NORWAY – SAD 17 directors unanimously approved a two-year extension to employ SAD 39 Superintendent Rick Colpitts as SAD 17’s half-time assistant superintendent.

The continuation depends on approval by SAD 39 directors, who will be asked to split Colpitts’ time with three days in SAD 17 and two in SAD 39. Colpitts said preliminary discussions with his directors have yielded positive responses.

“We really feel like this makes sense to continue this,” Superintendent Mark Eastman told board members of the pilot program initiated last year.

Colpitts has continued to serve as superintendent of the 600-student district in Buckfield, Hartford and Sumner while working two-and-one-half days a week as assistant superintendent in the Oxford Hills administrative offices in Oxford.

Eastman said extending the arrangement would maintain their collaboration and move both districts forward in meeting recommendations of the new school consolidation law.

The plan was the result of a SAD 17 panel recommendation in 2003 to find ways to cooperate with SAD 39 to save money. The two schools already shared cost-savings measures such as heating oil purchases, joint adult education, bus repairs and the technical school.

Colpitts’ salary had been set at $81,594 for the year, which ends June 30. A new contract would be written if both boards agree to the proposed terms of the two-year extension.

Questions about continuing the pilot program emerged this school year as efforts to meet the new school consolidation law failed to put SAD 17 and 39 together. SAD 17 submitted an alternative plan to the Department of Education to stand alone after determining the school would see close to $1 million district cost increase by merging with SAD 39 or another district.

However, school officials also stressed that they intend to continue to seek expanded cost-savings collaborations with the district such as the assistant superintendent collaboration.

SAD 39 is investigating consolidation with SADs 43 and 21 but a vote is not expected by the towns until November.

“I see it as very workable,” said director Don Gouin of Norway.

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