n-cumbsad51-010809 State gives SAD 51 OK to remain independent

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CUMBERLAND — The Maine Department of Education has accepted an alternative reorganization plan from School Administrative District 51.
The decision means the Cumberland-North Yarmouth school department can continue as an independent school district.
The notice of acceptance from Education Commissioner Susan Gendron said SAD 51 had “unique circumstances” that prevented it from consolidating.
SAD 51 tried to consolidate with the Falmouth School Department, but the proposal was rejected by a nearly 3-1 margin last November by Falmouth voters. Cumberland and North Yarmouth voters overwhelmingly approved the proposal, which required acceptance in all three towns.
Many Falmouth voters believed the reorganization plan placed an unfair financial burden on their town, and would have given them a diminished voice on the consolidated school board.
“We’re very pleased and encouraged that this went through,” SAD 51 Superintendent Robert Hasson said after receiving the acceptance on Tuesday. “We’re looking forward to moving on.”
Part of the plan devised by SAD 51 is the inclusion of tuition students from other towns in the school population. The shift, which will bring the total school population closer to the 2,500 mandated by the state’s school reorganization law, requires a change in school district policy.
Hasson said that a first reading of the new policy is expected at the School Board’s next meeting on Jan. 20. Action that night or at the February meeting is likely.
“We’re already taking names,” he said, of potential tuition students.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.