WATERVILLE (NEWS CENTER Maine) — Mainers in three communities will head to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to discontinue a system created during the Baldacci administration.
Towns and cities with lower school enrollments were urged to consolidate, to avoid heavy penalties.
Now voters will decide whether that should be reversed. Students in Waterville, Winslow, and Vassalboro will all be impacted by the vote.
The superintendent of schools says it will be a positive change for all three.
"Winslow would be contracting these services right here," said Eric Haley, superintendent of Kennebec Valley Consolidated Schools, also known as AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) 92.
Unlike the RSU (Regional School Unit) system in which two or more municipalities pool their educational resources to educate all students, operating as one system, the AOS combines administrative units. Towns, however, have their own school board and budget, operating separately.
"It did exactly what we wanted it to do when we formed it which was to avoid penalties," Haley said. "If you were a school system under 2,500 and you didn't consolidate with somebody you were going to be hit up with penalties. So Waterville would have been hit up with three-quarters of a million in penalties."
In his role, Haley, a former computer science, and math teacher, has headed up three separate school systems — which, for him, means many meetings and managing four budgets.
"If you put this through the cost-sharing formula," he said, "Waterville would get back $133,760."
His expertise in numbers led him to an important discovery — the current system is not only outdated, but it's also more costly. Furthermore, it puts a tremendous burden on his administrative team. So heavy, Haley said, if voters don’t pass the measure, he will step down from his superintendent position this year.
The fix, in his opinion, is self-standing school systems — Waterville, Winslow, and Vassalboro — each with its own superintendent, but sharing certain services.
"We need each other," he said. "It's kind of like a three-legged stool, if we dissolve, then the only we can do it is if we lean on each other to hold ourselves up."
Haley, who hasn't heard any opposition to the move, said that even if just one town votes in favor of the change, it goes through.
"I'm in hopes they have enough faith in us that we wouldn't recommend this and we wouldn't do this if we thought it was going to be any less service to them than what AOS 92 has been to them." He pauses, then says, "Get out and vote!"
Even though many areas are anticipating a foot or more of snow Tuesday into Wednesday, the election goes on. Polls open at 8 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.
The question on the ballot reads: "Do you approve the termination of Alternative Organizational Structure 92 (also known as the Kennebec Valley Consolidated Schools AOS) and its Interlocal Agreement in accordance with a Plan of Termination approved by the AOS 92 school board, the Waterville Board of Education and the Maine Commissioner of Education?"
Waterville: Waterville Junior High School, 100 West River Rd., 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Winslow: Winslow Town Office, 114 Benton Ave., 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Vassalboro: Vassalboro Town Office, 642 Main St., 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.