RUMFORD – Fifteen people have returned nomination papers for 17 seats on the first governing board of the area’s new school district.

Voters of 11 of the 12 towns of the Western Foothills School District will vote at referendum in their respective towns on Jan. 15. Sumner will act at a special town meeting set for that date.

Five of the candidates also served on the Reorganizational Planning Committee, the group that wrote the plan for the consolidated school district. They are: Maida Demers-Dobson, Buckfield, who is also a SAD 39 board member, one-year term; John Phillips, Sumner, SAD 39 board member, one-year term; Linda Berry, Carthage, SAD 21 board member, three-year term; Barbara Chow, Dixfield, SAD 21 board member, two-year term; Jessica Hines, Peru, SAD 21 board member, three-year term.

Several other candidates are also members of their respective school boards. They are: Peter Zanoni, Mexico, SAD 43, three-year term; Tracey Higley, Rumford, SAD 43, one-year term; Jeff Sterling, Rumford, SAD 43, two-year term; Marcia Chaisson, Rumford, SAD 43, three-year term; Dan Force, Hanover, Hanover school board, three-year term; Jerry Wiley, Buckfield, SAD 39 chairman, two-year term; Armand Rowe, Hartford, SAD 39, three-year term; Cindy Bissell, Canton, SAD 21, two-year term; and Bruce Ross, Dixfield, SAD 21, one-year term.

Running to fill a two-year seat from Byron is Chris Edmunds. No one has returned nomination papers for a one-year term to represent Mexico or a two-year term to represent Roxbury.

Members of the new school board will receive $25 for each regular meeting and subcommittee meeting they attend.

SAD 43 Superintendent and Western Maine Foothills School District interim secretary Jim Hodgkin said the two seats without candidates will be chosen by write-in ballot during the election.

He said he was pleased with the number of people who want to serve on the board.

But he said he did not like the process the state outlined for choosing an initial board. He said each town’s board of selectmen should have decided whether to appoint first-time board members or to hold an election.

“I’ve never been opposed to consolidation, but only to the way it was done,” he said.

The new board will meet after the Jan. 15 election at Dirigo High School where the first order of business will be a decision on the process for choosing a superintendent to govern the 3,200-student school district.

Hodgkin said a new superintendent could be in place as soon as February or as late as the end of March. He will not be a candidate for the position.

The first board meeting will be a long one, he said, because of the number of items that must be dealt with. Besides deciding how to choose a superintendent, the new board will also elect the chairman and vice-chairman, and begin the process of setting up subcommittees, meeting places and times, and other organizational matters.

All three superintendents and board members from SADs 43, 39, and 21 will continue to serve until July 1, 2009.

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