2008-11-26 / Front Page

Consolidation issue comes to rest

By David Hart Irregular staff

KINGFIELD - - The MSAD #58 monthly meeting revealed some interesting yet refreshing facts about the State Reorganization Law and the way the local school board will proceed. The issue of what will happen next after MSADs #9 and #58 voters turned down a Regional Planning Committee's proposal to combine the units was discussed.

"I thought frankly, that after the people voted 'No' they'd (MDOE) be on us and say, 'now you've got to go out and find somebody else,'" MSAD #58 Superintendent Quenten Clark said. He went on to explain his new perspective, which represented a change in opinion.

Clark explained that he saw a letter submitted to the Town of Carrabassett, where the Commissioner explained the process. At the end of the letter, Clark interpreted a sentence that gave him a new impression of the law that meant that only once does a community have to go through the process. He then explained that he then called Norm Higgins of the DOE who said they'd love to see MSAD #58 go out and find another partner, but they didn't have to under the DOE's interpretation of the Reorganization Law.

"So at this point, as long as you're willing to accept the penalty, you don't have to go out and find another partner and go through that process again," Clark told board members. The penalty represents about one percent of the MSAD #58 annual budget or about $120,000 loss in State subsidy.

He also explained that he learned that not sending a Letter of Intent as they did with MSAD #9, gives a school board the power and control to be able to talk to one another to find partners in consolidation and negotiate deals. Once you file that Letter of Intent the power goes from the school boards to the Regional Planning Committees, Clark explained.

"If we didn't file a Letter of Intent it would have been our school board talking with the MSAD #9 School Board to come to an agreement," Clark said.

"You don't have to do anything if you don't want to," Clark told the board, "but if you do… the way to do it is not file a Letter of Intent until the deal is done."

"We thought we had a done deal with Farmington, really, when the RPC started," Eustis Director Sarah Woods said, "because we always dealt with Farmington with sharing. So we actually felt that it was the absolute way to go because we were already doing it."

Woods was referring to the relationship MSAD #58 once had with MSAD #9 prior to the State implementing its interpretation of the Law, thus creating unease between the two boards.

The ill-feelings were created by discussions on newly developed issues such as the Weighted Vote controversy and Cost Sharing Agreements. Issues such as these created animosity between the two units.

Clark again asked the board if there was any new districts out there that the board members would like to see him call to try to make a deal.

"Let's just see where the chips fall," Chairman Mike Pond said, suggesting not pursuing any new potential partners.

The board sentiment regarding anymore discussion on the consolidation issue followed. Without being pressed by the State, the general feeling of the board was to put the consolidation issue behind them at this meeting.

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