NEWRY — In the wake of last week’s public hearings in Augusta on bills relating to a potential Newry school withdrawal, the town managers of School Administrative District 44 are expected to meet Monday on the topic of school funding.

Newry Town Administrator Amy Bernard said the purpose is to see if it would be possible to gather all the selectboards from those towns for a joint meeting on the subject.

She said the idea was spearheaded by the town managers of Bethel, Greenwood and Woodstock.

“We’re talking about getting all our boards together, and if it would be constructive to do so,'” Bernard said. “The push is coming from the fact that things did not go well for SAD 44 up in Augusta last Wednesday, and they all know it.”

Bernard said more specifically the prospects do not look good for LD 1080 (a bill to prohibit Newry from withdrawing from SAD 44), and look “questionable” for LD 1336 (a bill to require binding mediation in cases where withdrawal petitions have stalled).

She said the impression coming out of those hearings was that legislators do not want to set a precedent that could require them to get involved in the future in school withdrawal problems in other districts. The committee holding the hearings has yet to make a recommendation to the full Legislature on the bills.

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Bernard said the approach Newry should now take in possibly working with SAD 44 is, “Let’s see if there’s any way we can more equitably — in our eyes — share the cost of educating our kids.”

Selectman Jim Largess said, “Everybody says we’ve got to work together, and I agree.”

But, he added, referring to SAD 44’s support for LD 1080, “that doesn’t include throwing us under the bus.”

Selectman Virgil “Tink” Conkright wondered what would happen if, in a referendum on June 13, Newry votes against continuing its withdrawal process.

“That gives (SAD 44) the upper hand again,” he said, referring to the fact that Newry has tried to use possible withdrawal as leverage in getting concessions from SAD 44.

“Nothing would stop us from starting the whole (withdrawal process) over again,” replied Bernard, though she noted that state law would require the town to wait two years.

Chairman Gary Wight suggested Newry look to the future.

“I don’t think there’s any real need for us to be bitter about what’s happened,” he said. “Let’s go forward and see what we can come up with — not just for Newry but for everybody.”


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