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Reorganization: Questions and Answers
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NOTE: The questions and answers below have been updated to reflect changes resulting from passage of LD 2323, An Act to Remove Barriers to the Reorganization of School Administrative Units, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci on April 18, 2008.
Q: Does a former SAU need parental permission to transfer records within the new RSU or AOS?
A: No, pursuant to the Family Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) it is not necessary for a signed consent form to be completed. Please see Informational Letter 104 (06/04/09) on this issue. http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=edu_letters&id=74221&v=article (06/04/09)
Q: UPDATED: In an SAU where the current teachers’ contract expires after July 1st when the new RSU will be operational, does the current SAU board have any authority to begin the negotiations on a new contract, or must it defer to the new RSU board once it is elected?
A: The Maine Labor Relations Board has issued an interpretive ruling on this subject. See: http://www.maine.gov/mlrb/decisionsinpdf/09-IR-01.pdf . (12/09/10)
Q: UPDATED: What funds would we use for recruitment purposes (for superintendent)?
A: In most RSUs, an election is happening shortly after approval by the voters for the new RSU Board. This Board is given the authority to proceed with the hiring and development of the new budget. There are no Department funds available to assist with these tasks. (12/09/10)
Q: UPDATED: Is the RSU Board responsible for the recruitment and hiring of a Superintendent? The RSU Board won't be in place until July 1, 2011.
A: Yes, please see 20-A MRSA Section 1461-A for the Transitional powers and duties of the initial regional school unit board. The first one listed, at (1), is selection of a superintendent. (12/09/10)
Q: Will the RSU have two separate federal Employer IDs - one for the RSU board and one for local school committees?
A: The RSU will have one number (but is not considered a new employer so it doesn't jeopardize the Medicare status of employees).
However, a newly formed AOS would need one number for its purposes and the member SAUs would retain their numbers for their purposes. (10/16/08)
Q: UPDATED: In an AOS where the local school boards will remain, what authority does a local school board have to commit and spend money?
A: The intent is that all the member entity school boards develop a budget that reflects the needs of the centralized AOS functions and the individual schools in each of the SAUs that join an AOS. The local school board is then charged with taking the budget that reflects both to their communities for approval. There is a chart available that shows this process. The decisions made should be reflected in the plan and Interlocal Agreement submitted to the Commissioner for approval. (12/09/10)
Q: UPDATED: During the transition period from the individual units to the AOS, who "owns" the contracts for individuals who currently hold administrative positions (e.g., Superintendents, Business Office Managers, Curriculum Coordinators, Special Education Directors, etc.?)
A: The current SAU owns the contracts. The new AOS board will need to decide how to set up the consolidated central office, who will assume each of these roles, they could also decide how to share costs of these contracts should the individual not continue in that role, and the decision is to buy out the contract rather than re-assign the individual to another role. The decisions made should be reflected in the plan and Interlocal Agreement submitted to the Commissioner for approval. (12/09/10)
Q: How does the Commissioner’s approval of an AOS plan affect the collective bargaining process?
A. The Commissioner’s approval of the plan is for purposes of compliance with the requirements of the reorganization law, and does not bind the parties to implement the plan exactly as proposed. Approval is not intended to impair the authority of individual member school units and bargaining agents to negotiate about the duration and terms of collective bargaining agreements, or to decide for themselves whether to bargain separately or together in accordance with the Municipal Public Employees Labor Relations Law. (9/19/08)
Q: UPDATED: Please explain the requirements for common and/or consistent calendars and policies in both RSUs and AOSs.
A: Section 1452(9) and (10) require that RSUs “establish a common school calendar, subject to local variations permitted by the RSU board” and adopt “policies for all schools in the regional school unit . . . except that the local school committee may adopt policies not in conflict with the regional school unit policies” and
Section 1461-B(3)(A)(5) requires that AOSs adopt “a plan for consistent school policies and school calendars.”
We understand both of these requirements to mean that the local calendar variations/policies that are permitted may not be in conflict with the overarching calendar/policies adopted by the governing RSU board or the AOS board. The local calendars/policies may not necessarily all be exactly the same and they may not be the same across all local committees (RSUs) or across all local school boards (AOSs); however, they may not be in conflict with the overarching calendar/policies of the RSU board or the AOS board.
