November 9, 2012






Calais decides to withdraw from AOS
 by Lora Whelan


     Calais residents took to the polls on November 6 and favored withdrawing from AOS #77 by a margin of 62% to 38%. The vote in the local referendum question was 877 to 534. The referendum set a withdrawal choice of two dates, July 1, 2013, or July 1, 2014. The choice in dates will buy the school committee and city council some time to put together a withdrawal plan.
     Although both the Calais City Council and school board initially had not made a recommendation to voters on the issue, at a meeting on October 25 the council voted to recommend that residents approve withdrawing from the AOS, citing the need for more local control. However, Calais residents who had attended an October 22 Calais School Liaison Committee meeting had voiced concerns about leaving the AOS, saying it would make more sense for all of the towns in the regional school system to work together.
     David Markow, a member of the Calais School Liaison Committee, says, at a school committee meeting held one day after the referendum on November 7, the vote "was a little too immediate" for board members to have decided on next steps. But next steps will need to be taken. Markow notes that among the many needed will be a workshop held in a few weeks to discuss the range of questions and issues that need to be looked at.
     "We'll need to meet with the AOS," he says, and the city council to discuss moving forward. Input from "a whole range of constituencies" will need to be sought. A lawyer will need to be hired and the withdrawal plan created. "What are the processes that come into play?" he says. Another area to research will be the city charter's language about the relationship of the city and the school system. "There's a lot the school board has to look into about roles and functions."
     A report by the consulting firm Planning Decisions on the fiscal impact to the city after withdrawal created two cost scenarios, estimating the net annual cost increase between $70,000 and $81,000. However, there could be additional revenue losses for Calais. At an October 17 AOS meeting, a number of people thought there would be a decrease in the number of tuition students attending Calais High School if the city were to leave the AOS. In addition, the Planning Decisions report projects a 19% decline in enrollment figures for the Calais schools as well as the other AOS member schools over a 10-year period because of demographic changes.

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