RSU 3 directors vote distribution under review

By Fran Gonzalez | Mar 02, 2018

Unity — Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Maine Department of Education.

Persistence may lead to change for a Unity resident with concerns about the distribution of votes on the school district's Board of Directors.

Retired long-time area educator Wayne Suomi said that for some time he's been aware of a problem with how his town of Unity is represented in the Regional School Unit 3 apportionment. Unity's population of 2,000 is twice as large as other towns that make up RSU 3, yet has been allowed the same single vote on the district's Board of Directors as the other 10 towns, he said, which appears to go against state law.

In recent months, Suomi contacted Unity's director Najean Shedyak and Superintendent Paul Austin but said he felt they were unwilling to "stir the pot."

Finally, after contacting the Department of Education, Suomi said he feels he's making progress toward change.

"Taxpayers in Unity have been disenfranchised since the '60s," Suomi said. "I would like to see it changed to a weighted vote, according to population size."

Austin did not answer phone requests for comment but responded to questions from The Journal by email March 1.

"The Board configuration of RSU 3 was approved and certified by the Maine Department of Education, most recently in 2009 when it became a Regional School Unit," Austin wrote. "Based upon Mr. Suomi's continued concerns, the district is further researching the issue with (legal) counsel."

Maine DOE Director of Communications Rachel Paling said the education commissioner is looking into Suomi's concerns.

"Statute affords the commissioner the ability to review a school board’s apportionment and make a determination as to whether or not it is in compliance with statute," Paling said. "The determination has not yet been made."

Commissioner Robert G. Hasson Jr. intends to contact Austin within the next few weeks to let him know how to proceed, Paling said.

According to Maine's education statutes under Title 20-A, there are four different ways municipalities can distribute votes among representatives:

Method A says, "...they must be divided into subdistricts of approximately equal size as determined by the latest Federal Decennial Census or Federal Estimated Census."

Method B states the district "...shall apportion 1,000 votes among all the members of the board. The ratio of the number of votes cast by the directors representing a municipality in relation to the number 1,000 must be the same ratio to the nearest whole number as the population of the municipality is in the relation to the population of all municipalities in the regional school unit..." This method is known as weighted votes.

Method C allows for directors to be "elected at large by all the voters in the regional school unit."

Method D says "...directors are elected by any method other than those set forth in previous methods, as long as it meets the requirements of one-person, one-vote principle."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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