Fayette voters will consider questions of cost, educational resources and local control when they vote Tuesday on whether the town should have a stand-alone school district.
Voting is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Starling Hall on Fayette’s withdrawal from Alternative Organizational Structure 97, the school district formed with Winthrop in 2010.
It will cost the Fayette School Department more to operate on its own, but it’s education, not money, that’s paramount for proponents of withdrawal, said George Joseph, chairman of the town’s withdrawal committee.
“This is about local control and self-determination, and Fayette’s got the resources to do this and should be doing it,” Joseph said.
The Fayette School Committee controls hiring and the budget for Fayette Central School, but the AOS school board hires the superintendent and oversees central office functions, including transportation, business management, special education administration and curriculum coordination. Fayette’s members on the AOS school board control 15 percent of the weighted vote, and the town pays 15 percent of the AOS budget.
Representatives from the two towns have voted together on hiring and compensation for AOS employees, but proponents of withdrawal worry that if there were ever a conflict, Winthrop easily could overrule Fayette.
If Fayette runs its own school district, as it did from 1994 to 2010, Joseph said, residents would have more knowledge and control of the education of the town’s children, particularly at the foundational elementary level.
Richard Darling, Fayette School Committee chairman and co-chairman of the AOS board, argues that Fayette has benefited from the AOS. He said he’s not speaking for any other member of the committee.
“I feel that the AOS has been a good thing for us, both from an educational standpoint and from a financial standpoint,” he said. “I continue to think it’s a good idea, but if the other citizens of the town feel otherwise, we’ll continue on as a municipal school department.”
It would cost the town an estimated $66,164 to have its own administrative services. The town now pays $57,752 to the AOS budget for those services, so it would cost the town $8,432, 14.6 percent, more.
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 eduction director part time and other costs, such as insurance and auditing.
Not only has membership in the AOS produced administrative savings from Fayette — and spared the town from a financial penalty that has since been removed from state law — Darling said it has also increased access to educational resources.
With about 75 students, Fayette Central School doesn’t need full-time teachers for art, music or physical education, and it has sometimes been difficult to find qualified part-time teachers, Darling said.
“Some years we were very successful at that and found very good teachers who stayed with us for years,” he said. “And there were other times when we might go through three teachers in five years.”
If a part-time teacher leaves midway through the year, the AOS office can refer someone from Winthrop who is available, Darling said. The AOS also provides special instruction for gifted and talented students.
AOS Superintendent Gary Rosenthal has his office in Winthrop and spends a majority of his time on Winthrop matters.
Some residents of Fayette want a superintendent whose first priority is Fayette, but Darling said Rosenthal is only 20 minutes away if an urgent situation arises in Fayette. That might not be true of a part-time superintendent. Many part-time superintendents have contracts with multiple school districts around the state.
This is a corrected version of this story.