For example, the RSU board or AOS board establishes a school calendar as follows: “The school year must include at least 180 instructional days and there will be no school on Dec. 24, 25, or 26.” The local school committee in an RSU or the local school board in an AOS could have variations such as 182 instructional days or the addition of three more teacher in-service days.; and neither would be in conflict with the RSU’s or AOS’s calendar and each would be consistent – as “consistent” does not mean “the same as” but rather “not in conflict with.” However, none of the local schools could hold a half day of school on Dec. 24, because the overarching calendar prohibits it, and thus it would be in conflict with the RSU’s or AOS’s calendar. The same analysis applies to policies. (12/09/10)
Q: Can a municipality withdraw from an SAD or CSD in order to join a different RSU than the rest of the SAD or CSD plans to join?
A: No. There is no longer any provision in law for a member to withdraw form an SAD or CSD, which would be required in order for the municipality to go its own way. Note that a school “union” is not a school administrative unit (SAU), but rather an association of SAUs. Thus members of a union may go separate ways. Note, too, that in some unions members are also members of a CSD which, as noted above, cannot break apart. (07/15/08)
Q: Does an alternative organizational structure board of directors have to be an elected board?
A: An alternative organizational structure (AOS) board of directors can be elected by the voters at referendum OR be appointed from the elected local school committees if it is clearly articulated in the reorganization plan for the AOS and approved by the voters at referendum. (07/15/08)
Q:UPDATED: If a municipality raises additional local funds for a school, are those funds part of the RSU budget?
A: While this amount would be voted on by only one municipality in accordance with a specific warrant article, these funds must be reflected in the RSU budget and be included in the budget, budget validation, auditing, chart of accounts, etc. for which the RSU is responsible. See Sections 1478(3), 1481-A, last paragraph and 1483(1)(A). (07/15/08)
Q:UPDATED: What if five of eight communities vote not to join an RSU? What do you do?
A: The Department of Education will work with all eight communities, and surrounding communities as appropriate, to craft a solution that brings all school units into compliance. SAUs whose voters approve reorganization will not be penalized if its potential partners vote against it, so long as they still meet the requirements of the law. However, all communities must continue to work to find partnerships that meet the requirements of the law. (07/15/08)
Q: Do charter communities still have to hold a budget validation referendum?
A: Yes. One proposed amendment would have removed the requirement, but that amendment was not in the final version of the law that passed the Legislature. (06/04/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Is it true that the Commissioner can waive the requirement to consolidate for school units, even those under 1,000 students?
A: No. Although the minimum enrollment in most school units is 1,200, there is an exception for certain rural, isolated units, which still must have at least 1,000 students. Also, Section 1461, sub-section 3(C)(2) allows for an SAU to request an exception for other unique or particular circumstances. (12/09/10)
Q: Can we make a case for being “efficient and high performing”?
A: No. the law has a specific definition that they had to meet as of Dec. 1, 2007. See the definition at: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/lawsummary20101208.htm (06/04/2008)
Q: How do the changes to the reorganization law affect the adult education budget process?
A: They don’t. Please see Administartive Letter # 38: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=edu_letters&id=55011&v=article (06/04/2008)
Q: How long can an alternative organizational structure take to achieve consistent contracts within the new unit?
A: The law gives the RPC the opportunity to present a proposal. The transition should be long enough to provide the transition member units seek, but not unreasonably long. (06/04/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Is a regional school unit (RSU) of 1,000 to 1,200 students eligible to propose an alternative organizational structure?
A: Yes, provided it meets the criteria for a rural isolated community or for a unique or particular circumstance exception as defined in those sections of the law. (12/09/10)
Q: How will alternative organizational structures create a budget?
