FAYETTE — Residents will have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want the Fayette Central School to withdraw from Alternate Organizational Structure (AOS) 97 in a referendum vote in April.

The ballot question reads as follows: “Do you favor the withdrawal of the Town of Fayette from the alternate organization structure known as AOS #97 in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Town of Fayette plan of withdrawal as approved by the Maine Department of Education, dated 16 January 2014?”

Citizens will get a chance to vote on the question on Tuesday, April 15. Polls will open at Starling Hall at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

A public informational meeting will be held on the question at Fayette Central School on March 25 at 6:30 p.m. and a public hearing will take place March 31 at 7 p.m., also at the school. Absentee ballots are available. For more information, call the Town Office at 685-4373 or visit the following link: http://www.fayettemain.org/election-caucuses–town-meeting.html.

In a Nov. 5th vote, residents overwhelmingly gave their approval for the formation of a subcommittee to develop the withdrawal plan. The AOS had been formed in a process that started in November of 2009. At that time, Fayette officials began and led a state-wide initiative to delay penalties for non-compliant schools that rejected or failed to comply with the State of Maine School Consolidation Law and successfully protected the town from a $40,000 state penalty.

Following the delay of the penalty, Fayette administrators led a statewide initiative to change the AOS law. This effort successfully protected the town from another $40,000 penalty and subsequent reoccurring financial penalties.

After the state legislature’s approval of the AOS law change, the town’s officials engaged Winthrop and together the two communities formed AOS 97, or the Western Kennebec School Alternate Organizational Structure. It was done to avoid penalties for not consolidating and allowed the two school systems to work independently and autonomously.

In 2011, the Maine Legislature voted to eliminate the penalties to go into effect for fiscal year 2012-13 and subsequent years.

Fayette citizens had voted in 1994 to leave SAD 36 and operate as a standalone school with their own superintendent and school committee. Gov. John Baldacci presented a school consolidation proposal in 2007 that required school districts to consolidate to save on administrative costs or face a fine and a loss of educational subsidy.

Residents supporting the withdrawal, and the withdrawal subcommittee as well, have noted that the demands of the superintendent’s job and power of whomever sits in the seat will be favored toward the school system paying the most in salaries and bills. Right now, Fayette pays 15 percent of the superintendent’s salary and Winthrop 85 percent.

They have also pointed out that Fayette needs someone that can bring funding to sustain Fayette Central School and be creative about engaging staff and community in the process. An emphasis has been put on the need to retain local control of the school system.

Additionally, withdrawal supporters have said that the long term sustainability of Fayette is more in line with its own superintendent model that any partnership. Because of weighted votes (156 for Fayette versus 844 for Winthrop), Fayette has very limited control over cost increases of the AOS central office budget. They have also emphasized that the school’s Grade “A” rating from the Maine Department of Education came under the independent school structure before the AOS.


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