BETHEL — SAD 44 Director Marcel Polak said he was encouraged by a letter from Jim Sysko of the Newry Withdrawal Committee that the committee wants to negotiate an agreement.

The letter, mentioned at Monday night’s board meeting, was in response to one Sysko received from school board Chairwoman Lainey Cross on Jan. 11.

Withdrawal committee members sharply criticized Cross’s letter, which accused the committee of “not address(ing) the concerns presented regarding the fiscal and educational impact of Newry’s withdrawal from the school district.”

Committee member William Andrews said he was “outraged and personally insulted.”

Cross ended the letter by advising the committee to reconsider its approach to a legal challenge if the Legislature passes a bill that would prohibit Newry from voting on withdrawing.

The letter from Sysko began by accusing Cross of being “combative” and “unprofessional.” He said the board did not participate in good-faith negotiations and ignored the “increasingly generous proposals” the committee offered.


The letter ended with a proclamation of a “mutual goal” of a higher quality of education for all students.

“The (Newry Withdrawal Committee’s) desire to reach an agreement with SAD 44 has not ended,” Sysko wrote. “We are exploring ways to get back to the negotiating table without a costly lawsuit. I hope this can come to pass. Let’s work together to make this happen with the knowledge that our mutual goal is to improve education for all the students, no matter which town they live in.”

Polak, of Woodstock, said he was encouraged by the “mutual goal” statement.

Newry began its effort to leave the district over two years ago because of the amount of money it pays to educate its relatively small number of students. The cost-sharing formula is based 100 percent on property value, which has Newry paying about $3 million of the district’s $9 million budget.

Since the effort began, Andover dropped out of the district, leaving Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock to shoulder the costs.

In 2014, Newry residents voted 82-60 to withdraw. Since then, a series of proposals and counterproposals have been offered, including changing the cost-sharing formula so Newry pays less and the others pay more.


The vote to change the formula to a 90 percent property value and 10 percent student enrollment for the fiscal year 2017-18 and then to an 85/15 split in fiscal years 2019-20 and beyond, failed on Nov. 8, 2016.

Sysko said previously that the town had proposed to pay tuition to send its 25 students to SAD 44 and additional money as agreed upon with the district.

However, Superintendent David Murphy said Monday night that the school board had not received any further proposals from Newry since voters rejected the formula change.

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