Andover to vote on negotiating SAD 44 withdrawal
In response to a citizen petition, Andover will vote Sept. 18 to decide whether or not to enter into negotiations with SAD 44 that could ultimately lead to the town’s withdrawal from the school district, according to a press release from a town committee studying educational options.
A public hearing to explain the process will take place Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.
According to the press release, “Leaving and establishing a school district requires two town votes: the first one (Sept. 18) allows a legally-required committee to undertake negotiations with SAD 44 to see the actual terms on which Andover’s withdrawal from SAD 44 can be accomplished. Once the negotiations meet with satisfaction by the committee, SAD44, and the Maine Department of Education, the second vote approves or rejects that separation.”
The first vote will also request a town appropriation of $24,000, to fund preparation work, including the negotiations with SAD 44.
“While some of the legal work will be donated, there will be limited legal fees and professional consulting fees to ensure taxpayers are protected, meaning the best negotiated deal and accuracy in preparing to take on the responsibility of education Andover children,” the release said.
“If the first town vote is favorable, the second town vote, several months later and administered by the State Department of Education itself, is for the town to decide whether it will in fact go ahead and separate from SAD 44.
“That second town vote will occur only after the results of the negotiations between Andover and SAD 44 are known, and the specific terms of withdrawal have thus been worked out. Those terms will take effect, though, only if and when the town votes in favor of the separation at the second vote. Thus, only the second town vote can approve the town’s actually going it alone.”
The committee hopes the entire $24,000 will not be needed.
The polling hours for Sept. 18 will be noon to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall.
A public hearing to discuss the vote will take place Tuesday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall.
If voters approve the first step, the negotiations go well, and then the second vote passes, Andover would have established an “Alternative Organizational Structures” or “Community School Districts.” There would be a three-person school board, part-time superintendent and staff as need to run Andover Elementary. Andover Elementary would remain open and educate K-5 students. For middle school and high school, families would be able to choose between SAD44 and RSU10 through a negotiated tuition arrangement with those school systems.
The release provided the following description of the background leading to the vote:
The process to explore other educational options started almost two years ago, when SAD 44 voted to shut down the Andover Elementary School. Citizens voted to pay an extra amount of $214,000 to keep the school open another year. Several committees were established to study options for the future.
The “On Our Own” Committee has met weekly for more than a year researching, talking with other small towns across the state, preparing a school district operating budget and meeting with the DOE to be sure all the leg work is done for themselves and fellow taxpayers.
Early in 2012, SAD44 voted to keep Andover Elementary open based on further and cost-per-child analysis, and an offer by Andover taxpayers to pay and extra $68,000 to cover basic operating costs of the elementary school building.
While Andover Elementary is preparing for another school year, the future remains precarious, so as long as Andover stays in SAD 44,” said the release. “With a strong showing of support over the past two years, even those with children who have long since graduated or with no children at all, regard their school as critical to the Andover community. The school encourages new families to come to Andover, and thus keeps home values up. It also keeps youngsters from having to ride the bus for ninety minutes or more a day just to get to elementary school in other SAD 44 towns.
According to the press release, the move to pursue withdrawal from SAD 44 has been fueled by several factors:
Costs can be equal to, or even less, for the town of Andover from running a separate school system of its own, especially realizing that other changes in SAD 44’s membership and any additional debt taken on by SAD44 will likely put added strain on Andover’s town budget in future years, causing local Andover taxes to have to rise if Andover stays in SAD 44;
Going alone will assure that the Andover Elementary School remains open and will provide stability for families, students and teachers;
The State Department of Education has been, and will continue to be, helpful in providing guidance to the Andover committee in the process of working through the steps that need to be taken to present a final plan of separation for approval or rejection at that second town vote.
The committee also provided the following information from the Department of Education website:
Alternative Organizational Structures
An alternative organizational structure (AOS) is a combination of two or more school administrative units joined together for the purpose of providing administrative and, sometimes, educational services. Administrative services provided by the AOS are system administration (a superintendent and the superintendent's office), special education administration, transportation administration and the business functions of accounting, reporting, payroll, financial management, purchases and audit.
Each member entity maintains its own budget, has its own school board, and is operated in every way as a separate unit except for the administrative services and those educational services indicated in the AOS reorganization plan. Budget approval is by majority vote of those present and voting at district budget meetings. The member entities share the AOS costs based on a formula specified in the AOS reorganization plan.
In addition, the AOS school committee is comprised of representatives from each of the member entity school boards and conducts the business of the AOS. All votes of the AOS school committee are cast in accordance with voting procedures specified in the AOS reorganization plan.
Community School Districts
A community school district (CSD) is a combination of two or more municipalities and/or districts formed to build, maintain, and operate a school building or buildings to educate any or all grades. For example, a CSD may be formed to build and operate a grade 7-12 school for all towns in the CSD. Those same towns will maintain individual control over the education of their K-6 students or belong to a school union. A community school district may also oversee education of all grades K-12.
CSD school committees are apportioned according to the one person-one vote principle. The member municipalities share the CSD costs, based on a formula that factors in number of pupils in each town and/or state valuation or any combination of each. Community School District budgets are approved by majority vote of voters present and voting at a district budget meeting followed by approval at referendum.