Trenton voters reject school system withdrawal

TRENTON — Voters on Monday rejected a proposal to have the Board of  Selectmen and School Committee form a committee to develop a plan for withdrawal from the Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS). 

Two hundred and eight voters disapproved of initiating the withdrawal process, with 121 voting in favor of it. 

According to the warrant article, which made its way to the ballot via a citizens’ petition, the withdrawal plan would be submitted to the state Department of Education for approval before going to voters for final consideration. 

In response to the election results, MDIRSS Superintendent Marc Gousse told the Islander, “It’s nice to know that the community has validated the work of the [School Committee] and all the folks that had been just working really hard to control costs and keep a balanced perspective on what’s best for the kids and also maintain our fiduciary responsibility.” 

He said that while the petition did not follow the legal withdrawal process, it provided useful insight into the community’s wants, adding that he would continue to work with municipal leaders and community members on school and budget matters.  

School Committee Chairman Jennifer Bonilla was also pleased with the results. 

“Having 345 voters come out, which is probably the largest we ever had…I’m just really proud of the town for coming together and realizing…that having Trenton part of the (school system) is a huge benefit,” she said. 

“I will still be working diligently to find savings with the School Committee, she added. 

In 2019, the Board of Selectmen formed the School Evaluation Options Committee (SEOC) to study cost-saving measures the school could implement to ease the burden on taxpayers. The SEOC ultimately recommended withdrawal from the MDIRSS. Susan Sargent, who chaired the SEOC and later drafted the resolution that was voted on Monday, responded to the result of the vote in a written statement.  

“The voters did their job,” she said. “This is how our system works. Now we will learn what the ‘no’ proponents think the solutions are to our rising school budget. 

“What are their suggestions to address the annual, alarming increase in school funding? How will the disproportionate use of taxpayer monies be addressed? What do they think we should do to reestablish local control, identity and pride?” 

Sargent said she was pleased with the voter turnout but saddened that the issue had become so divisive in Trenton. 

“Our town is now divided, and I don’t see this changing in the near future,” she said. 

In other election news, Trenton voters rejected a resolution that would have declared the town a Second Amendment sanctuary, with 201 votes against the resolution and 130 in favor. 

An article to adopt a resolution supporting the creation of an equitable health care plan for all Mainers passed with 220 votes in favor and 109 against. 

Incumbent Selectman John Bennett was reelected with 177 votes. Charles Farley Jr. won the others seat up for election with 173 votes. Carlene Hanscom was not reelected; she received 151 votes. Write-in candidate Dennis Damon received 108 votes. 

School Committee incumbents Aaron Brown and Gary Burr, who each ran unopposed, were reelected with 249 and 243 votes, respectively. 

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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