RUMFORD – Plans for a new school administrative unit have changed to include Buckfield’s SAD 39, and exclude Bethel’s SAD 44 and Rangeley’s Union 37.

The superintendents, which also include those from SAD 21 and SAD 43, got together last week and decided that geographically, it made better sense to create a new unit from SAD 21, SAD 43, and SAD 39.

“We felt it was best to go ahead and change the plan,” said SAD 43 Superintendent Jim Hodgkin.

Previously, work had started to devise a plan that would include SAD 44, SAD 21, SAD 43, and Union 37.

The school boards from SAD 44 and SAD 21 heard the new plan at Monday’s respective board meetings. The boards from SAD 39 and SAD 43 will discuss it next week.

At Monday’s SAD 21 board meeting, members voted unanimously to submit a plan to the state for the new partnership.

“The commissioner will review this. It meets the letter of the law,” said SAD 21 Superintendent Tom Ward.

He said the previous plan would have created something called the “Northwest Territories,” because so many towns and unorganized townships would have been involved.

“We’ll leave SAD 44 and Union 37 to continue on their journeys without us,” he said.

He also said the SAD 39 Superintendent Rick Colpitts had polled his board and everyone that he reached agreed with working toward a partnership with SAD 43 and SAD 21.

Colpitts could not be reached for comment on Monday.

“SAD 21 and SAD 43 was always a natural grouping culturally,” said SAD 43 board vice-chairman Jeff Sterling. “It’s a really good fit, especially for SAD 39. It’s good for their kids who will have more opportunities.”

If the proposed three-district plan goes ahead, about 3,100 students will come under the same administrative roof.

Ward said joining with neighboring SAD 43 and SAD 39 makes sense not only geographically, but also with the governance of a new mega-district.

The previous plan would have called for 37 board members; the new one would be around 15, he said.

He said he has checked with the state Department of Education and with the district’s lawyer to get their okay on the new proposal.

“We’re waiting for the official word from SAD 39 that they want to join us,” said Ward.

That approval is more than likely since the 600-pupil district has had difficulty finding a partner because of its low valuation.

SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy said he doesn’t know what the next step for his district will be just yet.

“We’ll continue to cooperate with SAD 43. We’ll see what happens down the road,” he said.

He believes the newly formed reorganization is a positive step for his neighboring districts.

“It makes a lot of sense to form a tighter circle,” he said.

The original four districts had already met as a group and in subcommittees. Hodgkin said the process will begin again sometime in December, with representatives from SAD 21, SAD 43, and SAD 39. New subcommittees will also be formed to begin work on the various aspects of consolidation.

The mandate for most school districts to reorganize so that at least 2,500 students are served under one administrative unit was handed down by the state legislature earlier in the year.

During the second legislative session, due to begin in January, representatives are expected to act on legislation that will help new regional school units better equalize school tax assessments. Both SAD 21 and SAD 39 have much lower values that SAD 43 and SAD 44.

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