DRESDEN — Local officials are moving forward with a process to withdraw from the regional school district, now that members of review and exploratory committee have met for the first time.

Dresden officials first brought up the idea of withdrawing from Regional School Unit 2 in April after news the 2021-22 school budget for the district would cause the town to increase its money allocation by more than 10%.

Despite the town voting down the budget, the budget passed in other municipalities within Regional School Unit 2. Since the vote, RSU 2 has offset the town allocations using state money, but Dresden still wants out and Thursday’s meeting set the stage for the steps the district will have to take.

Chairperson and former RSU 2 school board member Jeffrey Pierce suggested the committee look to the town of Richmond for advice since the town tried to withdraw from the district this past election and did not gain the number of votes needed to break away. Though they were unsuccessful, the town is within the same RSU and one of the most recent towns in the state to go through the process.

“Richmond is relevant; they’re the latest one done,” Pierce said of the withdrawal process.

The process of withdrawing is lengthy and constituted through the Maine Department of Education through 32 steps. The Dresden Regional School Unit 2 Review and Exploratory Committee held its first meeting Thursday night to discuss steps to move forward.

At this point in time, Dresden has only formed an exploratory committee to research the steps needed to withdraw. The town has not started a petition yet, one of the first steps in the process. When the petition is created, the committee will have to collect signatures equal to at least 10% of the total number who voted in the last election for governor.

Dresden only has its own elementary school and it uses tuition agreements for outside the district, or uses a superintendent agreement to have Dresden students attend RSU 2 middle or high schools of their choosing. One of the first steps in the research process is to see how many Dresden students there are in the district and how much it costs per student to have them in the system.

The Dresden exploratory committee will now have up to nine members. Committee member Lisa Hewitt thought there should be more town representation on the board and the committee will put a form out through the town office to advertise the positions.

Pierce represents the town’s Planning Board and is the chair. The vice chair is Leah Bickford, who has five children in the district. Her husband is Jeffrey Bickford, the newest member of the RSU 2 school board. Leah Bickford was absent from the meeting Thursday for a prior commitment, as was citizen-at-large member Karen Moody.

The other members are Kathryn Marseglia, representing the school district; Hewitt, as the secretary and town representative; Gary Blau as a member from the town’s budget review committee; and Sherri Lilly as the scribe. A Select Board member that has yet to be chosen and another citizen from the community will round out the committee.

Most members have had their own children go through the school district, a factor important for one unidentified community member in the audience Thursday night. Amanda Pendleton, another audience member, said she went through the school district and wants to become a part of the process this time around, mainly to make it easier for her child to convincingly move through the school district from elementary school to middle school without the stress of tuition or superintendent agreements.

Dresden committee meetings will take place on the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. Pierce said the team are working on a Zoom option but have to discuss it with the Select Board. He hopes to have an answer by next meeting. Agendas will be posted ahead of time and minutes, once approved, will be posted online by the following Monday. Meetings, if they are not on Zoom or announced otherwise, will be held at Pownalborough Hall on Patterson Road.

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