WATERVILLE — Waterville Public Schools’ board voted unanimously Monday to join a regional service center, a move officials say will result in a larger reimbursement per enrolled student from the state.

Waterville Schools was formerly part of Alternative Organizational Structure 92, which included Winslow and Vassalboro schools. Last March, voters from the three communities elected to dissolve AOS 92 in order to pursue joining an education service center.

According to maine.gov, an education service center is a multi-service agency established and operated for the purposes of developing, managing and providing services to its members.

Superintendent Eric Haley said at Monday’s meeting that the district originally decided not to go through with joining a service center at the time, because the legislation enacted during the tenure of Gov. Paul LePage provided no financial incentive.

A board separate from Waterville Public Schools will control and regulate all of the services provided through the center to its members, Haley said.

But, since the election of Gov. Janet Mills in November, those regulations have changed.


“A lot of the things the former governor did have been undone,” Haley said. “It was originally an unfathomable situation and was rejected right off hand … but now the strings have been loosened on service centers.”

Now, the district will receive $94 for every enrolled child once it joins the Regional Service Center, which Regional School Unit 18 and Maine School Administrative District 54 have already joined.

During the board’s discussion about joining, Haley made his approval of joining a service center known to fellow board members.

“We already provide services like the center, like payroll, accounts payable, maintenance, transportation …” Haley said. “There’s no risk in joining because we already provide services … and we can vote to get in and out unlike the vote to form AOS which was for three years … I think this is all great news and I think things look good for us.”

The Winslow school board also decided to join the service center with Waterville, RSU18 and MSAD54 after discussing it at a meeting on Monday evening. Vassalboro’s school board will discuss joining at its meeting next week.

After the vote to move forward with joining the Regional Service Center, the board discussed appointments for the upcoming year.


Margaret Smith, a member of the Waterville City Council, was appointed to be the new kindergarten teacher at George J. Mitchell School, even after school board member Julian Payne spoke out against her appointment.

“I think that hiring a city councilor within the very same system that provides health care and benefits to them and they vote on the school budget is a conflict of interest,” Payne said. “In essence any councilor taking that position would be voting on their own budget.”

Fellow board members did not feel the same way.

“We’re hiring a person who’s qualified,” board member Pamela Trinward said. “If the principal has presented this person to us, we have to assume they’re the most qualified. If the voters of that ward decide not to vote for her for council because she’s a teacher, that’s their business, not ours.”

Payne re-emphasized that his objection was not to Smith’s position on the council but the conflict of interest he and other residents he spoke for have with her being employed by the school.

“Many people are appalled by this … this is illegal in many other cities,” Payne said. “I’m not against her sitting on the council. I’m against any councilor voting on (a) budget that they get health care and benefits from.”

Similar situations occurred in 2016 with former council members John O’Donnell and Dana Bushee and in 2017 with former council member Lauren Lessing. O’Donnell and Lessing had spouses employed by the schools. Bushee was employed by the nonprofit Jobs for Maine Graduates, which paid her salary and health insurance, and worked with the schools.

The board at Monday’s meeting was not moved by Payne’s objection and Smith was appointed to the position by a 5-to-1 vote.

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