FAIRFIELD — Albion residents turned out in droves Thursday to tell the School Administrative District 49 board of directors they were angry and felt disrespected by a board vote Oct. 20 about the possible closure of Albion Elementary School.

The board had voted 6-5 that night to defeat a motion to put a referendum to voters asking whether they wanted to close the school. Residents said that item never was placed on the agenda for the meeting, so they were unaware it was happening.

More than 100 people — mostly Albion parents, teachers and staff members — packed a hot, stuffy multipurpose room Thursday at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield, with many saying not only that they oppose closing the school, but also that the board needs to be more transparent and notify residents when important votes are to be taken.

Julie McKenzie, of Albion, said the vote taken Oct. 20 was unacceptable, particularly because the issue was not shared with residents.

“I expect honesty and integrity on all these matters that face the school board,” she said.

Melissa Hackett, also of Albion, said she attended the October meeting for another item and heard some board members say they could not vote on the school referendum item because they did not have enough details — but the board voted anyway.


“I find that really disconcerting,” Hackett said.

Much of the discussion Thursday concerned board member Tim Martin, who represents Fairfield on the board and has said he wants to close not only Albion but also, eventually, Benton, Fairfield and Clinton elementary schools and build one large school to replace them. Some residents said they asked for financial information the board was using to show the Albion should be closed, but they were not given those figures.

Former board chairman Steve Grenier, of Albion, who was on the board 19 years, said he did receive the financial information and would be glad to share it with anyone who wants it.

“Tim, your calculator doesn’t work right,” Grenier said to Martin.

He said the contention that Albion is one of the most expensive schools to operate is false.

“When you do the math correctly, Albion is the least expensive school,” Grenier said.


He also argued that the district would suffer a financial loss if it closed Albion, as the school receives $76,000 for being an “outreach school.”

“You can’t close schools until you have a new school,” Grenier said. “You just can’t.”

Many parents said they love Albion Elementary and closing it would mean having to bus their children farther away and lengthen their school day, and they do not want them in a larger school and town. They live in Albion precisely because it is small and the staff and teachers know the children and look out for them.

Lindsey and Luke Harwath, who have four children, moved to Albion a year ago from Iowa specifically so their children could go to school in Maine, Luke Harwath said.

“One year after moving here, they’re talking about closing the school — without any data,” he said.

His wife was angry that Martin had posted earlier this week on the Fairfield community social media page that the board was going to vote again Thursday night on the same item it voted on Oct. 20 — whether to put to referendum a question about closing the school — and he asked Fairfield residents to support the idea.


Lindsey Harwath said Martin knew the board was not going to vote Thursday and his post made many people angry.

Martin stood at the end of the school discussion to say he apologized if people felt offended and he posted the comments only to get people to come to the meeting.

“I wanted you here so you could hear,” he said. “I understand it is personal to you. We don’t want to raise taxes.”

He and other board members visited the Benton school, and “we can assure you there is more than enough room to accommodate them,” Martin said, referring to Albion’s 114 students.

Meanwhile, board Chairwoman Shelley Rudnicki said Wednesday that the school issue marks the beginning of the district’s efforts to consolidate, as the schools are aging and it costs more to educate Albion students in Albion than it does the other elementary schools.

Rudnicki told the crowd Thursday that the board would hold meetings in Albion to get input from residents on the school issue.


“We will have some meetings in Albion and bring with us facts and figures when we do that as well,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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