St. George to have withdrawal draft ready mid-November
St. George — The St. George withdrawal committee expects to have a draft agreement prepared for Regional School Unit 13 by mid-November.
The committee has been meeting in executive session with attorney Kristin Collins, who also represents Belfast's district withdrawal committee.
Committee member Terence Driscoll said the plan is consistent with other municipal plans already approved by the commissioner of education, and added there is nothing unusual about the plan St. George has crafted.
Exact figures for asset distribution is unknown at this time, he said, explaining the numbers will depend on what the reserve budgets will amount to, and how the current budget freeze will affect assets at the time withdrawal would occur.
"It's not a win or lose negotiation, it's down the middle," he said.
Topics of negotiations include what will happen with the St. George School building and teachers.
Driscoll said in other town withdrawal agreements, the physical building has been deeded to the new municipal school unit, and teachers already working at the school, also go with the new district. He said the committee has been communicating with educators to determine what their desires are, but added there is no firm answer on teacher distribution yet.
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.
"We just want an informed electorate, there are a lot of unknowns," Driscoll said.
Driscoll said 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.
He said 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.
If withdrawal is adopted and followed to fruition, older students would enroll in area high schools, providing they are accepted.
The committee has met informally with Camden Hills Regional High School and Medomak Valley High School superintendents. Both districts said they would consider accepting St. George students.
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 email@example.com.
594-4401 ext. 118
Juliette primarily covers the cops and courts beat for The Courier-Gazette.
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