Meeting of consolidation committees from M.S.A.D No. 55, M.S.A.D. No. 61, and M.S.A.D. No. 72 at the Molly Ockett Middle School, in Fryeburg, on July 30, 2007.
The following people were present:
Rob Heard Peggi Aspinell
Ben McKenney Jo Pierce
Lee Goldsbury, Chair Sylvia Pease, Superintendent
Jill Dehmer, Business Manager
Sherri Weese, Business Manager Janice Barter
Robert R. Caron, Sr. Frank Gorham, Superintendent
Brook Sulloway Greg Smith
Kevin Hancok, Chair
Gene Spender Ralph Sarty
Jim Wilfong, Chair Gary L. MacDonald, Superintendent
Madeline Bassett, Business Manager
A. O. Pike, Fryeburg Academy Trustee Chair
Mary Jane McCalmon, Facilitator
There were 21 people in the audience.
Jim Wilfong, MSAD 72, opened the meeting at 7:06 p.m. and welcomed everyone.
Jim asked for nominations for Chairman of the joint committee.
Ralph Sarty nominated Jim Wilfong, MSAD 72, Kevin Hancock, MSAD 61, and Lee Goldsbury, MSAD 55 as Co-Chairs for the joint consolidation committee.
The committee members voted unanimously for the Co-Chairs nominated.
Kevin Hancock began the discussion:
MSAD 61 is working very diligently to come up with the best path to meet the law. They are not interested in merging for the sake of it or not merging for the sake of it. Kids must come first and will be applied to this process within the time frame given.
Jim Wilfong echoed many points Kevin made. MSAD 72’s committee has been selected from all over the district. The full committee has met two times. Their position is to be as open, objective, and transparent as they can. Kids first and also what the effect on tax payers will be. They are looking at and evaluating all options. They are still in the research and evaluation process. The full committee will update the school board on August 8th. They have asked the municipal officers to come to that meeting, as well. This committee will update the full committee and ask their ideas in August. The full committee will have a recommendation to the board for the letter of intent by August 29th. They are very concerned by time line. There is a
lot to learn. They feel strongly that there is insufficient time.
SAD 55, Josiah McKenney, Chair of School Board said that they have been meeting many Monday nights and have been looking at data. There will be a public hearing on August 13th. There is no opinion as to what to do yet. They also feel the time line is rushed.
Comments from committee members:
The Head Selectman from Parsonsfield asked Mary Jane McCalmon if there is anything in writing showing savings for SAD 55. MaryJane responded that she just walked into the process herself. The state is providing a financial analysis of what towns’ shares of allocation would be if combined after receiving data from school systems.
Augusta must have come up with the savings – is it in writing?
There were comments regarding the feeling of losing local control and not having a financial analysis to use to form a recommendation before the filing of the letter of intent.
Jim Wilfong: The state is out to save 39.5 million dollars that they have already cut from the budget. We need to follow the guidelines so as not to get penalized. We will all have to wrestle with the question of control.
Rob Heard, SAD 55 wanted to state the ending time of the meting. It was agreed that the meeting would adjourn at 9:00 p.m.
Comments from the audience:
A mechanic from SAD 61:
Concerned about transportation being contracted, where a garage would be, and how the maintenance of vehicles would be operated. What are the different philosophies regarding high schoolers and elementary students riding together? He believes that if you contract for transportation you lose control.
Ralph Sarty, Selectman from Denmark
He attended the Drummond Woodsum and MacMahon conference on consolidation and the law. Cuts are defined by the state (system-wide administration). Between the law, and committees, we need to give due diligence and will be working on trying to analyze costs and the law within 6 weeks.
Lee Goldbury, SAD 55 Chair of Committee.
Their committee identified three priorities: education of children, benefit or not; impact on current taxpayers and rest of the towns, and any efficiencies that might be realized. Decisions should be made on how they will benefit kids and taxpayers.
Facilitator: Mary Jane McCalmon. The committee needs to figure out how she can be most useful to everyone. She downloaded some information from the DOE website. She can speak from experience of speaking to groups previously. She has been a former superintendent, teacher, and assistant superintendent. She has worked in rural and urban school systems. Over the last few years she has worked with groups to do quality planning. She will be working to come up with the best plan for us. Is independent – not an employee of state.
