Petition revisits Raymond exit from RSU 14

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RAYMOND — The Selectboard chairwoman has started a petition to initiate the process for the town to withdraw from RSU 14, four years after she helped jump-start a similar, unsuccessful effort.

After continued concerns about Windham-Raymond school district spending and a frustrated sense that school officials are not willing to discuss those concerns, Raymond Selectboard Chairman Teresa Sadak is once again beating the withdrawal drum.

Sadak said she initiated the official withdrawal process last week and, as of Tuesday, had about 90 of the 235 signatures necessary for the town to begin the process of leaving RSU 14.

Sadak cited “needless spending and not adhering to a cost-sharing” agreement as reasons for the petition. Her points of contention include the new shared vehicle maintenance facility being built in and owned by the town of Windham, in which the school district would lease space for its buses.

She and other Raymond officials have objected to that plan, and say the RSU 14 board and district officials have been unwilling to meet and discuss that and other issues. (See story on page 3.)

“When this kind of stuff happens, I’m done,” she added.

RSU 14 Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis said school officials had “second-hand” awareness of the petition after hearing about Sadak’s Facebook posts on the subject.

“There’s a sadness to it, but we’ve been through it before,” Davis said about the petition, calling it a “re-run of that activity” four years ago.

Sadak served on a previous withdrawal committee, and said that she was “the instigator” of that initial attempt to leave the school district. Raymond eventually voted 376-136 in June 2015 to halt that withdrawal process.

Davis also called the recent move a “distraction” to the district’s mission of education.

Sadak had a table and poster boards set up outside Raymond’s June 5 annual town meeting to collect signatures. She told residents that the petition “just starts the process” of exploring withdrawal.

If withdrawal were to be successful, she envisions a scenario where Raymond would tuition its high school students to whatever local districts would take them, including Windham.

“I certainly don’t see any harm in them looking at the data to explore that,” Superintendent Sanford Prince said about the petition, reiterating that this is the second run at withdrawal and that the district has yet to receive official notification from Raymond. “My sense is that they’re just talking about it at this point.”

Resident Marlee Turner said she signed the petition because she feels the town gets “gypped” in the current funding breakdown within the district. Turner, a former fourth-grade teacher in another district, said she’s been coming to town meeting for more than 40 years and identified an “ongoing antagonism” within the district.

Ultimately, she hopes a withdrawal effort could lead to a new cost-sharing agreement more beneficial for Raymond so it would remain part of the district.

Under the current RSU 14 cost-sharing agreement between the two towns, Windham pays 64 percent of additional district costs and Raymond pays 36 percent. That phased-in agreement has lowered Raymond’s percentage over the last three years.

As part of thecost-sharing structure, each town is responsible for capital costs at school facilities within that town.

The district argues that agreement does not apply to the shared vehicle maintenance facilty because it will be a leased space in a building not owned by the School Department.

Louise Lester said she also signed the petition, citing concerns about Raymond paying for part of the shared vehicle maintenance facility in Windham.

“I think we’re the tail that the dog is wagging, and I don’t care for that,” she said.

Davis emphasized in an interview Wednesday morning that the district is “not trying to exclude a party” from discussion about the shared garage, but  needs to “appropriately negotiate a lease that’s beneficial to the school system.”

Other residents were less supportive of the petition.

“We’ve already been through this,” Kevin Fay said after declining to sign the petition. “I’ve seen this movie before.” The push to withdraw is “going to harm our kids,” he said.

Frank McDermott, a former principal and superintendent in the Raymond school district before the town voted to join RSU 14 in 2008, said he was against forming the RSU “from the very beginning” and signed the petition.

“I don’t think they have any concerns about Raymond,” McDermott said about the district. “Whatever Windham wants to do, Raymond does not have the capacity to object.”

The RSU 14 School Board is currently has six members from Windham and three  from Raymond, including Chairwoman Diana Froisland. Froisland could not be reached for comment before the Lakes Region Weekly deadline.

Raymond Selectboard Member Joe Bruno, who is not seeking reelection after 29 years in various elected roles, said Raymond municipal officials have tried to meet with school officials and been rebuffed.

“I think our hand has been forced,” said Bruno, who has signed the petition and called the district’s unwillingness to come to the table about the town’s concerns “kind of a childish thing.”

Bruno chaired the town’s withdrawal committee during the previous look at leaving RSU 14.

Davis said Raymond officials and residents have a chance to air concerns and discussion issues with the School Board at public meetings.

“There’s opportunity at all of our public meetings,” Davis said. “I’ve not seen where they’ve come to speak with the School Board.”

Sadak said that she will also be collecting signatures on Election Day, June 12, and is confident she will get enough to continue with the more than 20-step withdrawal process.

“I’m not worried about it,” she told residents Tuesday night.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

Raymond Selectboard Chairwoman Teresa Sadak is collecting signatures for a petition to start the process for the town to withdraw from RSU 14.

Raymond Selectboard Chairwoman Teresa Sadak is collecting signatures for a petition that would initiate a process for the town to withdraw from RSU 14.

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