Trenton School Committee says “We’re staying”

TRENTON — The Trenton Elementary School will remain part of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, according to School Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Bonilla.

The committee’s formal and unanimous response is an answer to the School Evaluation Options Committee’s (SEOC) proposal that the School Committee begin the process of leaving its current district, AOS 91.

“The assertion that Trenton has no voice is merely an unfounded sound bite rather than the truth,” Bonilla said, reading from prepared remarks on Tuesday. “On the contrary, Trenton is an equal member of the AOS. Votes are based on student enrollment.”

Trenton’s three votes, along with having representatives from the town who have served as the chairman and vice chairman on the AOS 91 School Board, give Trenton a say in its educational decisions, she said.

Echoing last month’s meeting, Bonilla said, “The [School Committee] has complete confidence in the leadership of the superintendent as reflected by the AOS Board’s unanimous vote to extend his contract by five years.”

Now disbanded, the SEOC had previously called for the School Committee to hold a vote of no confidence for the district’s superintendent, Marc Gousse.

School Committee member Tom Reeve shared his research supporting the committee’s decision to remain a member of the AOS.

“To reduce our budget, it would mean less services for students and families,” he said. Administrative costs are not what is taking up much of the budget, he said.

The SEOC had previously recommended analyzing Hancock Grammar School and Lamoine Consolidated School, as they are two schools similar in size to Trenton and are in their own school district.

“The education budget in Lamoine is approximately $1 million less than Trenton’s … it is the belief of the SEOC that the cost savings to Trenton could be great if a detailed analysis were made to determine what worked and what didn’t work in independent schools,” the SEOC previously said.

Part of Reeve’s report compared Trenton to the Lamoine Consolidated School.

When looking at Lamoine Consolidated School, Reeve accounted for budget differences between the two schools similar in population.

He reported that Lamoine pays $350,000 less in special education costs. He also said that differences can be traced to the two schools’ salary scales. While the schools have similar salary scales, Reeve reported that Trenton has a higher percentage of staff at the top of the salary scale due to having staff members who have more educational qualifications or more years of teaching experience.

He said that about two-thirds of Trenton staff members are above the median figure where it’s about one-half at Lamoine.

Reeve did say that the recommendation from the SEOC for the school to bill MaineCare for certain special education services should be looked into, but that it would only save costs if the entire AOS billed for services, not just Trenton.

His full report will be available on the Trenton Elementary School’s website and the AOS 91 website.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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