NEWRY — Residents who have been exploring ways to reduce what the town pays to educate its children have abandoned — at least for now — an effort to change the local school funding formula in favor of an effort to withdraw from SAD 44.

About two dozen people attended a meeting Tuesday at the Grange hall to discuss the issues. Jim Sysko, who has been spearheading the work, said he does not think it is feasible to get the other four towns in SAD 44 to change the formula — a move that would increase their taxes.

Those towns are Andover, Greenwood, Bethel and Woodstock.

Instead, Sysko began circulating a petition asking selectmen to schedule a vote on whether to formally start a withdrawal process.

He told those at the meeting that signatures from at least 10 percent of the Newry citizens who voted in the last gubernatorial election are needed to force a withdrawal process vote.

That figure was not available Tuesday night, but noting that there are 200-plus total registered voters in town, Sysko estimated that the maximum number of signatures needed would be about two dozen.


He got 20 at the meeting.

If the group is successful, the vote that would be called by selectmen would ask if townspeople wish to start a withdrawal preparation process that would culminate in a later vote on whether to actually leave SAD 44.

If residents approve going ahead with the preparation process, selectmen would appoint a formal withdrawal committee to draft a plan for educating Newry’s two dozen students as an independent school unit.

That committee would consist of a selectman, a resident, a resident who signed the petition, and a Newry school director appointed by the SAD 44 Board of Directors.

Sysko said he plans to try to get as many signatures as he can on the petition.

He and Selectman Brooks Morton also presented figures showing Newry’s student population and contribution to the SAD 44 budget over the years.


Morton said that in 1964, Newry had 73 students and paid $24,488. In 1991, the last time Newry went through a withdrawal effort, which failed, the town had 57 students and paid $716,162. Currently, Newry has 25 students and pays $2.8 million.

Sysko said a resident of SAD 44 told him that if Newry withdrew, the town would be “‘throwing all the other towns under the bus,'” because it pays such a large amount of the budget.

But, Sysko said, “Every town has the responsibility to educate their own kids. They’re not real poor towns.”

He noted that a town similar to Newry — Carrabassett Valley, where Sugarloaf Resort is — has a high valuation but is not a member of a school district. Instead, it pay tuition to send students to SAD 58.

“The other towns in SAD 58 are doing fine,” he said. “The state will make up the difference. Don’t feel too sorry for the other towns.”

But one woman at the meeting did worry about the students in the other SAD 44 towns.


“They’re all our concern,” she said. “Cuts will make it worse for kids there.”

Sysko said if Newry withdrew, the town would have “extra” money and might find a way to make a significant donation to SAD 44, while still spending much less than it does now.

Sysko said that generally, Newry students would likely have a choice of schools to attend, including those in SAD 44, RSU 10 around Rumford, Dixfield, Buckfield,  and Gould Academy in Bethel. He also speculated that Deb Webster, who operates a private middle school in Newry with nine students, could expand to take Newry’s students should the town withdraw. But Webster, who is also a SAD 44 director for Newry, said her school takes students from towns all over the area.

Tuesday’s meeting lasted about a half hour. Sysko said he would be in touch as the petition progresses.

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