A: The SAUs forming the alternative organizational structure (AOS) must propose a process that meets the requirements of the law. It is anticipated that several concurrent budget processes will be ongoing: the local school committees would be developing their local budgets; the AOS regional board would develop a budget for centralized functions; and if there were a separate school committee for a joint high school, it would also develop a budget. Each group would hold separate budget meetings where the public could weigh in on the budget and vote on the amounts for individual cost centers. Voters throughout the AOS would then vote for the entire K-12 budget – in two or three budget articles (one for each budget) – on one ballot on the same day.
For more information on the AOS, see: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/aos20101208.htm (06/04/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Is an “alternative organizational structure” just another term for “super union?”
A: No. A regional school unit may opt to form an alternative organizational structure (AOS) in place of the standard regional school unit structure. An AOS plan must ensure the 1) consolidation of system administration; 2) consolidation of special education administration, transportation administration, and the administration of business functions; 3) adoption of core curriculum and procedures for standardized testing; 4) adoption of a plan for both consistent school policies and school calendars; and 5) adoption of a plan for consistent collective bargaining agreements. (Separate collective bargaining agreements are allowed)
There are other differences. For more information on alternative organizational structures, see: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/aos20101208.htm (12/09/10)
Q: UPDATED: What are the parameters for an alternative organizational structure?
A: See the explanation of alternative organizational structures at: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/aos20101208.htm (12/09/10)
Q: Does the reorganization law allow towns to own their own buildings?
A: Yes. The original reorganization law allowed it, and changes in LD 2323 clarify that this is a legal option. Reorganization plans for RSUs where a municipality will retain ownership of such buikldings must include a plan for maintenance, upkeep. (Title 20-A Section 1478 (4)) (05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Must all units raise a minimum 2 mills, whether or not they join an RSU? (The language of the law seems to only require it of those units that join an RSU.)
A: No. The original reorganization law as written and enacted had the unintended consequence of making it financially preferable for a handful of units to opt out and take the penalty prescribed in the law, rather than to join an RSU and be forced to pay a higher mill rate. However, with the passage of LD2323, the 2 mill minimum requirement was removed from the law and is no longer a barrier to reorganization. While the new law does not become effective until Jul 18, 2008, units may proceed with reorganization plans as the new regional school units will not become operational until after the changes in the law have become effective. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Do school boards get final say or veto power over submitting a Reorganization Plan to the Commissioner?
A: While SAU boards will vote on the submission of their Reorganization or Alternative Plan, this is not a vote of approval or disapproval of the plan, it is a vote to submit the plan in compliance with the reorganization law. The vote on whether or not to approve the plan belongs to the voters, and is done by voter referendum, after it is approved by the Commissioner. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: If a Reorganization Plan is approved after December 15, 2007, may the referendum vote be held after January 15, 2008 but before June 10, 2008, and will the state pay for the referendum?
A: Yes and yes. The referendum may be held on any date that otherwise meets election requirements of the state and the municipality. The Department will pay for the cost of one referendum anytime on or before January 30, 2009, except on June 10, which is already a state primary election date, and Nov. 4, which is the date of the general election. (If a vote is held on either of those dates, there would be no significant added cost for simply adding this additional ballot item.) (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: What are the financial penalties for units not conforming by July 1, 2009?
A: Below is a summary of the penalties:
For minimum subsidy receivers that vote against reorganization:
For regular subsidy receivers that vote against reorganization:
All units that vote against reorganization (minimum and regular subsidy receivers):
Q: UPDATED: If a Reorganization Plan is submitted before an upcoming deadline, will the Department of Education provide early feedback to help SAUs know if they are on the right track?
A: Yes, the Department is screening incoming reorganization plans and alerting SAUs to anything that is missing or incorrect. In addition, facilitators will be in regular contact with the Department and will be able to provide feedback throughout the process. In most cases, the Department will respond to submissions within 14 days. An RPC working to hold a referendum vote by a certain date should inform the Department, which will work as quickly as possible to help the RPC meet the deadline. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Might there be more than one referendum if the first vote is negative? Would the state pay for all these referendum votes?
A: There may be some places where it will take more than one vote to approve a Reorganization Plan. The referendum may be held on any date that otherwise meets election requirements of the state and the municipality. The Department will pay for the cost of one referendum anytime on or before January 30, 2009, except on June 10, which is already a state primary election date, and Nov. 4, which is the date of the general election. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Is there any option to stand alone without penalties if you do not meet the minimun student enrollment but can show you have demonstrated the savings?
