Richmond High School and Middle School in a photo taken last November.

RICHMOND — When the committee to negotiate Richmond’s withdrawal from Regional School Unit 2 started its work earlier this spring, it was aiming for a June 30 deadline for a completed agreement.

As June gets underway, it is not clear that deadline can be met.

When the RSU 2 withdrawal committee met last week, members reviewed what information they have received to date from school district officials and what’s yet to come.

“I just want to throw this out there as a cautionary thought,” Richmond Town Manager Adam Garland said. “The way the timeline looks right now, we have minimal time to negotiate. I just want to caution everybody not to move forward too fast. I want to make sure we have plenty of time to negotiate in good faith and consider aspects.”

The process for a municipality to leave a school district is spelled out in state law, and it has a timeline built into it.

For a withdrawal date of July 1, 2021, the proposition must earn the support of Richmond voters by November. And to get on that ballot, the Department of Education must have a withdrawal agreement to review by June 30.


Mark Bower, Richmond’s lawyer in this matter, said he had contacted the Department of Education for information on the local and state share of funding essential programs and services in RSU 2, and to ask whether there is flexibility on the June 30 deadline.

On March 3, a majority of Richmond residents who voted supported exploring leaving their school district, which encompasses Richmond, Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell and Monmouth.

Less than two weeks later, the global coronavirus pandemic was declared, and much of Maine’s business, government and education activity was shut down to slow the spread of the highly contagious respiratory virus.

That caused a delay in forming the committee and in the committee starting its work.

At about the same time, district officials announced that RSU 2 Superintendent Cheri Towle, who had been on leave since December 2019, would resign at the end of April due to medical reasons.

The district announced Mary Paine, who had been serving as acting superintendent in Towle’s absence, would assume the post as the board was preparing to discuss a superintendent search.


Even as school districts were moving to distance learning and figuring out how to continue to provide meals for students while school buildings were closed, district officials were also at work crafting a proposed spending plan for the upcoming school year.

District officials have been slow to respond to the Richmond committee’s request for information it needs to craft a withdrawal agreement. In April, the committee submitted a request with a May 6 delivery date.

At last week’s meeting, Bower said he had contacted the district’s lawyer that afternoon to let him know the committee was still waiting for information.

“Within an hour, I had three emails from the superintendent,” he said, and that information was sent to the committee.

But he had not yet heard back from the Department of Education.

Russell Hughes, vice chairman of the RSU 2 board of directors and a member of the withdrawal committee, said he still wants to work toward a June 30 deadline.

“My only concern is that if we delay it, it may kill getting out of the RSU altogether,” Hughes said. “Right now, we probably have a good majority, but in a year or two, that might change.”

Bower said if the June 30 deadline cannot be met, the townwide withdrawal vote would not have to be delayed until November 2021. It could be held in January.  The only thing that would change is the expected withdrawal date, which would be delayed a year.

Committee members agreed to push ahead to meet the June 30 deadline, if possible, and to set up a meeting for June 10 with the district’s negotiation team.

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