NEWRY — Bethel resident Scott Cole told the Newry Withdrawal Committee Tuesday that he and others plan to seek state legislation to end the town’s School Administrative District 44 school withdrawal process.

Cole, who is also county administrator for Oxford County, had said early in the Withdrawal Committee meeting that while he would like to see Newry’s effort end, he had only come to the meeting to listen to the discussion.

But as the discussion proceeded about the Withdrawal Committee potentially asking for a vote at the March town meeting on whether to raise money to continue the withdrawal process, Cole said he wanted to make a disclosure.

“I and others, we fully intend to ask (Rep.) Fran Head and (Rep.) John Madigan to sponsor legislation to end the conversation,” Cole said. “I don’t have any beef with anyone in this room here. You’re acting within the law; you’re pursuing a lawful goal, but the bigger picture is there is value. There is going to be a school system, all right — and it’s going to get paid for somehow.

“We’re going to ask the state representatives to do it,” he said. “I don’t know whether they will or not. I hope they do. But we can have that debate and figure it out. I’m not here to throw gas on the fire or anything like that … but absolutely I think that needs to happen.”

That brought a quick response from the audience.


“Really — you don’t think that’s gas?” Brooks Morton asked.

Dr. Mark Eastman, the Withdrawal Committee’s educational consultant, asked Cole to clarify what he meant by pursuing legislation.

“We’re going to change law to prohibit the withdrawal of the town from the school system,” Cole said.

Cole said that he was not “anti-Newry.”

“It’s about optimizing value that’s been created in the region by the people of the region.” Cole said, adding that the current funding system is the fairest way.

Newry resident Gary Drown said, “I think the fairest way is to let each town decide what they want to do with their money.”


Tama Drown addressed Cole, saying this was the first time he had said anything throughout the process.

“We started in November 2014,” Drown said.  

Cole said that his job as Oxford County administrator “shackles” him from speaking out about the issue, but he’s a taxpayer who has lived in the area for 17 and a half years. 

“I get to say something,” he said.

What did the votes mean?

In the discussion leading up to Cole’s disclosure, Tama Drown said the Nov. 8 district vote against changing the local funding formula to benefit Newry “speaks volumes.” She said an article should be put on the town meeting warrant to raise more money to continue the withdrawal process.


“It seems to be very evident a change is needed or wanted by Newry, and nobody else seems to care,” she said, adding that she understood why residents in other towns didn’t want to vote to raise their taxes.

“Newry is the money pit, plain and simple,” Morton said. He also said that SAD 44 spends money “frivolously,” and Newry has no say on school curriculum.

“Our representatives don’t represent us,” he said.

Chairman Jim Sysko said he had heard of several Newry residents who voted against the funding formula change because they want the town to withdraw instead, while others voted for a formula change.

He said the other towns, through the overall vote against a change “called our bluff.”

“I guess they don’t expect us to withdraw,” he said.


He also noted the overwhelming vote in June by Newry to continue the withdrawal process at that time, acknowledging some may have done it for leverage to encourage the other district towns to vote in November to change the formula.

Gary Drown said if Newry decided to take SAD 44 to court to pursue withdrawal, “we have rights. We have to defend those rights. We have a right to decide how to spend our money.”

At the end of the meeting, the Withdrawal Committee went into executive session to discuss its options.

After the session, Sysko said, “On advice from counsel, I can’t report much about what happened other than to say after we left executive session our committee voted unanimously to send a letter from me to the SAD 44 school board.”

He characterized the subject of the letter as a “negotiation issue.”

Contacted Wednesday, Bethel Town Manager Christine Landes and Greenwood Town Manager Kimberly Sparks said Cole had talked to them earlier this year about pursuing a possible law change, depending on the outcome of the Nov. 8 vote, but he had not formally sought their support.

The Withdrawal Committee meets next Jan. 10 at 5 p.m. at the Town Office.

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