RSU 20 delays vote on accepting withdrawal agreements to fine tune plans
Members of the Regional School Unit 20 board of directors decided to delay a vote on accepting withdrawal agreements from six of the towns in the district to fine tune the plans.
The towns of Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville are looking to leave RSU 20 and reform as a new five-town district. Northport is also seeking to withdraw and run its own K-8 school and share superintendent services with the towns of Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville, which comprise Union 69.
Recently, the Maine Department of Education informed the withdrawal committees they would need to submit their plans by mid-July in order to hold a vote to leave the district on Nov. 4.
During a previous board meeting, Bagley, Superintendent Brian Carpenter and the district's attorney were authorized to negotiate with the withdrawal committees to help expedite the process. Bagley said because the board had not had chance to review a final draft of the withdrawal agreements, the directors decided not to take any action on accepting the plans.
While the proposed agreements for the towns looking to leave the district are largely the same as the plans submitted when the towns attempted to withdraw a year ago, Bagley said there were some revisions suggested for the plans during a meeting held Tuesday, July 8.
One of those changes was to include language that states if the five towns do not vote to reform as a new district by Jan. 1, 2015, the towns would remain in RSU 20 for one additional year, Bagley said. In addition, he said the district asked that the agreements include a clause that states the board members from the withdrawing towns will not participate in a vote on the superintendent's contract.
Bagley noted that Northport's withdrawal agreement was almost ready to be voted on, but a suggestion was made to include language to address collective bargaining agreements.
Attorney Kristin Collins said she and the district also agreed to include language in the final withdrawal agreements that would prevent a vote on closing schools in RSU 20 until the withdrawal process is completed.
With the deadline to submit the plans approaching quickly, Bagley said a special meeting was scheduled for Thursday, July 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the band room at Belfast Area High School. He said he anticipates the board will be ready to vote on the plans at that time so they can submitted to the DOE for review.
By law, the Commissioner of Education has up to 60 days to review the agreements. However, DOE officials have indicated their willingness to speed up the process and provide feedback on the plans within 30 days.
As a side note, Bagley said the withdrawal committees and the district have been keeping DOE officials updated on potential changes to the agreements so that the department is aware of how negotiations are proceeding.
Searsport and Stockton Springs have also initiated their own withdrawal efforts, but the two towns are waiting to see if the other six towns are able to withdrawal successfully, Bagley previously said. If the other six towns are successful with their withdrawal efforts, Searsport and Stockton Springs would remain in RSU 20 and he indicated there would be no need for the two remaining towns to continue with their withdrawal efforts.
Collins said if the board approves the plans during the July 17 special meeting, there will still be enough time to hold a vote on Nov. 4.