recommend the school district reorganization plan to voters. Residents will vote on whether or not to approve the plan at a referendum on Nov. 4.

Board directors had asked that a recommendation be made at previous meetings. The recommendation to approve of the plan, which would create the Western Mountains Regional School District out of the existing MSAD 9, MSAD 58, Coplin and Highland Plantation districts, failed by a vote of 13 directors to a single director.

“Well,” State Senator Walter Gooley (R – Farmington), who was in attendance, said, “that was quite a vote.”

The vote mirrors a similar recommendation made by the MSAD 58 school board. Several directors, members of the Regional Planning Committee, local legislators and others have come down in opposition of the reorganization plan and consolidation process in general.

Directors at the board meeting said that the process that the RPC committee and school boards were forced to work with, and the ever-shifting nature of the rules governing consolidation, had “poisoned” the effort.

“That has been one of the most frustrating things about this entire effort,” Director Mark Prentiss, of Industry, said, “that it has been very much a moving target.”

“I feel that it was the process that we had to work under, that is at fault,” Director Neil Stinneford, of Weld, said.

Director Jo Josephson, of Temple, originally made the motion to recommend supporting consolidation. She was the only director to vote in favor of the motion.

“This has been a very difficult, and very messy project,” she said. “My focus has always been on the potential of improvement to how we educate our children.”

However, other directors said that the sometimes acrimonious RPC meetings between MSAD 9 and MSAD 58 had done damage to the relationship the two districts shared.

“I think this is a bad idea,” Director Robert Pullo, of Wilton, said. “I think that it is particularly unworkable with SAD 58.”

Both school boards have now approved submitting the reorganization plans, and both have recommended against residents voting in favor of it. An informational meeting has been scheduled for Oct. 21 in the Mt. Blue High School at 7 p.m. Another meeting will be held on Oct. 16 at the Kingfield Elementary School. Board members will likely be on hand at both events.

An information pamphlet was approved at a previous RPC meeting, and the MSAD 9 board voted in favor of distributing it Tuesday evening. The document contains a map of the new district, the dates of the upcoming meetings and 10 “frequently asked questions.” These questions include ones like: “What are the possible benefits? What are some additional costs? What are some of the unknowns?”

The pamphlet may not be distributed everywhere. Highland Plantation has asked for some copies, but MSAD 58 will likely not be using the document, possibly substituting it with one of their own.

“The MSAD 58 board,” Superintendent Michael Cormier said, “has decided to not issue the brochure.”

Josephson, who worked with MSAD 58 and MSAD 9 representatives on an RPC subcommittee to create the document, said that she had strived to make it as “factual can be.”

In addition to Gooley’s comments, Representative Thomas Saviello (U – Wilton) said that he and some other members of the legislature would be working to lessen the law’s impact on districts like MSAD 9. He warned against expecting major changes.

“The odds are against us,” he said, “and I need you to know that.”

“Personally,” he went on to say, “I will be voting against it, but I applaud what you’ve done here.

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