SALEM TOWNSHIP — The Regional School Unit 58 board of directors reversed its decision and agreed to join a regional service center Thursday night.

Superintendent Susan Pratt told directors she and six other regional superintendents recently met with a Drummond Woodsum law firm attorney on ways to meet a Maine Department of Education deadline of Nov. 30, without making a commitment to a regional service agreement on behalf of district taxpayers. The district could lose as much as $115,000, she said, if it didn’t take part in the MDOE directive to reduce administrative costs.

“This buys us some time,” she said.

The plan would include Farmington-based RSU 9, Rumford-based RSU 10, Dixfield-based RSU 56, Bethel-based RSU 44, and Rangeley-based RSU 78. The six districts decided to focus on three goals.

The RSU 58 district would join other systems to use the Pennacook Learning Center, part of Rumford-based Region 9. The therapeutic day treatment facility was funded by a state grant and is staffed to work with students whose learning needs can’t be met within the district. The district can send students to the center but will be required to pay tuition.

The collaboration also could help solve one of the biggest challenges facing rural districts: finding, training and retaining qualified substitute teachers. The service center also could merge bulk food purchases and menu planning, possibly with a single food service director.

If approved, the Western Maine Regional Service Center would have its own board, represented by superintendents and school board directors. The board would receive state-approved guidance on forming the collaboration.

In other news, the board recognized Mt. Abram High School science teacher and coach Jim Danala as the November Employee of the Month and Kingfield Elementary School special education teacher Johanna Bartlett as the October Employee of the Month. 

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