SADs 17, 39 talks aimed at merger

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PARIS – SAD 17 and SAD 39 may be independently taking a step toward Gov. John Baldacci’s plan for consolidation.

Richard Colpitts, superintendent of SAD 39, might also take on some of the assistant superintendent responsibilities of SAD 17.

The Oxford Hills school board voted unanimously Monday night to begin talking about sharing an administrator. SAD 39 directors are scheduled to vote on a similar item Wednesday.

Much remains in the air about the new position. The next step is for both boards to talk about the position and come up with a job description. If enacted, officials hope to have the system in place July 1.

Each of Colpitts’ positions would be part time, and each district would split his salary.

That would represent a savings for the districts, but it would also mean Oxford Hills would lose some of the responsibilities of an assistant superintendent, and Buckfield would lose some of its superintendent’s duties, SAD 17 Superintendent Mark Eastman said.

Duties Colpitts will likely pick up are contract negotiations and teacher certification.

SAD 17 has been actively looking for an assistant superintendent all year, Eastman said. While this idea was suggested, when Baldacci’s plan was announced he said, “It brought it to another level.”

Under Baldacci’s consolidation plan, SAD 17 and SAD 39 would merge into one district. While Eastman said he doubts Baldacci’s proposed 26 districts will pass in the Legislature, he said there likely will be some consolidation and the two districts will end up being combined.

Doing this, Eastman said, will ease the transition.

Colpitts agreed with Eastman, but also noted the plan was hastily drafted and lacked critical detail.

SAD 39 already shares several programs with SAD 17 such as adult education, vocational programs and transportation.

Both Eastman and Colpitts have referred to the merger as the districts “getting married.” At this point, the superintendents are in the stage of meeting each others’ families to see if it would work.

Colpitts said he foresaw the districts merging; it’s just a matter of when.

However, he said the savings the governor is touting won’t be as great as they seem. Merging the positions would only save the district $30,000.

“For one thing, most superintendents have a three- or five-year contract,” Colpitts said. “They have to continue to be paid unless their contract is bought out by the state. This alone would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the projected 151 superintendents who may lose their jobs.

“The work that I presently do cannot be neglected if I become part time, so who does the work? The district would have to hire someone else to do such things as negotiations, which the office staff cannot do. The office staff would now have more work, so would they be compensated? The problems go on and on,” he said.

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