St. George puts non-binding RSU withdrawal question to votersWith community input, select board will make decision
St. George — Two informative public meetings scheduled for late October — initiated by the town education committee — aim to present information and address questions about the future of St. George in Regional School Unit 13.
The meetings are scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 25 and Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at the town office.
The advisory ballot question will be available for vote on Nov. 6. The question is written as follows:
"Would you be in favor of St. George withdrawing from Regional School Unit 13 and becoming an independent municipal school district with K-8 elementary school in St. George and with a choice of area high schools for its high school students? (Note: initial research by the Town Education Committee indicates that this option would essentially have little, if no impact on local property taxes.)"
Town Education Committee Chairman Terry Driscoll said regardless of what the town votes on Nov. 6 — the decision will be made by the select board.
The results of the ballot question is to better understand public opinion regarding how to proceed within the district, he said.
The Town Education Committee was formed in 2011 with the task of exploring educational options for students and to provide a clear report of the feasibility of those options — namely, to withdraw from the district and establish an alternative system or continue to be a member of the RSU 13 community, and in what capacity.
The committee assembled a financial report and comprehensive report of its findings and presented it to the select board for review Oct. 12.
The report covers points such as financial impact, the state funding formula, educational quality and performance as well as the withdrawal process.
The reports are available on the town website and states the town has three options it can pursue.
The first is to remain in the "status quo," staying in the district as it is currently governed. The second option is to "re-define" the relationship with the district, where the local school community would have "substantial autonomy" to raise and direct funds for use in the St. George school, develop programs, provide school choice for other RSU 13 communities and participate in oversight and evaluation of school performance. The third option is to withdraw from the Regional School Unit 13, potentially becoming an independent school district with the K-8 school remaining, a local board of directors established for governance and to tuition students to area high schools.
The committee did not make a recommendation as how to proceed because "what constitutes the 'best' option is a highly subjective assessment. What our committee has attempted to do is to bring together the facts which we believe are essential for any consideration of educational options," according to the report.
In the report, the committee said its main concern is if the town is prepared to commit to the long-term improvement of education.
According to a 2012 town comprehensive plan survey, conducted last summer, 72 percent of residents thought maintaining the St. George K-8 school was very important and 25 percent surveyed said it was important.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at JLaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.