By Joseph Cyr
HODGDON — A proposed consolidation plan between two local school districts appears to be heading to a public referendum.
School board members from SAD 70 (Hodgdon, Amity, New Limerick, Linneus, Ludlow, Haynesville and Cary) and SAD 14 (Danforth) along with school boards in Orient and Bancroft, were expected to vote on the proposal to create an Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) this week after the consolidation committee unanimously approved the plan.
The SAD 70 board was slated to meet Tuesday evening to approve the plan, while SAD 14 was scheduled to meet Wednesday evening to endorse the plan.
Bob McDaniel, SAD 70 superintendent, said the proposal to create an AOS between the two school districts and two independent towns has been approved by Maine’s Commissioner of Education. The hope is to have the plan put forth to a public referendum by Jan. 31, 2011. In so doing, all four groups would not incur a state penalty in the next budget cycle.
Under the proposed AOS plan, SADs 70 and 14 would keep their separate school boards and have control over all aspects of their schools. An AOS board, comprised of members from each area, would be created for the sole purpose of governing the combined central offices.
“This AOS plan is simply to consolidate central offices,” McDaniel said. “We are not trying to take over either school system. Each district will still maintain their local control.”
McDaniel added that despite consolidating central offices, both districts would still maintain their current superintendents, until their existing contracts expire. Once that happens, one superintendent would be hired to oversee both districts.
McDaniel added there is a misconception about what this particular AOS plan will change for each school system.
“There is a lot of misinformation that is being distributed, particularly in the Danforth area, on what will happen if we form an AOS,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel referenced a printed publication distributed in the Danforth area, which warned residents about “falling under AOS School Consolidation Voodoo.” The pamphlet also stated that one set of school board policies, one curriculum and one school calendar would be created for both school districts.
“Those statements are absolutely not true,” McDaniel said. “This plan, as presented, will not do any of those things.”
Under the proposal, an AOS board comprised of 11 members would be created for the purpose of governing the central office, which includes the superintendent, transportation director and special education. SAD 70, since it has the largest population, would have seven members on the board, while SAD 14 would have two and Orient and Bancroft would each have one.
Reorganization has been an uphill climb for both districts. The two districts were involved in regionalization discussions with CSD 9 (Southern Aroostook), SAD 25 (Katahdin) and SAD 29 (Houlton) to form one, massive Regional School Unit. That plan failed at the polls in November of 2008.
SADs 70 and 14 then began discussions in December of 2008 to form an AOS with CSD 9 and SAD 25. This effort once again failed at a referendum vote in January of 2009. SAD 70 was in extensive talks with SAD 29 to consolidate, but after a year of discussion, SAD 29 pulled out of the plan.
“There is a savings to be had for each of the districts,” McDaniel said.
By Joseph Cyr