July 25, 2008

RSU 15 Panel Urges Alternative Structure


BREWER - The governance subcommittee of regional school unit 15 has recommended that an alternative organizational structure, similar to the one approved by Union 98 on Mount Desert Island, be considered.

Bethany Jarvis, Dedham resident and school board member, spoke for the subcommittee during Thursday's RSU 15 meeting saying the alternative organizational structure, or AOS, would allow communities to maintain local control.

Lester Young, Brewer School Department business manager, called the AOS a "super union" after the meeting ended, but added that pursuing the possibility was worth the effort.

The AOS would allow each school to be run by a locally elected board and be overseen by one superintendent, Jarvis said. The tactic would mean a cost savings in some areas such as teacher contracts, which under a regional school unit would be all encompassing with all teachers getting paid the same based on experience and tenure, she said.

"If we didn't have to consolidate those teacher contracts, that would make a lot of sense" for Dedham, Jarvis said.

She and other governance committee members were given permission to talk with Department of Education officials to see if they would support an AOS for the Brewer-area regional school unit.

Department of Education officials have suggested that Brewer join together with Dedham, Orrington, SAD 63 and CSD 8 to create regional school unit 15 under the state's school consolidation law.

Residents, school board members and town leaders from each of the communities listed have been meeting to determine how best to create such a union.

SAD 63 is comprised of Holden, Eddington and Clifton and CSD 8 is made up of the communities of Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. CSD 8 is still deciding whether to join with RSU 15 or Ellsworth.

The other subcommittees discussed finance, facilities, transportation and curriculum and afterward gave progress reports to the larger committee.

In summary, school properties will be owned by the municipalities they reside in and will be leased along with the materials inside to the RSU. The only exception will be Brewer High School, which would be owned by the RSU. All existing contracts for transportation would be maintained until they expire or until a new bus was needed. Any local debts would be retained by the local community. All operating leases would be fully assumed by the RSU. Curriculum would be based on Maine Learning Results, and all preschool and all-day kindergarten programs would continue.

The next RSU 15 meeting is 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at Brewer High School. At that meeting a transition committee will be created to help with making a smooth shift from the current system to the new RSU.

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