To the Editor:
As a school committee member for Trenton, I feel it is my obligation to respond to Susan Sargent’s letter “Trenton voters should have final say on school issue.” (Islander, April 19). Please note, I do not speak for the committee, only for myself.
AOS 91 provides all member schools with administrative services: some of them are prescribed by law and some of them reduce the workload on school administration and teachers so they can concentrate on educating our children. Because we share these services with eight other schools, Trenton can have professional offices, staffed by multiple people, for a fraction of the cost of having them ourselves.
Independent schools are unable to provide the scope of services that AOS 91 provides at the same cost. For fiscal year 2020/2021, Trenton paid $204,251 (4.8 percent) of our budget for these services, while Lamoine (a similarly sized, independent school) paid $239,368 (7.7 percent) of their budget for the same services.
The school committee spent countless hours going to SEOC meetings, reviewing their report, performing our own research and analysis and discussing the pros and cons of leaving AOS 91. This included looking into the SEOC’s cost–saving recommendations. Unfortunately, while on the surface many of these measures seem like they would lower costs, upon closer examination most would cost more to implement than they would save. After careful deliberations, we decided that it was not in the best interest of the citizens of Trenton to leave AOS 91. Reasons for this can be found in our reports on the MDIRSS website, but put simply, we would not get more for less, we would get less for more.
The legal agreement that formed AOS 91 and was agreed to by ALL member communities in their respective town meetings says that the termination of the AOS can only be initiated by the AOS committee or a member school committee. Only then can it be sent for approval to the commissioner of education and THEREAFTER approved by the town voters. The agreement is clear, there is NO withdrawal, only termination, and only if initiated by a school committee. The commissioner of education has made it clear that only a Plan of Termination that follows the procedure outlined in the agreement will be approved. The article put forth does not follow a legal procedure for termination and undermines the elected school committees’ governing powers set forth by Maine statute.
The Trenton voters do have a say in the school, every year, when they cast their ballot for school committee elections and when they vote on the town budget. And while I believe that it is the petitioner’s right to put forth the question of whether there is support for terminating the AOS, their petition crosses the line of what is legal by sidestepping the school committee. I urge all Trenton voters to vote down the article, work with the school committee in a legal fashion, and if you want to have an independent school, run for a position on the school committee.
Trenton School Committee