Jay, RSU 36 inch toward consolidation

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JAY — School directors from Jay and Regional School Unit 36 said Wednesday night that they support merging.

The boards got as far as agreeing to what subcommittees there should be but decided to have the chairpersons of both school boards decide on who and how many will serve on the planning committee.

Facilitator Clint Boothby said what he got from discussion around the table was that the plan is to form a regional school district and not an alternative organization structure that would join only the central office and administration connected to it.

No one disagreed with him.

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After some talk of how many people should be on the planning committee, Jay Town Manager Ruth Cushman suggested there be equal representation from each of the three towns, Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls. The recommendation was to have one of each from the three towns: selectmen, teachers, school board members, community members, business representatives and students.

It was also suggested the planning committee members chair the subcommittees that will be formed.

Jay School Committee previously voted to work with RSU 36 in Livermore and Livermore Falls to consolidate, while RSU 36 directors unofficially said in February they would support consolidation with Jay, with one director opposed.

However, school officials at the table Wednesday talked positively about the idea.

Voters in all three towns rejected that plan in January 2009 due to what some said was not enough information available to support the plan. Boothby of Livermore, who was on the first planning committee, agreed that it was what he heard from people.

Jay School Committee student member Kyle Hawkins said students took a vote the first time around and they were overwhelmingly against consolidation. They didn’t have the information they needed and they most likely went home and told their parents they were not in favor of it, he said.

RSU 36 Director Jennifer Pooler said she was appalled at all the misconceptions she heard about consolidation prior to that vote.

Those at the table Wednesday agreed that they needed to keep the process in the public and use the expertise in the communities, schools, businesses and at the student levels to put the plan together so people feel they are involved.

They also said the plan does not have to be perfect and that they can fine-tune what was not working and improve on what is working as they go forward.

The school systems run two high schools within a few miles of each other as well as other schools in the close-knit communities.

The administrative teams from both systems put together a list of benefits of consolidation, roadblocks to it, benefits of collaboration as opposed to consolidation and how the schools could move forward together. The benefits included cost effectiveness, sharing programs and expertise, opportunities to offer more and varied programs and not paying state penalties.

The roadblocks listed included the variety of stakeholders and the voices they represent, the funding formula, no time to do proper planning, creating teacher buy-in, and preconceived notions about people in authority.

The list of how to move forward was larger than the other two combined. It suggested administrative teams from both districts come up with a plan to present to the boards and community. It also recommended there be transparency with the public, consistency between boards and administrative teams, involvement of teachers and staff and the need to be a true team.

Both boards agreed by consensus to form subcommittees to the planning committee to develop plans for finances, teaching/learning (includes curriculum), administrative leadership, system administration, facilities and maintenance, technology, and sports/ethos/activities. Also, transportation; special education; personnel — staffing, policies, certified and hourly contracts; policies and procedures drafts; legal framework governance.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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