Northport explores relationship with School Union 69'Moving ahead fairly aggressively' on withdrawal from RSU 20
Appleton — Two representatives from the town of Northport made a presentation to school board members in School Union 69 Thursday, Dec. 12.
District Superintendent Nancy Weed said Northport Selectman Mark Humphreys and Mark Lynch, a member of the Northport Withdrawal Committee, presented their request for central office services from Union 69 at a joint meeting of the Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville school boards. The three towns make up the district.
Northport is seeking to withdraw from Regional School Union (RSU) 20, which also includes Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont, Searsport, Stockton Springs and Swanville. In order to do so, according to Deb Riley, a member of the RSU 20 School Board and the Northport Withdrawal Committee, the town must have a management service agreement in place with another district before it can withdraw.
Weed said of those in Northport who want to withdraw, “they like what they see in Union 69.” She added the Union 69 board is interested in pursuing the relationship, which Weed likened to an adoption. The management service agreement would be a yearly contract. After the first year, if Northport wanted to formally join the union, the state Legislature would have to act, she said.
Lynch said Northport was looking to Union 69 because, “it's a manageable sized organization, and well run.” He added, “We've experienced a lot of frustration with the RSU.”
He said during the last few years, school costs in RSU 20 have been going up significantly, whereas Union 69 has kept costs down. Lynch believes Northport can run Edna Drinkwater school for no more than it is paying now. The school, which is now primarily K-5 students, would revert to being a K-8 school, as it was before school consolidation, if Northport allies with Union 69.
He stressed that the town is not now seeking to join Union 69, which, as Weed said, would require an act of the Legislature -- just to contract for central office services. It is possible the town could seek to formally join the school union in the future.
A relationship with Union 69 could benefit all parties, Lynch said, because not only will Northport pay additional central office costs associated with the transition, it will also bear an equal share of the central office costs going forward. And it has resources that could be shared, such as waterfront that might be used in a joint marine ecology program, he said.
“We're hoping to have a good relationship with Union 69 whether we're a formal member or not,” Lynch said.
In a phone interview, Riley said of the withdrawal process, “We're moving ahead fairly aggressively.”
After an attempt to withdraw from RSU 20 failed last year, withdrawal forces gained new support when Edna Drinkwater School in Northport, the town's primary school, was slated for closure by the RSU 20 Board, Riley said. Lynch noted that last year all the towns except Belfast tried to withdraw together, while this year Northport and other towns are withdrawing individually.
Riley said a vote on withdrawal might take place next June, with the aim of being under a management service contract with Union 69 by the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.
Weed said there will be further conversations between her office and the group from Northport in January.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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