MEXICO — Bertha “Betty” Barrett, 88, has always considered community service important and, although she resigned from the RSU 10 board last week, she remains a member of the Region 9 School of Applied Technology Board and the Mexico Budget Committee.
Barrett became a member of the SAD 43 school board a few years after the Rumford School Department joined it in 1989. She continued to serve after SAD 43 in Rumford-Mexico, SAD 21 in Dixfield and SAD 39 in Buckfield became RSU 10 in 2011.
The district includes the 12 towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Peru, Buckfield, Hartford, Sumner, Byron, Mexico, Roxbury, Rumford and Hanover.
Last week, Barrett resigned after almost 20 years dealing with a myriad of issues facing education and the River Valley area.
When the RSU 10 board meets Monday, Feb. 10, Peter DeFilipp will take her place.
Barrett, who graduated from Mexico High School in 1942, has been associated with local education even longer than her service on a school board. She began working for principals, then Superintendent Fred Allen when the district office was in the Mexico Town Office in 1968, and retired in 1987.
So her resignation is a major turning point for her.
She said last week that her decision to leave the RSU 10 board is the result of frustration with what she termed the slow progress of reconfiguring the district’s 11 schools, including the possibility of closing at least one because enrollments have dropped.
“These are things that have got to be done,” she said. “We can’t put them off.”
Over the years, Barrett saw student enrollment drop in SAD 43. And although she didn’t support the merger to create RSU 10 at first, once it was done, she backed equal offerings for all three regions, she said.
“If they were going to merge, I wanted to be in on the ground floor,” she said.
Calling the three geographical areas of RSU 10 regions is another one of her objections.
“We cannot be one if we have regions. Anything new should be in all areas of the district,” she said.
Barrett said she also believes much has been accomplished since RSU 10 was formed. One of the biggest successes is standardizing contracts for employees, she said.
She said she also greatly values former Gov. Angus King’s technology initiative that put laptops in the hands of many students a dozen years ago and set the path for increasingly greater numbers of computers and other technology to assist in student learning.
Barrett said she believes keeping all RSU 10 schools open is not sustainable, particularly since some enrollments are expected to decline, some schools are not used to their full capacity and some students should attend classes in schools closer to their homes.
Superintendent Craig King said the newly established Building and Grounds Committee is about to start visiting and inventorying every school and district building.
“Once we have a database, we can start talking (about) what we need for space allocation. We will look at every single building,” he said. “I can’t imagine we’ll go several years without reconfiguring.”
Once the inventory is completed, most likely by April, the report will be given to the board for a decision on the next step, if any, he said.