Raymond advances petition to exit RSU 14

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RAYMOND — The Selectboard has taken an initial step in the long process to potentially withdraw from RSU 14. 

The board voted 5-0 Tuesday, June 19, to accept a petition initiating the withdrawal process. It also scheduled two meetings later this summer: a July 31 informational public meeting and an Aug. 14 special town meeting where Raymond voters will weigh on on whether they want to officially start the effort to leave the Windham-Raymond School District. 

The petition was led by Selectboard Chairwoman Teresa Sadak, who said Tuesday that it included 353 verified signatures – well above the required 235. 

Sadak, who took out the petition and gathered the signatures over the course of several weeks, said that “this isn’t something that we rushed into quickly.” The initiative, she said, came only after unsuccessful attempts by Raymond municipal officials to engage in a dialogue with school officials.

“They will not talk to us,” she said about the School Board and district officials, adding that it felt like Raymond was “kind of having our hand forced.” 

Chief among Sadak’s concerns are district costs and a belief that RSU 14 is not living up to a cost-sharing agreement that makes each town responsible for major capital costs at school facilities within that town.

Sadak and others have argued that a 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, runs afoul of that cost-sharing agreement. 

The district currently leases space at the existing Windham Public Works facility. The lease-purchase of a bus garage and maintenance facility is specifically excluded from the definition of major capital costs within state education statutes. 

RSU 14 Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis has repeatedly emphasized that the agreement does not apply to the shared vehicle maintenance facility because it will be a leased space in a building not owned by the School Department.

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

RSU 14 Superintendent Sanford Prince said that as of Wednesday morning he had yet to receive any official notification from Raymond about the withdrawal petition.

Selectboard Vice Chairman Rolfe Olsen said Tuesday night that it is “important for people to understand that this is only the first step. This is not a document that withdraws us from the school.”

The 22-step withdrawal process involves multiple public hearings, the creation of a withdrawal committee and development of a withdrawal agreement, and sign-off from the state Department of Education, among other steps. 

This is the second withdrawal effort in Raymond within the last several years. Sadak helped led a similar effort that started in 2014 and ended in 2015 with Raymond residents voting 376-136 to halt the withdrawal process. 

She suggested Tuesday night that, while Raymond ended up staying in the district, the first run at withdrawal was ultimately successful because it led to the new cost-sharing agreement that has lowered Raymond’s percentage of additional district costs over the last three years. 

This new effort, she said, has grown in part out of a frustrated sense that the new cost-sharing agreement isn’t being upheld.  

The town of Sebago voted last November to withdraw from SAD 61 after initially voting to start that process in February 2016. 

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

The Raymond Selectboard voted 5-0 June 19 to accept a petition initiating the process to pull out of RSU 14. 

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