Her role as facilitator:
Could be to try to be a liaison to those who have the answers.
Oversee and manage the process during the meetings or portions of the meetings so committees can concentrate on details of meeting.
It might be easier to have someone unbiased to help use time most efficiently.
Documentation – can be glue to hold together. She can help with how to organize people to get information in efficient way.
She is also doing the same with several other school units around the state. May learn from each regarding processes and share with others.
Here to help do best work that can be done and the outcome is the outcome – not here to tell us what to do.
Jim Wilfong: There is no dissolving once organized.
Kevin Hancock asked Mary Jane what the DOE is expecting from the committees on August 31st? How detailed?
Mary Jane: Every SAU in the state is expected to file a notice of intent to enter into a regionalization planning committee process or alternative plan that meets the criteria determined by the state for an alternative plan.
Drummond Woodsum and MacMahon said that if a school district was not totally clear as to which plan to submit they could submit multiple letters of intents. Both must meet requirements of the law.
When a plan is approved and voted by the voters, it cannot ever dissolve.
The DOE would prefer one letter of intent with one box checked.
If the alternative plan is checked, a rationalization for that choice must be written on the back of the form.
Also must show how the school system meets the criteria.
All three districts could submit two plans. Then have more time to decide on final plan submitted.
Must do due diligence to see if consolidation will work and if it shows that it won’t must file alternative plan and still reach goal of savings. Law clearly requires we focus on consolidation and analyze financial information.
Could have best plan but state is determined to have approximately 80 districts.
Commissioner cannot make plan based on 80.
Unique (three parties). Could be three, two, or none choose to merge. All of us are codependent. What one might like to do might not match up with one or two others.
None have a choice but to pursue what we could do together and also look at standing alone because can’t necessarily depend on others being what we think.
All have work to do on own.
What do we focus on when we are together?
Look at cost savings if together.
Look at same information so each can compare to alternatives.
Assemble cost savings projection.
The committees need to meet with administration, transportation, special education, facilities, and technology departments.
A discussion about having a committee member meet with department heads and look at how they operate took place.
Do these efficiencies equal out to local control and kids education. We can save money but are we still doing best for kids. We need to focus on due diligence for kids.
Fryeburg Academy? Does SAD 72 have much control over tuition costs?
It is a contract.
The state calculates average tuition costs. SAD 72 voluntarily pays an additional premium on the tuition rate set by the state.
There is a 10 - year contract between MSAD 72 and Fryeburg Academy for district students in grades 9 – 12 and the district is currently in 4th year of that contract. MSAD 72 pays the maximum allowable tuition, set by the state, plus 15%, plus an insured value factor of 10%.
The contract calls for MSAD 72 to provide all transportation except for prorating for dormitory students on extra curricular trips.
The academy raises funds for new construction.
The contract calls for special education costs for district students to be paid by the district in addition to regular tuition.
There was discussion on sub committee work:
What would be the process for a plan?
Who would serve on sub committees?
Should committee chairs meet with the Superintendents?
Gene Spender volunteered to meet with the transportation and maintenance directors.
How quickly can the superintendents and business managers put a draft together of details of needs and savings in the different areas.
How much work has already been done?
Sylvia – as we have tackled those areas, we have consolidated the data from all the districts and looked at administration salaries and benefits. We now need to look at savings.
Still have more to do.
Gary: in April the three superintendents started meeting. Maintenance, technology, transportation directors, and business managers all met and looked at consolidating and presented in Augusta.
We have a lot of good information.
We have sent information to the state for a financial analysis. Have not heard back.
The information is for current budgets.
We are looking forward to having fresh eyes look at costs and budgets.
After receiving analysis back we will look at scenarios and attach monies to those ideas.
Meet with managers and fresh eyes and come back with ideas.
How quickly can the information already assembled be put together to give to committee members?
Where is the authority to make decisions for these districts?
The committee recommends to school board – school board votes on letter of intent.
The process for each district will need to be aggressive in order to meet Aug. 31st deadline.
Each district’s school board sends a letter of intent by August 31st, DOE responds by Sept. 15th.
This group will make recommendations to individual school board.
All we can do by August 31st is say we might be interested in merging or not interested.
Should we prepare two plans?
Sub committees only have time to meet once or twice.
Should we get rid of some buildings?
Pay scales are different in each unit.
