Lewiston, Auburn schools agree to join regional service center

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LEWISTON — Both school departments in the Twin Cities will join a regional service center, after voters in Lewiston and Auburn approved the move Tuesday.

In Auburn, the effort passed 2,875 to 893. In Lewiston, the tally was 3,600 to 1,127. 

Both departments will be considered founding members of the Great Falls Regional Service Center, along with SAD 52 in Turner and RSU 16 in Poland. 

The formation of regional service centers is tied to statewide efforts for sharing services that have been encouraged by the Maine Department of Education. 

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin will serve as executive director of the center.

In Lewiston, support for the initiative wavered in the lead up to an official vote. The School Committee initially rejected joining the regional service center out of concerns for how much control Lewiston would have over a regional board, and whether the regional group would create programs that could mean higher costs for Lewiston taxpayers.

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After more discussion, the committee changed its position and voted May 7 in support of joining. 

Grondin said last month that, if approved, Auburn will meet with the other districts to “discuss things we can do.” Possible points of collaboration, she said, are substitute teacher services, purchasing, nutrition, and teacher leadership programs.

The service center is set to receive $92,300 from the state toward implementation.

In his recent monthly report, Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster described the service center as a group of public school districts joining forces to find ways to save money by working together to be more efficient.

As mandated in a state law passed in 2017, public schools must join a regional service center or forego certain state money for education.

In Lewiston’s case, if voters did not approve the ballot question, the state would punish Lewiston by not giving $192,576 in state subsidy this year. The loss would be greater the following year.

Webster has said other ways the districts could consolidate and save are substitute teacher software; leadership-development programs for principals; weather service to help determine when to close schools due to snowstorms; and formalizing Lewiston’s participation in Auburn’s Regional Educational Treatment Center, where Lewiston now has a contract for seven student slots.

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