District proposal rejects St. George studentsIf St. George withdraws, district doesn't want to accept student enrollment in area high school
Rockland — If St. George withdraws from Regional School Unit 13, the district does not want the town's students to enroll in Oceanside High School, according to a counter proposal issued Feb. 17 by the district.
St. George submitted a withdrawal agreement draft to the district's school board in November. The district's proposal states they will not accept St. George students who are eligible to enroll in the regional high school. St.George had offered in its agreement to tuition students to the school. The state tuition standard is $9,209, according to state data.
Students will be allowed to continue attending an RSU 13 school for one year after withdrawal, the district draft said. Transportation, however, will be the responsibility of the town.
The parties will continue to negotiate.
In an analysis done by Business Manager Scott Vaitones, the cost of St. George leaving the district would total $1.2 million. This report included the expected revenue from accepting St. George students into the district.
Donald Robishaw, chairman of the district's withdrawal committee, said although Vaitones was using one set of numbers — the state tuition average — he did not factor RSU 13's cost per student, which is $11,743. He said the district would save money by not accepting students because other towns in the district would have to offset the difference of about $2,500 per student. Robishaw did say, however, the district will lose money in state funding from the loss of the number of students attending the regional high school.
Robishaw said he is going to do what he can to ensure communities are not paying more than they should if St. George decides to withdraw from the district.
The document also denies allowing a St. George student, who requires special education services that cannot be met by St George be allowed to attend an RSU 13 school. St. George's proposal had requested students with special needs that the town cannot accommodate, will also have the right to attend an RSU 13 school through the 2025-2026 school year.
The district's agreement, however, does state they will provide services to a student from St. George enrolled in an RSU 13 school during the first year after withdrawal, should it occur. After the one year, it will be the sole responsibility to St. George and their school of record to provide special education services.
The counterproposal also does not compromise on allowing RSU 13 students from other towns to attend the St. George School.
Terry Driscoll, Town Education Committee chairman, said he will comment on the counterproposal after he has met with the committee and their attorney to discuss the details of the document. They are expected to meet this week.
The St. George School Building would also not be allowed to go to the town with no cost under the school board proposal.
Terry Driscoll, in November, said in previous withdrawal agreements, the building and property have gone with the withdrawing municipality. The bond that St. George owes would total $414,000 from the 1997 bond issued to construct the school. St. George will also be responsible for their share of debt incurred during the time St. George is a member of the district, according to the district's proposal. Remaining debt is yet to be itemized.
If the final negotiated plan is accepted by Commissioner of Education Jim Rier, and St. George citizens, the town will withdraw and become its own independent school district July 1, 2015.
The municipality will be responsible for educating kindergarten through 12th-grade students, including those with special needs. When students reach high school age, they might be tuitioned to RSU 13 or another district.
Driscoll said in a conversation this fall that St. George has a history of being concerned with the value of education for their students. He said St. George spends about $15,000 per student from their tax base.
If withdrawal is adopted and followed to fruition, older students would enroll in area high schools, providing they are accepted. The school that will accept students will be known as the school of record.
The St. George withdrawal committee has met with superintendents at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport and Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro. Both districts said they would consider accepting St. George students. The last meeting with Five Town Community School District took place in early December, where the town newsletter states substantial progress was made in discussing the terms of the potential agreement with sending students to Camden Hills. Similar meetings with Medomak and area private high schools will continue this month.
Five buses will also be allocated to the town, and the town district would receive state reimbursement, if any, for leased or purchased vehicles, states the proposed St. George agreement. The district's proposal said they cannot agree to transferring five buses, and they need to figure out their projected needs and compare to the fleet inventory.
Potential withdrawal date
Driscoll said a tentative date for withdrawal is July 1, 2015. St. George voters will decide on whether to formally withdraw in November 2014. To set up an independent school district, the town must approve the measure with a 51 percent majority of the number of residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election, roughly 700 people.
The date to begin the new district was chosen to give voters a chance to get clarity on what RSU 13's goals are, and what impact consolidation will have on St. George students, he said. It will also give the town ample time — eight months — to setup an independent school unit.
Driscoll said earlier this year the select board took action in trying to rectify educational and governance issues by forming the town education committee and withdrawal committee.
After ideas were brought forth about the town funding their own supplemental programs and forming a local school committee to add input to the district's plan were tuned down by the board, withdrawal was the only option under the law allowed to improve education, he said.
The Town Education Committee — formed in 2011 by the select board to investigate and research educational options — recommended St. George create an independent district, operating a K-8 school.
At a meeting earlier this year, Driscoll cited reasons for withdrawal including: the probability of continued consolidation of schools, cutting staff positions, special curriculum, and a school budget pared to the bone.
St. George voters went to the polls in May and decisively approved beginning withdrawal from RSU 13 and accepted allocating $25,000 from the municipal budget to cover anticipated withdrawal costs, including legal counsel and consultants.
The withdrawal process could take about a year.
The final plan must be approved by the Commissioner of Education, Jim Rier.
If the referendum is defeated, St. George would remain a member of RSU 13, which also includes schools in Rockland, Thomaston, South Thomaston, Owls Head and Cushing.
Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.