Media Archive

SAD 41, neighbor to discuss regional school possibility

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 50, December 10, 2003

By Jessica Lee
Staff Writer

MILO SAD 41 Superintendent David Walker confirmed Monday that the district is renewing discussions with SAD 31 in Howland regarding regional opportunities in secondary education.

"We received a letter from SAD 31," Walker said, indicating the nature of the letter was to request a meeting between the two board chairs and superintendents to discuss "the potential for enhanced secondary programs through cooperation."

The SAD 41 board last week unanimously authorized Walker to draft a response in favor of such a meeting. "We feel it is wise for us to be a party to all discussions," the superintendent said.

According to SAD 31 Superintendent William Ziemer, that district is following the directive of Education Commissioner Susan Gendron. In a letter to SAD 31 dated Dec. 1, Gendron encouraged the district to "explore a regional solution" to renovation of the Penobscot Valley High School in Howland. Citing declining enrollment that will drop below 200 students in eight years, along with the fiscal impact of the withdrawal of Sebois Plantation from the district, Gendron stated, "I will not support further repair and renovation of Penobscot Valley High School."

"We are in a holding pattern at this moment. We've been denied concept approval for a new high school in Howland. And we recently received a letter from the commissioner asking us to consider all regional options," Ziemer said, explaining the reasoning for the letter sent to SAD 41.

He said the preference in SAD 31 is not to tuition secondary school students to another district.

Rather, he said, he would like to see a new facility constructed, serving a regional purpose.

"From my point of view, it would be ideal for SAD 31 and one of our neighboring school districts to form an educational alliance, and build either a 9 -12 or a 7-12 regional facility," Ziemer said; "That's what I would like to see happen."

Superintendent Walker in SAD 41 said the district is open to such a discussion, as it has been with previous discussion about a regional high school with SADs 4 (Guilford), 68 (Dover-Foxcroft) and 46 (Dexter). That discussion has stalled recently, as the districts wait to hear from Commissioner Gendron on the appointment of a facilitator.

"We're talking about a minimum of sharing of ideas and a maximum of consolidation," Walker said, "This is very preliminary."

Ziemer said he envisions as well a facility that "Would link schools in both Piscataquis and Penobscot counties with state-of-the-art technology," which would allow for two-way interactive classrooms to meet the needs of all students; "Technology would allow us to share resources," the superintendent said. He added that he would like that facility to focus on student education, along with adult education and retraining.

"A consolidated school would be able to provide, potentially, enhanced programming, at a lower cost to the towns that take part in the project," said Ziemer. "It's a great opportunity if we take advantage of it."

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.