A: No. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Can we keep our local school boards even as we create the new RSU board?
A: The law does allow the RSU board to create local school committees with powers and duties authorized by the RSU board. However, it is the RSU board that has legal responsibility for the RSU budget and other key matters. The RSU board could authorize a local school committee to help develop a school-based budget, make recommendations on financial and educational issues, etc. LD 2323 allows SAUs to propose an “alternative organizational structure” which allows local school committees to have some additional powers. See the alternative organizational structures summary for more information: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/aos20101208.htm (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Are there more details about criteria for the exceptions to the 2,500 student minimum due to geography, demographics, population density, etc.?
A: No. An SAU will have to make its case for an exception due to one or more of the criteria listed at Title 20-A Section 1461 (3)(B). Those were left intentionally vague to allow flexibility to units and to the Commissioner in determining reasonable exceptions to the 2,500 student size requirement. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Could an individual community or groups of communities raise additional funds for a high school over and above the RSU budget (as they are allowed to do with a K-8 school under the law)?
A: Yes. Under the original reorganization law communities could only raise additional funds for K-8 schools. LD 2323, passed by the Legislature and signed the Gov. John baldacci on April 18, 2008, now allows a community or group of communities to raise additional funds for a high school, as well. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: When does the requirement for a budget validation referendum go into effect?
A: All school administrative units (SAUs) are subject to the new budget preparation and approval process, including the requirement for a budget validation referendum, for the 2008-09 school year (all budgets prepared after January 1, 2008). See Administrative Letter #38, dated May 1, 2008, for more information: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=edu_letters&id=55011&v=article (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: UPDATED: Some SAUs that tuition their students to private academies will become part of larger Regional School Units. When they do, won’t the cost of sending those kids be spread among all the municipalities in the new unit?
A: No. Other communities in the RSU will NOT share in the cost of sending those students to a private, or to another public school outside the RSU. None of those other communities in the RSU is required under the school funding formula (which does not change under the new law) to pay for more than the share of educational costs for its own students as determined by percentage of enrollment.
Any additional expense for sending a student to a school outside the RSU shall be the responsibility of the municipality in which the student resides, in accordance with 20-A MRSA Section 1479(5). The language can be found in Public Law 2007, Chapter 240, as passed by the Legislature: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/reorglaw.rtf (Section 1479).
Those individual communities will continue to be responsible for the cost of continuing to tuition their students to a school other than the public high school(s) in the new RSU.
A municipality that sends its students to a private school, or to another public high school that is not part of the RSU to which it belongs, will be assessed the difference between the average per-pupil cost for a public high school student in the district and the amount spent on tuition. For example, if a town that is a member of an RSU tuitions students to a private school at the cost of $7,800 per student, and the average cost to educate students at the RSU’s public high school is $7,000 per student, the tuitioning municipality would be assessed the extra $800 per student. (All municipalities in the RSU would share in the average $7,000 per-pupil cost, and then the tuitioning town would be assessed the $800 extra per student.)
The same would be true if the sending municipality sends students to another public high school at a cost higher than the $7,000 average per-pupil cost in the RSU.
Some communities currently pay up to the state allowable private tuition for students whose parents enroll them at a private school of their choosing. Where that is currently the practice, it will continue when that community joins the RSU. Similar to the examples above, the community will be responsible for the difference between what the community allows and the average cost of sending the student to a public school within the RSU. That is, the cost is assessed to that community, not the other municipalities in the RSU. Also, the community will only be responsible for the maximum allowable private tuition amount, currently about $8,300 in nearly all cases. (updated 11/7/07)
Note: LD 2323, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci on April 18, 2008, clarified the ability of communities with school choice to retain that choice and made no other changes to the school choice issue. (updated 05/05/2008)
Q: Please provide clarification on the requirement for alternative plans to show no adverse impact.
