What People are Reading
- What a very sad and shocking
2 years 29 weeks ago
- Smart Meters
2 years 32 weeks ago
- 100 year old house burns
2 years 32 weeks ago
- Column 2-10 re Treason
2 years 41 weeks ago
- Radical Difference
2 years 42 weeks ago
- This activity is such a
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Okay Great we got a sign!
2 years 50 weeks ago
- Hate Crime a Sad Moment Indeed
3 years 1 day ago
More in News
B'field vote on RSU 10 withdrawal Tuesday/Views differ on the long, expensive process
BUCKFIELD — Voters, on June 11, will decide whether to file a petition to withdraw from the RSU 10 school district, potentially beginning a long process to pull the town out of the school district altogether.
In March, withdrawal supporters presented a petition with 137 signatures to the board of selectmen, putting the issue on the June 11 ballot.
If residents vote "yes" the town will file a petition with the RSU 10 board of directors and the Maine State Commissioner of Education, and a withdrawal committee will be authorized to spend up to $20,000 on the process.
The $20k question
Even if voters approve the petition, the State's Education Commissioner still needs to approve the plan and might determine the $20,000 put aside for the committee isn't enough, said Dr. Tom Ward, the outgoing RSU 10 superintendent.
According to Ward, a recent effort in Dixfield to withdraw from the district cost the town $50,000.
Jerry Wiley, a Buckfield resident and chair of the RSU 10 school board, takes issue with the fact that the $20,000 being requested on the ballot is coming from the town's education reserve account.
The account was established primarily to help offset the local cost of education, Wiley said.
Spending the money on lawyers and other expenses to work through a process that might not succeed is, in his eyes, not the best use of the account.
According to Buckfield Town Clerk Cindy Dunn, the education reserve account currently has $96,000. The town's 2013-2014 budget requests $45,000 to offset school taxes.
If withdrawal is passed, the account will be down to $25,000, Dunn said.
Lead petition organizer Judy Berg thinks using the $20,000 for withdrawal committee is acceptable. Other towns, she says, have gone through the process for less.
If the funds are used to determine how to lower education costs in the long run, using the $20,000 is worth it, Berg said.
Berg and others believe Buckfield made a mistake when it joined with two other school districts to form RSU 10 in 2008.
Since the consolidation, she said, school costs have gone up while the quality of education has declined.
The district doesn't operate or budget efficiently, Berg said – as part of the larger district, Buckfield ends up paying more to fund inefficient schools in other parts of the district.
Berg believes the district is spending too much on initiatives like the Mass Customized Learning program and is losing ground academically.
The town, along with Hartford and Sumner, will be able to operate more efficiently and less expensively, Berg believes.
The town, at the southern end of RSU 10, is disconnected from the rest of the district and the central office in Dixfield, Berg said – a smaller district could increase community involvement in administration and governance.
If Buckfield can't break off on its own, it might be able to negotiate a better financial position for itself during the withdrawal process, she suggested.
Not to withdraw
Although he acknowledges the cost of education is high, Superintendent Ward believes it will cost Buckfield much more to go it alone.
As an example, Buckfield currently spends about $4,700 per pupil, while the average cost to tuition a student to another district could be as high as $9,000, not including the cost of transportation or special education, Ward said.
Buckfield has also benefited from the RSU, Ward said. The district has invested $1 million in technology improvements at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School and students are able to access extra- and co-curricular activities at schools across the district, as well as take courses at both Region 9 and Region 11 technical schools.
Students are also linked into other high schools and can take classes with Tandberg Technology, Ward said. He further noted graduation rates in the former SAD 39 had increased since consolidation.
Staff salaries at the school have been boosted, which helps retain quality teachers in schools known for high turn-over, Ward said, noting the salary increases, according to the teacher's contract, would remain in effect in any new system.
In terms of spending, Ward said the district had been able to cut $2.6 million from the budget since consolidation and had reduced the administration's budget from $300,000 to $132,000.
Wiley, who has been a school board member since Buckfield was in SAD 39, noted that at the time of consolidation the town was also dealing with high education costs.
He doubted Buckfield could realize less-expensive education outside of RSU 10 and might actually lose many of the benefits it had as part of the larger unit.
Maida DeMers-Dobson, another RSU 10 school board member, said students had a sense of pride being part of the larger district, an attitude RSU 39 didn't exhibit, she noted.
The polls, at the Buckfield town office, are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11.