Brunswick, surrounding schools find possible areas for collaboration

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BRUNSWICK — The School Department is continuing discussions around collaborating with five surrounding districts, as well as regionalizing some services with School Administrative District 75 and Regional School Unit 5.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski on Wednesday said he and other school officials completed meetings with school leadership teams from West Bath, Lisbon, Regional School Unit 1 (Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg, Woolwich), SAD 75 (Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham) and RSU 5 (Freeport, Durham, Pownal) about collaborating in different areas. He said the meetings were not related to regionalization.

The collaboration discussions, he said, regarded how the districts could work together to be more efficient in various areas.

Ideas discussed at the preliminary meetings included the transportation of homeless students, early childhood education, purchasing services from or hiring a universal grant writer for all of the districts, and hiring a single communications officer.

Perzanoski said the meetings were separate from talks his department is having with SAD 75 and RSU 5 about the possibility of regionalization, which would entail submitting a formal state application to combine services such as summer school and professional development.

In November, the Brunswick School Department held a workshop to discuss regionalization, which was inspired by an administrative push from the state.

The Department of Education has provided financial incentives to districts that have an interest in combining some services, as the state is seeking to form between nine and 12 regional service centers. The centers would provide uniform professional development, technical assistance and other services.

Brunswick is discussing submitting a preliminary application. Because the application is not due until April 30, Perzanoski said his department and officials from SAD 75 and RSU 5 are still in talks. 

As for the next step in collaboration, he said his department and the other five districts would be setting up a meeting “toward the end of budget season” to discuss the common interests that arose from the meetings.

He said there was “certainly a lot of support for continuing discussions,” and each of the districts is concerned about the homeless population and the related issue of transportation.

“When one of our students who’s homeless ends up in a living arrangement in another town, and they want to continue going to school here, we have to coordinate,” Perzanoski said. 

Coordinated transportation would help the districts manage the issue, rather than arranging for taxis or other means of transport to shuttle students back and forth, as they are doing now, he said.

Perzanoski also said none of the districts have a comprehensive summer school program, which was also brought up in meetings.

He added that because “money is so tight” at both the state and local levels, districts also discussed hiring one person to write grant proposals, and a single communications officer to distribute news about each of the school departments.

Going forward, he said districts were receptive to having a larger meeting with all interested parties, including school board members. He added that the drive to collaborate comes from a desire to meet district needs, rather than worrying about being penalized financially.

“It has nothing to do with the regionalization process,” he said. “We’re doing this because it’s right for kids; it’s right for districts that are having to deal with a lot of different issues.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Elizabeth @epclemente