Board bids farewell to directors, looks to future
SALEM - The MSAD 58 school board said goodbye to four directors Thursday evening, as they began discussing the district's first steps in the next fiscal year.
Leaving the board is Director Judy Dill of Kingfield, with nine years of experience, Director Ellen James of Avon, with nine years of experience, and Directors Susan Fotter and Sarah Strunk, both from Eustis and with four and three years of experience, respectively. Fotter and Strunk are leaving the board following Eustis' departure from the district, James elected not to run for another term and Dill lost to a challenger at the Kingfield town meeting.
Superintendent Brenda Stevens presented the four directors with plaques, noting the board would lose a combined 25 years of experience. Dill thanked the board for their service, saying she felt the "our heart was in the right place."
"We really did value the education of our children," she said.
The board is likely to change even more than the inclusion of Director Jason Plog of Avon and Director Beth Luce of Kingfield. The Maine Department of Education commissioner has notified MSAD 58 that it must move to some form of weighted voting, where town population determines the voting power of directors. That issue came about following a petition submitted by a Strong selectman; although that petition didn't trigger the change due to a procedural issue, Eustis' departure from the restructured district led to DOE Commissioner Stephen Bowen sending the board the notification.
The district now has 20 days to hold the first reapportionment committee meeting. That committee will consist of one director from each of the four towns, as well as representatives chosen by the Avon, Kingfield, Phillips and Strong selectmen. The district has 90 days to present its reapportionment plan to the DOE.
There were only a few options, Stevens noted, with the smallest possible board being seven directors. The reapportionment committee meeting has been scheduled for July 2 at Mt. Abram High School at 6 p.m.
Directors also discussed the district's future, in the wake of a budget process that saw voters cut $190,000 in expenditures with some attendees calling for directors to look at realigning programming or facilities in an effort to further reduce the budget. The discussion is not a new one: in 2010-11, directors studied as many as 20 different proposals, holding town meeting-style gatherings in district towns, and more recently the board appointed a task force to look at the district's facilities and operations. The process more or less came to a halt when Eustis began the procedure to leave the district.
Strunk noted that MSAD 58 no longer looked the same, and other options might have become available following her town's departure. "It may be easier to find some possibilities," she said.
Directors agreed that studying another 19 or 20 plans was inadvisable. Director Marc Edwards of Strong stressed that the board had to consider viable plans prior to next year's budget season, and Stevens said that the administration would prepare two or three concepts to be presented to the board at its next meeting.
Directors also acted on another suggestion that arose out of the budget meeting; having administrators look at different options for class scheduling at MAHS. Directors unanimously voted to have administrators bring alternative scheduling suggestions to the board on the Nov. 14 meeting.