AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 will soon be history.
In a March 13 referendum vote, all three member municipalities voted by wide margins to terminate the arrangement: in Vassalboro, the vote was 81 yes to 13 no, in Waterville, 183 yes to 58 no, and Winslow 122 yes to 62 no.
A majority vote for dissolution in any of the three member municipalities ends the AOS arrangement, AOS Superintendent Eric Haley said at Vassalboro’s March 6 public hearing in advance of the vote.
Haley explained to about 30 attendees that the change from an AOS to a proposed contracted-services arrangement will make little difference to Vassalboro students, school staff or residents.
The plan the school board is considering calls for Vassalboro to hire its own superintendent, perhaps a retiree or a superintendent shared with another school, to work the equivalent of one day a week for approximately $25,000 a year. One day a week is usually flexible, Haley said – the part-timer might divide eight or 10 hours among several days, as needed.
Central office functions like payroll and accounting, curriculum coordination, special education, transportation, buildings and grounds, student record-keeping and technology would continue to be done from Waterville or Winslow, with Vassalboro paying for its share of services based on the AOS cost-sharing formula.
That formula, Haley said, uses the three-year averages of the number of resident students and municipal valuation. It changes only slightly from year to year, and has worked well for the nine years of the AOS. Dissolving the AOS will have no effect on school choice, Haley said – “school choice won’t go away.”
Vassalboro Community School will have a new principal because Dianna Gram is retiring in June, not because of the AOS vote. School board members discussed hiring one person as principal and superintendent, but decided against it for several reasons, Haley said. For example, the dual role pits the principal-as-superintendent against his or her own teachers in contract negotiations, and it leaves no administrative avenue of appeal against a principal’s decision. School Board Chairman Kevin LeVasseur added that sometimes a second point of view is useful.
The AOS office projected that Vassalboro would save about $45,000 in central service charges by changing from AOS membership to contracted services. In addition, each member town will receive its share of the AOS’s undesignated fund, with Vassalboro getting almost $52,000 as a one-time payment.
The superintendent emphasized, however, that the central services budget is only a small part of the total school budget. School board members have begun budget review and will continue at their March 20 meeting; Vassalboro Budget Committee members will review the school board’s figures, and voters will make the final decision at the June 4 annual town meeting.
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