By Joseph Cyr
HODGDON — Consolidation efforts for SAD 70 have begun anew as the district is now seeking to join with school systems to the south.
SAD 70, Orient, Bancroft and SAD 14 (Danforth) have all sent letters of intent to the Maine Department of Education Commissioner outlining their desire to form an Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) between the four groups, according to SAD 70 Superintendent Bob McDaniel.
The groups will meet on Thursday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. at Hodgdon High School to being laying the groundwork for the new consolidation plan.
McDaniel said he had not heard back from the Education Commissioner on whether the letters have been endorsed by the Department of Education.
“We had to write up a history of all the things we tried to do [for consolidation] with other districts and they will look at that information and hopefully approve our request,” he said.
By forming an AOS, the two districts would consolidate central offices; meaning just one superintendent would govern both districts, resulting in some cost savings for both districts.
SAD 70 was penalized $93,000 in last year’s budget for not conforming to the state’s consolidation wishes. That penalty is expected to rise to nearly $100,000 in the next budget, but could be even higher.
SAD 14, Orient and Bancroft are also being penalized, but at a much lesser amount, McDaniel said.
Based on the 2006 attendance figures, an AOS between SAD 70 and SAD 14 would include 738 total students between the two school districts, which should be enough to satisfy the state’s merger mandate. McDaniel said the district would know by the time it sent its letter of intent.
“What we would like to see happen is to turn a plan in to the department by Nov. 29, get it approved and try to go to a public referendum by the end of January,” McDaniel said. “If we can do that [and the plan meets with voter approval] we could eliminate the penalties.”
Those penalties, coupled with yet another reduction in state aid forecast for next year, and the elimination of federal stimulus money from school budgets, could become a major problem for SAD 70.
By Joseph Cyr