2012-05-25 / Front Page

RSU withdrawal plans reviewed

Committee faces June 15 deadline to submit agreement
By Adam Chabot
Staff Writer

The Regional School Unit 21 Withdrawal Committee has until June 15 to submit a withdrawal agreement to Maine Commissioner of Education Stephen Bowen, to ensure the plan can go before Arundel voters on Nov 6. Committee members said Nov 6 is being targeted so the vote can coincide with Election Day.

RSU 21 Superintendent Andrew Dolloff provided the committee with a potential timeline of dates, with each step leading to Nov 6. Dolloff said his timeline based on the state’s withdrawal statute and allows the maximum amount of time for Bowen to review the plan in two different stages.

Dolloff said when the withdrawal committee submits an initial agreement to the commissioner, a maximum of 60 days will be allowed for the Bowen to review the plan. Dolloff also said he built in four weeks of time for Bowen to conduct a final review of the agreement, when that stage is reached.

“I have no way of predicting better than anyone else how long it will take (Bowen) to review the plan each time,” Dolloff said. “But I think it would behoove us, if we are shooting for Nov. 6, to allow the maximum amount of time that the law allows for him to review the plan.”

Committee member Matthew Fadiman, who also serves on the RSU 21 Board of Directors from Kennebunk, said this timeline will also force everyone on the committee to put together a solid plan that won’t require heavy review and scrutinizing from Bowen.

“Even if they’re not trying to drag their heels, I think the better agreement we have, the more likely it is that Augusta can say ‘Yes,’” Fadiman said.

Dolloff said the timeline certainly isn’t “in stone” but can highlight how “expeditiously” the agreement process must proceed.

Maureen King of Kennebunkport, a committee member and member of the RSU 21 Board of Directors, said Bowen recently addressed this issue at a recent Maine School Management Association meeting. King said the commissioner would do “everything he could to help expedite the communities who wanted to move forward with this.”

“So he’s not going to be deliberately dragging his feet,” King said. “If there are any issues (with the agreement) then it might take longer, but he’s going to try to move it as quickly as he can.”

Tom Danylik, an Arundel representative on the withdrawal committee and an Arundel selectman, said he thinks the time frame is “compressed” but ensured that every effort will be made to reach the goal.

The withdrawal committee also reviewed a proposed first draft of a settlement plan written by Dolloff, who said the draft is an adaptation from an agreement by the town of Starks, which withdrew from RSU 59. Dolloff had replaced language in the agreement to suit Arundel and RSU 21.

To date the town of Starks is the only one in Maine to successfully separate itself from an RSU.

Dolloff said the items in the proposed draft that require discussion and negotiation between both the RSU and members of the Arundel Withdrawal Committee are student enrollment and the distribution of property and services. These discussions and negotiations may include shared property, such as transportation and technology, shared teachers and staff and how to provide proper services for all students requiring special education.

Everything beyond these items and the wording of the agreement will be up to the Arundel committee to determine, Dolloff said.

Danylik said he wanted to make it clear that when the town of Starks drafted its withdrawal agreement, the town was withdrawing from one RSU to join another. He said this agreement is going to be something new, but doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

“As far as this agreement … there’s going to be some sticking points,” Danylik said. “But I think everybody here is very cordial and certainly wanting to put together an agreement that all parties can support.”

Dolloff also remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached that will satisfy all parties. Meetings have already been scheduled and Dolloff said both sides “certainly have a desire” to put together a solid withdrawal agreement.

The entire withdrawal committee will meet again on 4:30 p.m. May 30 and 7 p.m. June 5 to continue discussions and to work on the agreement. The meetings will take place in room A102 at Kennebunk Elementary School.

The Arundel Withdrawal Committee was scheduled to meet again May 23 at the Mildred L. Day Elementary School library.

Staff Writer Adam Chabot can be reached at 282-4337 ext. 233

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