Consolidation of Brunswick schools with another district on the table

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BRUNSWICK — The School Department is exploring consolidation of town schools with another school district.

At a special School Board workshop, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said the discussion was inspired by an administrative push from the state.

According to Perzanoski, the state wants to form between nine and 12 regional education “service centers,” and he is interested in submitting a preliminary application for Brunswick to be involved.

The service centers would provide uniform professional development, technical assistance and other services statewide. The state has tied “some financial incentives into the mix” for districts that comply, Perzanoski said, without providing any detail.

Vice Chairman Jim Grant said he thinks reorganization is a worthy consideration for Brunswick, and the School Department should start making contact with other nearby districts that may be interested in collaborating. He compared the other towns to “dance partners.”

In keeping with the dance analogy, at-large member William Thompson said he thinks considering West Bath as a candidate would be a good idea, although a partnership likely wouldn’t come to fruition for a while.

“We did a little tango with West Bath,” Thompson said. “When they were breaking up with Bath we sat down with them. I think it would be worth getting a better understanding of the arrangement they have with (Regional School Unit 1).”

Prescott also asked if there was any way for Brunswick to meet the Department of Education’s request without being required to form an alternative organizational structure or regional school unit, to which Perzanoski answered yes.

“I think I’d rather see us focus on those (options),” Prescott said, adding she was also not opposed to reorganization. “I think we could probably get further faster exploring some of those.”

Brunswick is classified as a municipal, or standalone district, meaning its geographic and political scope is the town boundary. A municipal district also only elects board representatives from the municipality, and its legislative body is the Town Council.

Perzanoski gave a presentation outlining the different district designations that exist, including regional school units, alternative organizational structures and community school districts.

Perzanoski said an RSU comprises at least two towns, as well as board representatives from each town. Its legislative body is a district voter referendum or meeting.

An AOS comprises two or more school units, which share some administrative services, but keep separate school boards. The governance of an AOS is dictated by a organizational plan and agreement between the school units. An AOS is also required to consolidate system administration, and administration of special education, transportation and business functions.

A CSD comprises more than one municipality, and is responsible for some public school grades within its area, though typically not all. Schools in a CSD also retain separate boards for students in preschool through eighth grade.

Perzanoski also said he does not think towns involved in an RSU or AOS must be abutters, and that from his observations there seem to be more instances of schools entering an AOS in the northern Mid-Coast and northern regions of the state, rather than southern Maine.

The superintendent added he had experience working with regional service centers in upstate New York.

“It takes a while to get them up and running,” Perzanoski said. “My experience with them in New York is they work fairly well as long as the members can (join) voluntarily.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Brunswick Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski discusses possible consolidation of town schools with another district at a special School Board workshop Wednesday evening, Nov. 29.

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