TRENTON — Members of the town committee created to look for ways to reduce the cost of education here want to make one thing very clear: They have no intention of recommending the closure of Trenton Elementary School.
“That school is not closing; it’s not,” Stephanie Waite, a member of the School Evaluation Options Committee said at the committee’s first formal meeting Tuesday night. Waite has a child at the school.
Committee members also seem to regard Trenton’s withdrawal from the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (AOS 91) as only a remote possibility.
“I’m hearing more and more that Trenton is going to try to pull out of the school system, and that is not at all where we are going with this,” said Sue Starr, a committee member and former selectman.
However, she suggested that the committee contact towns that used to be part of a school system and are now on their own.
“We could ask them why they chose to go independent and whether or not that’s been good,” she said.
John Bennett, the only current selectman on the committee, said there is a lot of information swirling around town about what the committee might recommend.
“I don’t think the will of the people is to pull out of the AOS or to close the school; that’s not what we’re about. But we’ve got to find a way for our little tiny town to survive.”
Committee member Ron Marshall put it this way: “The reason we’re here is the revenue of the town has gone up 7 percent in the last five years, and the school budget has gone up 24 percent. That’s a path that can’t continue. It’s out of control, plain and simple.”
School officials and some Trenton residents have criticized the Board of Selectmen for creating the School Evaluation Options Committee, saying the operation of the school is the responsibility of the elected school committee. But Starr defended the selectmen.
“We already know that next year the school budget will go up,” she said. “So, next year at town meeting, people are going to ask the selectmen what they’re doing about this.
“This [committee] is to give them some answers, doing the research to try to find the answers. That’s all we’re doing.”
Committee members said they want to explore ways that Trenton Elementary can work within the school system to reduce costs, perhaps by sharing services with other schools.
They also are sending a letter to Trenton’s representatives in the Legislature, Sen. Louis Luchini and Rep. Nicole Grohoski, urging the state to provide more funding for K-12 education.
Several committee members said at their meeting Tuesday that they want to help bring the community together.
Susan Sargent, who was elected chairman of the committee, said they need to function as a bridge of communication between the selectmen and the school committee.
“We need to work together for the town, for the students, for the families,” she said.
Starr said, “What worries me is that it becomes so political that it’s affecting whether somebody wants to join or not join or participate. I think all of us who do stay on the committee have to be very sure we don’t allow the politics to affect what we do.”
“Let’s take the animosity away and find a way to make it happen,” Bennett said.