January 15, 2013

Athens, Brighton Plantation seek home away from SAD 59

Towns consider joining Alternative Organizational Structure 94, including Dexter, Exeter, Garland, Harmony and Ripley

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

MADISON -- Committees in Athens and Brighton Plantation are exploring educational options for the towns' students as they finalize withdrawal plans from School Administrative District 59.

The Athens Withdrawal Committee on Thursday submitted to the school board a draft of the town's proposal to withdraw from Madison-based SAD 59.

Both Athens and nearby Brighton Plantation are planning to leave the school district after the towns voted on the issue last year and formed official withdrawal committees according to the guidelines of the state Department of Education.

"We are awaiting negotiations between the district and the town so we can withdraw in a way that is fair to all parties," said Dan Viles, chairman of the committee.

He said the withdrawal would happen by July 1 under the proposal, but doesn't include plans for what Athens would do afterward.

"It's been recommended that we would join AOS 94, and I expect that is what we would do," he said.

Alternative Organizational Structure 94, based in Dexter, also includes Exeter, Garland, Harmony and Ripley. In an AOS, each town has its own school board, but members some staff, in this case, a superintendent, special services director and transportation director.

Viles said the committee wants to offer students in Athens school choice at the high school level while continuing to send kindergarten through eighth grade students to Athens Elementary School.

Meanwhile, Christy Morgan, chairwoman of the Brighton Plantation Withdrawal Committee, said a draft of the town's withdrawal plan will be submitted to the district within the week.

Morgan, who is also Brighton treasurer, real estate tax collector and municipal clerk, met with members of Bingham-based School Administrative District 13 earlier in the week to discuss the possibility of Brighton Plantation students enrolling in the district. The SAD 13 board voted unanimously at Tuesday's meeting to accept students from Brighton Plantation if they should choose to attend school there.

Morgan said the community doesn't plan on committing to one district, but wants to give their students a choice and, like Athens, is exploring the potential of joining AOS 94.

She said the committee hoped to withdraw from SAD 59 by June 30.

"It all depends on negotiations with SAD 59 and they've been more than cooperative with the process, so we don't foresee any reason why we can't," she said.

Morgan said there are seven students from Brighton Plantation, which has a population of 55 to 60 people, enrolled in SAD 59. On average, she said, the town enrolls six to eight students in kindergarten through grade 12 each year.

She said some of her top concerns in the Madison-based district were cuts to vocational programs and arts programs. She also said that Brighton Plantation is a small community and that the committee would like to see that reflected in the school community.

SAD 13 Superintendent Virginia Rebar said that the Bingham and Moscow district would like to have more students and that school choice in Athens and Brighton Plantation could help boost enrollment numbers.

"I think the potential for school choice certainly adds to a sense of hopefulness about the numbers in our schools," she said. "I don't want to put pressure on these towns to send their students here, but I think there is a lot of comparability between our small towns."

Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368

This story has been corrected. An earlier version stated that SAD13 voted to accept students from Athens and Brighton Plantation. They did not vote on Athens. It was a reporter error.

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