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School board OKs, submits alternative reorganization plan

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School board OKs, submits alternative reorganization plan

FALMOUTH – The School Board on Monday unanimously approved the School Department's alternative plan for reorganization.

With only minor, non-substantive changes from the draft form presented to the Town Council last week, the plan was scheduled to be mailed, e-mailed and faxed to the state Department of Education on Tuesday, according to Superintendent George Entwistle III.

“This has gone through extensive review, extensive revisions,” Entwistle told the board.

Board member Kathy Hillman-Reed said she had some trepidation about sending the document before receiving a response to the state-required Notice of Intent to submit an alternative plan, which Entwistle submitted Nov. 11.

“I don't know how sticky the state's going to be about the process,” she said, adding that “the rules come into play whenever it's convenient for the state.”

But Entwistle said he was advised by the department's attorney to submit the document.

“(Commissioner Susan Gendron) has been engaged with a whole lot of other things,” Entwistle said. “I've shared with the department what our plans were, our dates; there was nothing to indicate to us that (submitting the plan) is not what we should do.”

Jim Rier, DOE director of finance and operations, said Tuesday that submitting the plan before receiving an answer to the November notice wouldn't affect anything. But he also said that submitting would not necessarily translate to acceptance.

“The key is for (Gendron) to look at that notice of intent and meet the 80 school unit requirement of the law,” he said. “The statutory requirement is 80; she can't approve 100.”

Rier said Gendron would provide an answer before the end of January, the date by which a plan must be approved to avoid what would be a $473,000 penalty for Falmouth. But he added that several units are voting in January on consolidation plans, so it would be impossible to make a prediction as to the commissioner's answer.

Although Falmouth ruled out the closest potential consolidation partner by voting not to consolidate with School Administrative District 51, Rier said the district could still look at other potential partners. When asked how consolidation with a more distant district could save money, he said the savings could be found in combining administrative offices, which would not be affected by distance.

But he added he “would have been surprised if (Falmouth) had sought other partners in the timeline that they had.”

The recent $475,000 state curtailment in Essential Programs and Services funding makes it imperative to avoid incurring a penalty for failure to have an accepted alternative plan in place, Entwistle told the council last week.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.