BUCKFIELD – Representatives from three school districts approved a plan to merge administrative functions Tuesday night and to create a Western Foothills School District.

The vote was 16-0-1, with Buckfield representative John Phillips abstaining. The plan would merge the central offices and services in SADs 21 (Dixfield), 43 (Rumford) and 39 (Buckfield) and the unaffiliated town of Hanover.

“I’m very pleased with all the members of the Reorganizational Planning Committee and the collaborative effort,” said SAD 21 Superintendent Tom Ward, who intends to apply for the job as superintendent of the consolidated school district. “People have been respectful of each other’s thoughts and feelings.”

The 18-page plan will be forwarded to the Portland law firm of Drummond and Woodsum for review.

Each school board must also agree to submit the proposed plan to the state Department of Education for review and approval.

Ward said SAD 21 directors will likely take up the plan June 9. SAD 43 will act on it June 3, and the SAD 39 board will likely take action on May 21.

The document will be sent to Education Commissioner Susan Gendron for approval no later than June 12.

Voters of what would become a 3,200-pupil district will decide whether to combine the three districts at a special referendum in each of the 12 towns on Sept. 9.

The towns are Dixfield, Peru, Carthage, Canton, Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury, Byron, Buckfield, Sumner, Hartford and Hanover.

A 17-member Western Foothills School District board, composed of members from each town, would be elected on Nov. 4.

A meeting of the reorganizational panel’s three co-chairmen and the three superintendents is set for for 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at the Heritage School in Peru. A strategy for getting the word out about the new school unit will be discussed.

The full committee will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 29, at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford to review any changes suggested by Drummond Woodsum and to set dates for public informational meetings.

At least one informational meeting will be held in each district in July and August.

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