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Save Dirigo effort to be heard
DIXFIELD- Jon Holmes presented selectmen with a petition signed by 135 residents on Monday night requesting Dirigo to withdraw from RSU 10.
The petition states, “We the undersigned, favor filing a petition for withdrawal with the board of directors of Regional School Unit #10 and the Commissioner of Education, authorizing the withdrawal committee to expend $50,000 and authorizing the selectpersons to issue notes in the name of the Town of Dixfield or otherwise pledge the credit of the Town of Dixfield in an amount not to exceed $50,000 for this purpose.”
The reason behind the movement was due to conversations sparked by Superintendent Tom Ward earlier this year, indicating the possible merger of Mountain Valley and Dirigo schools.
At Monday night’s meeting, both Holmes and Superintendent Ward were able to speak to selectmen and voice their concerns.
Holmes stated, “We don’t want to lose local control of our school. I’m not saying anything negative about Mountain Valley, I think it’s a great school, but we want to keep Dirigo, Dirigo. Our kids and sports are important to us and we just want to keep our school. I’ve talked to a lot of citizens who are willing to pay more, not a lot more, but more, to go back to the way it was.”
Selectman Hart Daley questioned Holmes as to which towns would be affected and if there would be a reduction in state funding if they were to pull out of the RSU.
Holmes replied that he spoke to a lot of residents of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru, and they were all in favor. Holmes noted that he had done some research and spoke to state education representatives. “Back when we were looking into becoming an RSU, we were told that we would be fined if we didn’t join them. That is a form of coercion and when I questioned that point, nobody would talk to me after that.”
Superintendent Ward requested of selectmen the floor and noted, “I have great respect for Jon and what he’s doing. I appreciate the tone of his petition. I want to help people understand the facts and clarify any misgivings.”
Ward noted that by becoming an RSU, the school district projected $400,000 in savings and, were surprised to save $600,000 in the first year and have since had a flat budget. They also eliminated 50 positions and were able to save money by not hiring after retirements and other openings.
Ward cited the current situation with Andover Elementary School in regard to the concern for local control.
“A town will not lose local control. In order for a school to close you need to have the town’s support. I am in favor of having three high schools. Yes, I did talk to the state about a regional high school, but they pretty much told me good luck. There are just no funds out there right now and applications are being denied.”
Town manager Eugene Skibitsky made it clear to selectmen, “As long as the petition is before you, state law requires you to keep the process going.”
Chairman Gill accepted a motion from selectman Robert Withrow to accept the petition and to hold a public hearing to start the process of educating area citizens. Selectmen agreed unanimously to hold a public hearing on the petition slated for 6 p.m. on September 17 to be held at the Dirigo High School Community Room.