FAYETTE — A vote to determine whether Fayette once again will be a stand-alone school district is nearly three weeks away, but some people already are considering what that school district would look like.
If residents vote April 15 to leave Alternative Organizational Structure 97, which also includes Winthrop, there will be a lot of work to do before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, School Committee Chairman Dick Darling said, including hiring a superintendent and approving a budget for administration.
The Fayette School Committee already creates a budget for school operations and makes curriculum and hiring decisions, but AOS 97 handles most of the central office functions, including superintendent services, coordination of special education and accounting and bookkeeping. For those services, Fayette pays 15 percent of the AOS budget. The split was determined by the relative numbers of students in Fayette and Winthrop when the AOS formed.
Members of the committee that has been planning for Fayette’s potential withdrawal from AOS 97 laid out plans on Tuesday for replacing those services, as well as public feedback they’ve gathered about the operation of Fayette Central School that could guide the School Committee’s decision if Fayette withdraws.
About 30 people, including 10 members of the withdrawal committee, attended the informational meeting at the school on Tuesday.
A legally required public hearing about the withdrawal agreement approved by the AOS board is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the school. Voting on the withdrawal referendum will take place 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 15 at Starling Hall.
According to cost estimates presented by Darling, administration for the Fayette school system would cost $66,164, or 14.6 percent more than Fayette is contributing to the AOS budget this year.
The estimate includes a part-time superintendent at $450 per day for 33 days a year, a part-time bookkeeper, a contract with Winthrop to keep Sue Hunt as special education director part time and other costs, such as insurance and auditing.
Withdrawal committee member Ellie Andrews, however, said Fayette will need to think about more than replacing administrators. A vote for withdrawal, she said, is a chance to improve education for Fayette children by taking a new look at the operation of Fayette Central School.
“The plan is not just the replacement of these things,” she said. “How are you going to hire a superintendent if you don’t know what your needs are?”
Withdrawal committee member Nancy Cronin presented the results of a survey the committee created to gauge the opinions of parents and other community members about their vision for the school and its strengths and areas for improvement.
A strong majority of respondents, 87 percent, want a full-time principal, and a plurality of 41 percent want that person to work only as a principal, not also carrying duties of a superintendent or teacher.
People in Fayette value having a small school with small classes and say the school has good teachers. Parents said they need better communication from the school — several said that students knew before parents that the second-and-third-grade class would be split — while residents without children in school said they want the school budget reduced.
Withdrawal committee member Alanna Stevenson said the AOS served Fayette well in the period when there was a financial penalty for small school districts that did not consolidate, but it’s no longer necessary to be in the AOS.
“The withdrawal from the AOS feels as if it will allow the people who are in the know to make decisions for our students and for our kids here in Fayette,” she said. “… Being a small school that is performing well as part of a bigger system is probably not going to have the focus that we could have if it was just us.”
After the meeting, town resident Rachel Adams said she’s pleased with Fayette Central School based on the experiences of her two sons who are in the first and third grades, but she’s leaning toward withdrawal.
“It’s a minimal increase in costs, and it looks to be a very large benefit,” she said.