BANGOR (AP) – Citing “incredible inefficiencies,” Maine Education Commissioner Susan Gendron said something needs to be done to end duplication of services that is sapping money away from instruction.

Schools should make a greater effort to share things like transportation and food service, and then use the resulting savings for instruction, Gendron told educators, businesspeople and University of Maine officials.

“We have incredible inefficiencies,” Gendron said. “With 286 school boards with 1,800 members and 151 superintendents, we’re duplicating many programs and services that channel dollars away from instruction.”

Her comments at a Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting continued a theme that began under Gov. Angus King’s administration and is picking up more steam under Gov. John Baldacci.

Noting that schools across Maine are grappling with declining populations and reduced budgets, Gendron said consolidation and regionalization are certain to be the most contentious issues she’ll have to address.

Rather than “prescribing a solution,” she said, she hopes communities will use grants to hire neutral facilitators who will help review data, determine what’s in the best interests of students, compare regions’ strengths and weaknesses, and discuss how to offer education more efficiently, Gendron said.

Her remarks in Bangor came a day after she delivered a similar message in Millinocket and East Millinocket. Baldacci already wrote to officials encouraging a consolidation services, including school districts.

Consolidating programs and services is a way for people to test the water before asking “harder questions” about merging schools, Gendron said.

Many elementary schools in Maine have fewer than 50 students, and some have fewer than five pupils in one class, she said.

AP-ES-04-25-03 1153EDT



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