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School Board Looks Into Withdrawing from AOS 99

By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, October 5, 2011

FORT FAIRFIELD—The Fort Fairfield school board recently voted to look into ways to withdraw from the recently formed Alternate Organizational Structure (AOS).

When the Maine legislature hatched their ill-conceived plan to consolidate school systems throughout Maine they placed penalties in the form of reduced State subsidies on school systems who chose not to consolidate with other schools.

In order to avoid the penalties, SAD 20 in Fort Fairfield, SAD 42 in Mars Hill and Bridgewater agreed to form an AOS that would merge most of the central office and administrative functions of the schools. Unlike a Regional School Union (RSU), the AOS plan allowed for the continuation of local school boards, local contracting of teachers and retained ownership of the buildings within the respective towns that originally paid to build them.

A recent change in the law now removes penalties from non-consolidated schools. Those who formed RSUs have essentially no way to back out, while AOS systems retain enough local autonomy to dissolve and revert back to their former local status.

One of the main reason that AOS 99 was formed was to avoid penalties. In the last two years the three school systems have saved over $350,000 by avoiding these penalties, said Marc Gendron, Superintendent of SAD 20 in Fort Fairfield.  This Spring a new law was passed that removed the penalties for 'non-conforming' districts. In light of this new development the school boards of 42 and 20 have voted to explore the steps that would be needed to dissolve the AOS.

   At the present time all the school boards are doing is exploring the possibility of dissolving the AOS.

   In my opinion, if we return to our previous organizational structures, the districts will continue to work together to save money. For example sharing professional development, combining driver education programs, etc., explained Gendron.  Other savings on the administrative side, which did exist, have to be considered in light of the attention and focus required to do the best job for students in each individual school system. This is what we will be looking at in the coming months. The elimination of the penalties gives us the opportunity to look at our relationship in a new way.



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