Dresden takes first steps towards school district withdrawal as new committee takes shape
DRESDEN — Local officials are moving forward with a process to withdraw from the regional school district, now that members of the Review and Exploration Committee have met for the first time.
Dresden officials first floated the idea of pulling out of Regional School Unit 2 in April after learning that the district’s 2021-22 school budget would require the city to increase its budget allocation by more than 10% .
Although the city rejected the budget, the budget has been adopted in other municipalities in Regional School Unit 2. Since the vote, RSU 2 has offset the city’s allocations using money from state, but Dresden still wants out and Thursday’s meeting set the stage for the steps the district will need to take.
President and former RSU 2 School Board member Jeffrey Pierce suggested the committee look to the City of Richmond for advice, as the city attempted to opt out of the district in the last election and did not obtained the number of votes necessary to separate. Although they were unsuccessful, the city is part of the same RSU and one of the newest cities in the state to go through the process.
“Richmond is relevant; these are the latest facts,” Pierce said of the withdrawal process.
The withdrawal process is lengthy and constituted by the Maine Department of Education in 32 steps. The Dresden Regional School Unit 2 Review and Exploration Committee held its first meeting on Thursday evening to discuss steps to move forward.
At this point, Dresden has only formed an exploratory committee to research the necessary steps for withdrawal. The city has yet to launch a petition, one of the first steps in the process. When the petition is created, the committee will need to collect signatures equal to at least 10% of the total number who voted in the last gubernatorial election.
Dresden has only its own elementary school, and it uses tuition agreements for outside the district, or uses a superintendent’s agreement for Dresden students to attend RSU 2 middle or high schools of their choice. One of the first steps in the research process is to see how many Dresden students there are in the district and how much it costs per student to have them in the system.
The Dresden exploratory committee will now have up to nine members. Committee member Lisa Hewitt thinks there should be more city representatives on the council and the committee will post a form through the city office to advertise the positions.
Pierce represents the city’s planning board and is its chairman. The vice president is Leah Bickford, who has five children in the district. Her husband is Jeffrey Bickford, the newest member of RSU School Board 2. Leah Bickford was absent from the meeting Thursday for a pre-commitment, as was Citizen-at-Large Karen Moody.
Other members are Kathryn Marseglia, representing the school district; Hewitt, as clerk and town representative; Gary Blau as a member of the city’s budget review committee; and Sherri Lilly as scribe. A member of the board of directors who has not yet been chosen and another citizen of the community will complete the committee.
Most members brought their own children through the school district, a significant factor for an unidentified community member in the audience Thursday night. Another audience member, Amanda Pendleton, said she had been through the school district and wanted to be part of the process this time around, mainly to get her child moving convincingly through the school district of grade school through college without the stress of tuition or superintendent agreements.
Dresden committee meetings will be held on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. Pierce said the team was working on a Zoom option but needed to discuss it with the Select Board. He hopes to have an answer by the next meeting. Agendas will be posted in advance and minutes, once approved, will be posted the following Monday. Meetings, if not on Zoom or otherwise announced, will take place at Pownalborough Hall on Patterson Road.
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