Reform deadline has school officials cranking

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LIVERMORE FALLS – The deadline to file letters of intent for partnerships in school consolidation is just over a month away and school systems are just starting to get their financial analysis data back from the state.

SAD 36 Superintendent Terry Despres said Thursday he had put in several calls to state education leaders and is still waiting to get information clarified.

He hadn’t received the financial outlook on a partnership of a Livermore, Livermore Falls and Jay regional school unit but had received partial information on the towns in SAD 9 in the Farmington area and a SAD 36 partnership, he said.

Jay Superintendent Robert Wall received a financial analysis on a Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls partnership and was working on the numbers on his computer Thursday to present them during a workshop between the two school systems’ boards on Aug. 9 at the Jay High School library.

Despres told SAD 36 directors Thursday night during their meeting that he has filed notice of financials on several other possible partnerships including SAD 9 in the Farmington area, SAD 52 in Turner area, Fayette, Winthrop and other school systems.

One of the factors in SAD 36 consolidating with other school systems is the local-only bond for the Livermore Elementary School. Voters in both towns agreed to build the school with district money and not the state’s, which means if not negotiated into a contract in a new school consolidation, taxpayers in Livermore and Livermore Falls would solely foot the cost of the school.

In the end, SAD 36 directors will have five or six financial analyses to look at, Despres said.

With people around the state getting more interested in the school consolidation efforts, lawmakers are realizing that school consolidation legislation could come before them again in the next session in January, he said.

Probably no schools will go to vote on consolidation with partners in January, Despres said, with the exception of a southern Maine partnership that includes Bath, which comes from different legislation.

He also recommended that the district file numerous letters of intent by Aug. 31 with all the partners they are considering.

Despres said that several staff members have approached him recently with concerns about rumors they’ve heard pertaining to consolidation.

“None of the rumors are true,” he said. “It’s starting to create misinformation.”

No partnerships have been formed, he added, nor have letters of intent been filed.

When the financial data comes in and is deemed accurate, all the numbers will be published and the data reviewed, he said.

“We don’t want it to be speculation, we want it to be accurate,” Despres said. “Unfortunately, when change is eminent, not-so-accurate stories result.”

SAD 9 is sponsoring a meeting with board chairmen and superintendents from SAD 36 to northern Franklin County on Thursday, Aug. 2 at the Homestead Bakery to discuss consolidation.

In other matters, directors approved the nomination of Cathi Howell of Livermore as the district’s library media specialist.

They also accepted with regret the resignations and asked the superintendent to forward letters of thanks from the board to Kathryn Wilcox, an education technician, and Terry Buchanan, a teacher for the deaf.

They also accepted the resignation of Rick Hoddinott, a middle school science teacher.

And they thanked Director Amie Smith for all her work on the school board. Smith of Livermore Falls has accepted a teaching position in Rockland.

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