Three residents vying for three seats on Andover school board

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ANDOVER — Residents will vote to fill three of five School Committee seats on Election Day, Town Clerk Melinda Averill said Wednesday afternoon.

Andover residents voted 298-103 on Sept. 24 to withdraw from SAD 44 and establish their own school department. They also approved expanding the School Committee from three members to five, Averill said.

On Tuesday, selectmen agreed to accept nomination papers from SAD 44 board members Tim Akers and Lindsey Sharkey, and Andover Withdrawal Committee Chairwoman Paula Lee for the School Committee, Averill said.

Averill said Andover will not be officially withdrawn from SAD 44 until June 2015, so the School Committee will not go into effect until then.

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“We’re able to vote for three of the five members this November, but according to state law, you have to wait until your annual town meeting to add any new school members,” Averill said. “So we’ll have residents voting for our regular three-person school board in November, and they’ll be able to set things up in time for our annual town meeting in March, when we’ll elect the other two members.”

The town will not have to resort to a shortened election process, Averill said, because Akers, Sharkey and Lee took out nomination papers for the new school committee in August in the event the withdrawal vote passed.

Andover joined SAD 44 in the late 1960s, along with Bethel, Newry, Greenwood and Woodstock.

In 2011, the SAD 44 board voted to close Andover Elementary School, citing the extra expense to maintain the nearly 100-year-old building amid declining student enrollment. There are about 35 students in kindergarten through grade five who attend the school.

Selectman Susan Merrow said earlier this year that rural towns die when they don’t have local schools, home values drop 25 percent, and there’s no new economic development. Towns that control their own schools, she said, control their own costs and can grow their economies.

Since 2011, Andover has paid SAD 44 $244,000 to keep Andover Elementary School open, on top of the town’s $450,000 annual assessment.

The SAD 44 budget for 2014-15 is $10.56 million. Newry’s part of the budget is the highest at $2.9 million; Bethel’s is second at $2.8 million.

mdaigle@sunjournal.com

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