Friday, September 4, 2020

Raymond seeks feedback as initial RSU 14 withdrawal proposal approved

If approved by Raymond residents in a referendum
on Nov. 3, Jordan-Small Middle School, shown, and
Raymond Elementary School would fall under
the control of a new Raymond School Board and
officially withdraw from RSU 14. High school
students living in Raymond would be given
a choice of where to attend high school under
the proposal. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Lorraine Glowczak
In May 2018, Raymond resident Teresa Sadak began circulating a petition among the town’s registered voters to begin a process to withdraw from RSU14. She collected 353 signatures and presented those signatures and the petition to the Raymond Select Board on June 19 of that same year. The select board voted to accept the request and move forward on the withdrawal effort at that time.
Last week the Maine Department of Education gave its initial approval to Raymond for its withdrawal plan, which now moves forward to a process of public hearings and workshops prior to a town referendum vote on the issue on the November ballot. 

“I have been very concerned about Raymond’s level of input and the lack of local control we have had regarding the school district’s decisions,” said Sadak, who is also a member of the Raymond Select Board. “When the new Windham Public Works Building was voted on two years ago and is now newly built, we as members of the RSU were not given a say on how that would increase Raymond’s school funding. Additionally, Jordan-Small has plenty of space to share with Windham students and the RSU is not making use of space available to them. Instead, they are placing portable buildings to address overcrowding in the Windham schools which increases tax revenue. These are my concerns and I think it is time to be self-sufficient, having control over our own schools.”
Sadak’s petition was the first step in a 22-step process required by the State of Maine’s Department of Education. All municipalities must adhere to this process as part of a withdrawal from a regional school unit or school administrative district. about two years of meetings with direction from Educational Consultant, Dr. Mark Eastman and Town Attorney Dan Stockford, members of the RSU Withdrawal Committee are ready for step number 17.
Informational meetings will be held to allow for public hearings on any withdrawal question and concerns Raymond citizens may have.
Members of the Withdrawal Committee include: Sadak as the petitioner, Rolf Olsen represents the Raymond Select Board and is Chair of the committee, Kate Leveille is member of the RSU14 Board
and Joe Bruno fills the role of Raymond citizen.
The dates for the RSU14 withdrawal committee informational meetings are:
** Thursday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. Meeting will be via Zoom.
** Monday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. Meeting will be via Zoom.
** Thursday, Sept. 17 at noon. Meeting site to be announced.
** Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. Meeting at the Jordan-Small Middle School auditorium.
** Monday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. Meeting will be via Zoom.
“If people wish to e-mail a question ahead of time, which will be read and answered at the meeting, it can be e-mailed to,” Olsen said. “Information for getting into the Zoom meetings will be posted on the Town of Raymond website at”
Under the proposed withdrawal plan, Raymond, which first consolidated with Windham schools in 2008, would form a new school board, hire a superintendent and administer Raymond Elementary School and Jordan-Small Middle School. Raymond students could choose the high school they want to attend if the new high school district is able to accept the new Raymond district’s tuition payment. Right now, a total of more than 80 percent of high school students in Raymond are attending Windham High School.     
There are some concerns about the possible withdrawal from the school district and Leveille shared
some of those apprehensions.“As a parent of a young child at Raymond Elementary School, I have been extremely pleased with the education and services that my child has received as an RSU and see no need to add more change to our child’s lives especially during the current pandemic,” Leveille said. “I also have concerns about the quality of administrative staff currently available in Maine. If the withdrawal does occur, we would need to hire a new superintendent in a time when quality superintendents are scarce. Additionally, while the current proposal guarantees that teachers will have the same contract, it is a one-year guarantee. As for the concern that because there are only three Raymond representatives on the school board that votes can never go in Raymond’s favor - I can assure you, that in the two and a half years that I have been on the school board, no one votes with a Windham or Raymond motive.”
Whatever point of view one may have regarding the RSU14 withdrawal, both perspectives want the best for the students and their families.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the town,” Raymond Town Manager Don Willard said. “Raymond was once nationally recognized for its schools of excellence, prior to the RSU merger and I would like to see us achieve this distinction once again. When you combine local control and schools of excellence with school choice, you have a formula that will make the town an even more desirable place in which to live.”
The 18th step will take place during the Nov. 3 general election which will provide Raymond residents with the opportunity to vote for or against the RSU 14 withdrawal.
For more information about the proposed RSU 14 withdrawal, contact the Raymond town office at 207-655-4742. <

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