VASSALBORO — With some apprehension, the school board voted at its meeting Tuesday evening in favor of considering a plan to dissolve Alternative Organizational Structure 92.

The AOS, which serves Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro, is considering dissolving itself so it can pursue the formation of a regional service center in Waterville. This move could lead to financial incentives from the state, including subsidies for administrative work. Waterville and the AOS 92 board expect to convene for a special meeting next week to vote on the plan, which, if the AOS board votes in favor of it, will send the question of dissolving the district to voters as a referendum in the spring.

The original rationale behind dissolving the AOS stemmed from the threat of losing administrative allocation funding from the state. On top of that, it was believed that if school districts restructured as a regional service center, they also would be allocated an additional $200 per student. That was a big incentive when AOS 92 initiated the process of dissolving the district. But on Tuesday night, Superintendent Eric Haley said the Department of Education informed him that no additional money would be coming if the communities do restructure as a service center.

If they choose to create the service center, the schools still will be spared from penalty and get the $46 per student, equaling about $17,000 for Vassalboro, but the additional $200 per student that Haley thought the state might be granting schools for creating such a center does not exist.

Some board members voiced disapointment in that development and spoke of feeling nervous about jumping into the process of creating a service center without having much of a payoff.

Haley acknowledged that several questions about the process remain unanswered, including what things might look like once they’re on the other side; but he said there were still benefits to creating a service center regardless of that extra money not coming through, such as communities having more autonomy and control over their own respective schools. But also, the communities still had the option of keeping interlocal agreements and still could have the ability to lean on each other for help.

After the discussion, the board voted unanimously to consider the plan and move the process forward.

Haley said that in the future there will be public sessions to explain to residents what a regional service center is and why the boards are pursuing such a structure. State officials have said that local school systems regionalizing and sharing some of their services should maximize efficiency in districts. Some of the restructuring would include contracting out administrative works, such as tasks relating to payroll and accounts payable, to other regional service centers.

If the AOS 92 board votes to approve the plan next week, it is expected to go to the state education commissioner in early January. If the commissioner’s office approves the plan, it will be on the ballot as a referendum question during a special election, tentatively scheduled for March 13. It then would take a majority of only one municipalitiy’s voters favoring the proposal to dissolve the district.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg


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