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Dixfield Withdrawal Committee to meet soon
RUMFORD -- Sometime around mid-December, members of the Dixfield Withdrawal Committee will hold an organizational meeting, according the RSU 10 Supt. Tom Ward.
Speaking to members of the RSU 10 Board of Directors on Nov. 26, he noted that Board Chairman Jerry Wiley will call the meeting, during which the Withdrawal Committee would elect a chairman, and begin the research necessary to go forward with the withdrawal steps and develop an educational plan for Dixfield’s students. According to state statute, the board chairman must call the Withdrawal Committee together.
The RSU board appointed Bruce Ross as its representative to the Dixfield Withdrawal Committee. Ross is vice chairman of the board and a longtime board member. He will join Dixfield Selectman Bob Withrow and Jon Holmes, head of the petition drive to look into seceding from RSU 10. A Dixfield community member must be appointed before the Withdrawal Committee meets for the first time.
At the general election on Nov. 6, Dixfield residents voted 695-543 to begin the withdrawal process and authorized selectmen to issue notes or pledge credit for up to $50,000 to pay for legal and other fees.
Ward said Drummond and Woodsum, the same law firm that negotiated the merger of SADs 21, 39 and 43 in 2009, will represent RSU 10 once negotiations between the district and the Withdrawal Committee begin.
Many of the withdrawal petition signers believe the cost of educating Dixfield students could be lower for the town than with RSU 10.
Some were also concerned that Dirigo and Mountain Valley high schools may merge.
Ward has said that creating a combined district high school was not likely, if at all, for at least a dozen years. He has said, too, that by combining SAD 39 in Buckfield, SAD 21 in Dixfield, and SAD 43 in Rumford/Mexico, several million dollars have been saved by reducing staff and making other changes.
If the Withdrawal Committee’s work carries through to advocating for a separation from RSU 10, two-thirds of the people who vote on the secession referendum must agree.
In other business, Providing support to the Pennacook Learning Center’s 30 students is tops on the goals of its director, Rick Greene, and the staff who work with the emotionally challenged youngsters.
He said his staff frequently works one-on-one with the students. “We have some fairly significant disorders."
The Pennacook Learning Center was established about eight years ago and is in the former Virginia Elementary School in Rumford.
Greene said the program was established to provide a safe, caring environment where students are supported emotionally, behaviorally and academically. Some students eventually can return to the mainstream classroom. One recently transitioned back and three are preparing for the move.
Along with providing a structured program close to students’ homes, the program also aims to save the district money. Often times, sending a student to another facility can cost $100,000 a year or more.
In addition to the staff, the program has on-site clinical support, said Greene.
He said the day treatment program has good relationships with the community and the Rumford Police Department, which is sometimes called when needed.
Currently, the student population consists of 13 elementary-age pupils, six middle school students and 11 high school students.
In a related matter, Special Education Director Clarissa Errington updated the board on a change to the methods used to meet the needs of RSU 10’s 540 special needs children.
At the beginning of this school year, RSU 10 dropped from two co-directors of the special education program to one. In place of the second director, most of the district’s 10 schools have a building-based coordinator for special education. These building coordinators are full-time special education teachers in their buildings and receive a stipend for the additional duties required of them.
Among their duties are leading individual educational programs for the special needs children in their schools.
Errington said the district currently employs 36 special education teachers, including those at Pennacook, and 82 educational technicians to serve the special needs children.
Ward said this new model for administering special education is being studied by other school districts around the state.
In another matter, Ward said they are still waiting for a study of the three-region district from Planning Decisions, Inc. of Portland.
In October, the RSU 10 approved a recommendation by Ward to spend up to $2,500 to hire the firm to do the study, which was expecting to take a month, depending on their workload.
He said he's hoping the results of the study will be provided prior to the next board meeting on Dec. 10.
Prior to the study, the RSU 10 administratators and the Board of Directors have had several workshops to discuss the most efficient utilization of their buildings, making the best use of those facilities. The state of the economy has made such consideration essential for the financial well being of the three-region district.
Ward noted that when the recommended process for short-term options does get underway, it will include public information meetings in each of the three regions. Because the district will be referencing material from this study, a representative from Planning Decisions will be present to elaborate about the study.
On their website, Planning Decisions, Inc. is a 30-year-old Maine research and planning firm. Their clients include the public, private, and non-profit sectors. In the public sector, they regularly work with municipalities, school districts and state agencies throughout Northern New England. They work with the development community, private businesses and industry associations in Maine and the greater New England area on questions related to market feasibility, economic and fiscal impacts and public policy.
To date, the one- to three-year short-term options being suggested by RSU 10 are as follows:
From the board:
Mountain Valley Region -- PK-2 at Meroby; grades 3-7 at Mtn. Valley Middle School, grades 8-12 at Mtn. Valley High School; Pennacook Learning Center to MVHS/MVMS; close Rumford Elementary.
Dirigo Region -- Option 1: PK-6 at Dirigo Elementary; grades 7-9 at TW Kelly Middle School; grades 10-12 at Dirigo High School; close Central Office. Option 2: PK-6 to DES; grades 7-12 to DHS; close TWKDMS.
Nezinscot Region will stay the same.
From the Administrative Team:
Mountain Valley Region -- PK-2 at MES; grades 3-6 at MVMS; grades 7-12 at MVHS; close RES; PLC stays at Virginia School.
Dirigo Region -- PK-6 at DES; grades 7-9 at TWKDMS; grades 10-12 at DHS; close Central Office. Nezinscot Region stays the same.
While there are no plans to change the Nezinscot Region, once a plan is finalized, some students from Canton or another nearby area may be sent to these schools.
The board accepted the resignation of Mountain Valley Middle School special education teacher Tannya Morris, effective Nov. 30. A long-term substitute teacher will fill in until a permanent replacement is found. Also accepted was the resignation of Mari-jo Marston as assistant cook at Buckfield Junior Senior High School, effective Dec. 7.
Appointments included Ryanne Brown as Dirigo High School winter cheering assistant coach; Dave Buck as TW Kelly Dirigo Middle School varsity soccer coach for the 2013-14 season; Patrick Mooney as TWKDMS junior varsity baseball coach; Dawn Blackman as TWKDMS junior varsity winter cheering coach; and Ryan Casey as Mtn. Valley High School junior varsity girls' basketball coach.
Approved two cross-country skiing day trips during Christmas vacation for up to 25 members of the Dirigo High School Nordic ski team. Ski team adviser Ann Speth said the trips will enable skiers to experience ski areas in Maine or New Hampshire. At least two chaperons will accompany the students.
The next meeting of the RSU 10 board will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10 at the T.W. Kelly-Dirigo Middle School.
The board will meet in executive session at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17 to discuss the superintendent's evaluation.