INFORMATIONAL LETTER NO: 103
POLICY CODE: BA
TO: Superintendents of Schools
FROM: Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner
DATE: May 4, 2007
RE: Update on Configuration of Regional School Units
Legislative leadership has asked what future reorganized school administrative units might look like if there were up to 80 regional school units statewide, and what we in the Department of Education are doing to help facilitate that process.
I would like to brief you on our efforts to develop a suggested configuration of regional school units and, more broadly, an implementation plan for providing technical assistance in facilitation/organization, financial/data, and legal assistance to communities in forming new regional school units. We are designing a process to be in place as quickly as possible, and to be adaptable to whatever the reorganization legislation is.
Here is a rough outline of our activity so far and our plans:
I have asked Ray Poulin (a former Deputy Commissioner of Education) and Norm Higgins, both of whom are retired superintendents and have been doing other work for the Department, to head up an implementation effort.
They will convene and work with a focus group of superintendents, and identify and work with organizations that have insight into various aspects of the reorganization process to better inform the implementation process. They are identifying the roles and responsibilities of facilitators, and have already been asking superintendents to identify both potential facilitators and the expertise they would look for in facilitators. We will be ready to identify and contract for the services of facilitators immediately, should the legislation pass. The Department is also readying to provide technical assistance in finances/data, and to provide a process for the distribution of funds for regional units to secure their own legal services.
- Determining Potential Units
The Department has had conversations with most of the superintendents in the state and is working to complete calls to the rest as quickly as possible. During those conversations, superintendents have identified units presently working together and regional discussions already underway.
Based on input from the superintendents, and analysis of geographic, economic, demographic, transportation, and other information, the Department will provide a suggested configuration of regional school units as a resource for legislators, superintendents, and community members. In addition, we are working to develop additional data and technical information for each of the potential regional units to further assist in their planning and discussions.
We intend to have a suggested configuration of regional school units ready for distribution during the week ending May 11, 2007, and we will follow up by providing additional data on each potential regional unit to assist communities in making decisions.
According to the current draft legislation from the Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on education, communities would notify the Department of Education by July 31, 2007 of their intent to reorganize according to the Department’s suggested model, or of an alternative plan of their own.
- Reorganization Planning Committees
We have begun discussion regarding the potential membership of Reorganization Planning Committees. At this point, we recommend including all superintendents and representation from the participating school union/SAD/CSD/municipal school district boards. Those members would determine the remaining membership, which should include municipal leaders, local business leaders, teachers and students. Additional membership would be at the discretion of the Regional Planning Committees themselves.
The Department will establish guidelines and develop templates (including reporting forms), as required under the proposed legislation, to assist the Reorganization Planning Committees. The Department will provide orientation to the Planning Committees, as well as access to workshops and seminars, and will work with Planning Committees to identify appropriate facilitators and other sources of technical assistance.
The Department will work with the Reorganization Planning Committees as they develop and submit their reorganization plans. According to the proposed legislation’s timeline, those plans would be due by November 15, 2007, and the Planning Committees would have from December 1-21, 2007 to make revisions, if necessary. The Department and the facilitator assigned to the region would assist in those revisions. The State Board of Education would then certify the new regional school units by January 15, 2008.
- Election of New Governing Boards
Communities would determine the size and method of election for their new regional board as early as possible in 2008, by April 15 at the latest. Work would begin as soon as possible after the January 15, 2008 certification by the State Board on recruiting a superintendent and preparing a budget. New regional school unit board members would be elected as early as possible in 2008 and would hire a superintendent, who would begin to hire his or her administrative team. The new regional school units would become operational July 1, 2008.
The Department would continue to provide assistance to the Regional Planning Committees until the new unit becomes operational.
There is no doubt that the timeline is aggressive and that is why I thought it would be helpful to brief you on the work already going on in the Department and to assure you that should legislation pass enacting school unit reorganization, we will be prepared to work with school administrative units and communities immediately and to move effectively through the given timeline.
If you have questions about this process or suggestions for additions or amendments, please contact the Department. Norm and Ray are working closely with superintendents and can be reached at 624-6638. Legislators may contact me or Greg Scott, the Department’s legislative liaison, at 624-6620. We look forward to working with communities to implement a plan that will be successful for our children, our communities, and taxpayers, and your input will contribute to the success of this effort.