How will town evaluations effect towns shares when combined?
Jan Goldsbury, from the audience spoke about the need to include curriculum directors in discussions in committee meetings.
Should we just have superintendents and business managers come back to next meeting with a model and then decide if we should break into sub committees?
Update full committee on 8/15.
We need committee reports back by 8/15.
Part of the charge by August15th is to look at how conceivable consolidation might be. If we really are going to do due diligence there are two plans.
Is the best we can do by the end of August, be to recommend for consolidation worth exploring and also have back up for an alternate plan?
What would staffing plan look like?
What would one, two, three staffing plans look like?
MaryJane: how much time will it take to come up with infoormation people are asking for?
Frank: 26 days till school starts. We have put together an enormous amount of information already. It is going to take some time. We have a lot of information but by Aug. 31st we will not have everything. After Aug. 31st we will have more time to gather more data.
MaryJane: the information is going to be rough and based a lot on what we have already done. It is not going to be complete.
Suggested doing a vision of district structure of all districts.
Gary: we do have a lot of information together. He is comfortable to sit down with Frank and Sylvia and others to look at what we have now and then bring to the whole group. Suggested critiquing in small groups. It will not be complete in the time we have.
Is fearful of trying to put together two or three plans by Dec. 1st. Those plans are incredibly detailed. It would be good, if possible, to rule out some possibilities.
The question around education is valid and has to be included in the analysis.
Come back on the 15th with a snapshot of possibilities. We are sitting here with these three districts because the DOE said it was a place to start. It is not mandated that we three must look at each other. Could be looking at other school systems.
Sylvia: the time crunch is difficult. The NCLB applications and other reports are not started. These deadlines are immediate. Still have to meet with boards. It is going to be difficult to get together with the other obligations at hand.
Kevin: we need to define the scope of work that is possible and desirable to accomplish in phase 1. Not looking at new information. Would just like to see what has been put together and assembled to look at by entire committee.
Is it feasible for the committee to make a recommendation to the three boards with a set of information that everyone has looked at.
Could time be better served by collecting information?
Prospect of three district merger – what would that look like.
Would help each district go back and look at other alternatives.
May not be able to make recommendation.
Would like school board to be able to consider information and meet again before making decision.
Would like committee to make recommendation.
Take break and possibly extend meeting 15 minutes.
Meeting resumed at 9:02 p.m.
Motion to extend meeting for 20 minutes to adjourn at 9:20 p.m. Everyone agreed.
The three superintendents will get together and assemble current information currently known as to what districts will look like especially in the four areas of administration, maintenance, transportation, technology, and special education. A sub set of this committee made up of chairs and one other member from each district will look at information and produce an updated packet to give to the entire group, which would mean a meeting the week after next will need to be scheduled.
After the letters of intent are sent there is a lot of work to be done in detail by Dec. 1st.
Gary: There is a significant difference between an alternate plan and a reorganization plan. A reorganization plan needs details about how everything will be combined (debt, cash, etc.). It has to spell out every aspect of combining the three districts.
Lee: because the reorganization plan is so enormous it would be really good to know if a district is planning to go alone before going to all the work and thought of reorganizing.
What is a reorganization plan compared to an alternative plan? An alternative plan must show cost savings in order to meet savings.
Before we leave tonight, can we see if there is a group for various reasons thinking it will not be cost effective to join with others?
Jim: We want to continue to work on process – we want to do due diligence.
SAD 55: It needs to be explored.
Lee: Huge is not necessarily good. He is reluctant to go into a huge geographic area unless it is beneficial to students and taxpayers. It might be two? Open to investigating.
Jim: taking open and objective look.
Kevin: basic premise of fewer bigger districts is flawed. It is wrong to assume that to work together you must merge. Strategic alliances can save. In spite of those assumptions we should go through a fair, transparent, quick, review process of facts.
A motion was made and seconded, that the tri-chairs along with one member from each school district committee meet with the Superintendents and gather information to bring back and present at the next full committee meeting. At least one person from a select board should be present. At least one member from each school district should be present and be a non school board member. These people will meet on August 9th, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
The motion passed.
Need to know by 15th of August if a district is planning to go alone.
The next full committee meeting will be on August 13th at the Denmark Town Office.
It was moved and seconded to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 9:35 p.m.