DIXFIELD — The Regional School Unit 56 school board voted unanimously Tuesday to continue with an application to join a Regional Service Center.

A Maine Department of Education law says that school districts must join to share services such as programming, business and transportation, and administration, or they stand to lose $46 per student in DOE funding.

Superintendent Pam Doyen told the board that she and other superintendents received further clarification regarding regionalization of services at a recently held conference. A lawyer from Drummond Woodsum met with Doyen and the other superintendents free of charge, she said, and he told them about the consequences and incentives of joining a service center.

“What was less clear (before) was that not only do you lose the $46 per student if you don’t join, but you don’t get the school management and leadership center incentive, either,” Doyen said. “So there’s more money to be had than just the $46.” 

“I still stand firm with keeping a foot in the door if we want to investigate if joining one of these (centers) is not going to cost us more money than what it would cost to get out of this. Not closing the door keeps our options available,” said Director Bruce Ross of Dixfield.

According to RSU 56’s paperwork on joining a regional service center for the fiscal year 2018-19, the RSU stands to gain an estimated $143,685 in subsidies.

Other requirements of the Department of Education’s are for each service center to have an executive director and a facilitator. The DOE will pay 55 percent of an executive director’s salary, up to $7,500 for a facilitator and up to $2,500 for legal fees, according to RSU 56’s paperwork.

RSU 56 plans to join six other schools to form a regional center: RSU 10’s Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, RSU 9’s Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, School Administrative District 44’s Telstar Regional High School in Bethel, RSU 58’s Mt. Abram High School in Strong, RSU 73’s Spruce Mountain High School in Jay and RSU 78’s Rangeley Lakes Regional School in Rangeley.

The superintendents of the seven districts are considering three possibilities for sharing services: Pennacook Learning Center (in Rumford) services, substitute teacher training, hiring and management, and food service menu planning and bulk purchasing, Doyen said.

In other business, Dirigo High School Assistant Principal Jason Long spoke to the board about the school’s proficiency-based learning diploma and graduation requirements. State law dictates that proficiency-based diplomas are a requirement beginning in 2021 and the high school has been organizing standards, revising curriculum and implementing tracking efforts, Long said.

According to Long, the Class of 2021 must demonstrate proficiency in English, language arts, math, science and social studies. Students’ proficiency will be assessed by using graduation benchmark assessments and they must also pass their required courses. Dirigo will continue to support multiple pathways for students’ education such as Region 9 School of Applied Technology, Alternative Education and Early College courses, Long said.

Students will have the opportunity to “recapture” credit from a failed course with a grade of 60 or higher and they will have multiple opportunities to earn credits and demonstrate their proficiency.

“This system will improve communication and raise expectations for our students,” Long said.

In other news, a community work session called Future Search will be held Friday, Nov. 17, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Dirigo High School. The purpose is to establish a mission, vision and goals for RSU 56. There will be a supper Friday night and breakfast and lunch Saturday, Doyen said. Anyone interested in attending should call Doyen at her office for more information.

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Dirigo High School Assistant Principal Jason Long spoke to the RSU 56 school board Tuesday about the proficiency-based diploma and graduation requirements beginning in 2021. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)

Regional School Unit 56 school board members at their meeting at T.W. Kelley Dirigo Middle School on Tuesday. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)

Regional School Unit 56 school board members at their meeting at T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School on Tuesday. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times)