A: The language in the reorganization law, P.L. 2007, chapter 240, Part XXXX-36(6)(F) requires that “. . . the projected expenditures in FY 2008-2009 for system administration, transportation, special education, and facilities and maintenance will not have an adverse impact on the instructional program”. Please provide an assurance to that effect in the plan; Department staff will check that assurance against data that was required to be submitted to the MEDMS Financial System in August, 2007. (02/15/2008)
Q: Our proposed RSU would not be operational until July 1, 2009. How can we meet the requirement in Section XXXX-26, Parameter F, to show in our Plan how we will reorganize administration in a way that will not have an adverse impact on the instructional program?
A: This requirement, shown on the Reorganization and Alternative Plan checklists (see http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/planning.html ), is for all RSUs filing an Alternative Plan, and for those filing a Reorganization Plan who plan to be operational as an RSU in fiscal year 2008-09, in accordance with a Reorganization Plan that is approved by the Commissioner and by the voters. Reorganization Plans that propose to be operational July 1, 2009 are not required to meet this requirement. (11/17/2007)
Q: Once a Reorganization Planning Committee has been established, who decides if additional SAUs may join the RPC, and any changes in the representation – SAU boards or the RPC itself?
A: Once an RPC with members from more than one community is formed, according to the law and the Guidelines provided by the Department (see http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/guidelines.rtf ), any future changes to the makeup of the RPC would be up to the RPC itself. The Guidelines give requirements and recommendation regarding formation, membership and decision-making, but do not speak to limiting or expanding membership. Thus that falls within the discretion of the RPC itself, as limited by the requirements set forth in the Guidelines. (11/07/2007)
Q: If the voters reject a Reorganization Plan at referendum and one of the SAUs involved in the proposed reorganization was previously approved to stand alone and submit an Alternative Plan, may that SAU revert to the Alternative Plan without penalty?
A: Yes. (11/07/2007)
Q: May an SAU submit more than one Reorganization Plan?
A: No. Each SAU must submit one Reorganization Plan or Alternative Plan, in accordance with its approved Notice of Intent. (11/07/2007)
Q: UPDATED: How do you determine whether the combination of school administrative units that are forming a Regional School Unit meets the minimum 2,500 or 1,200 student counts required by the reorganization law?
A: The student count is based on the number of students for which the school administrative units are fiscally responsible as of October 1, 2006 -- in other words -- the sum of the following:
For the purposes of this determination, the Department of Education is using the October 1, 2006 student count.
This October 1, 2006 student count appears on each school administrative unit’s 2007-08 subsidy printout (ED281) on page 2, line 19, and can also be found via the link on the Planning and Resources page of the School Administrative Reorganization website, or directly at this link: http://www.maine.gov/education/enroll/aproct/resident.html (12/09/10)
Q: Can a municipality that belongs to two different CSDs (K-8, 9-12) join two different RSUs?
A: No; the law requires that a reorganization plan “. . . provide comprehensive programming for all students from kindergarten to grade 12 and must include at least one publicly supported secondary school.” See Section 1461(3)(B)(2). (8/22/07)
Q: Do the Reorganization Plans and Alternative Plans have to show the reductions in the four areas (system administration, transportation, special education, and facilities/maintenance)? And how can units achieve those savings?
A: It is important to note that EPS amounts in these areas are being reduced, so the Commissioner will be looking for these savings to be reflected in all the plans. The Department will be convening focus groups in at least 3 of the 4 areas (transportation, special education, facilities/maintenance) in the very near future to develop strategies for SAUs to consider for achieving these savings, and to develop ways of achieving these savings in the aggregate where possible (e.g., special education). The Department will also provide suggestions on how to achieve administrative savings, given the revised per-pupil amount in the EPS formula. (8/22/07)
Q: If an RSU wants to raise more money, locally, in any of the four categories, is it permitted to? That is, does the law require a showing of savings regardless of any extra the RSU may raise in a budget or is the RSU permitted to show that it can’t realize the savings so will raise whatever else is needed?
A: The law does require a showing of savings as part of a Reorganization Plan or Alternative Plan regardless of any additional amount the RSU may raise in a transparent budget that is validated by the voters. (8/22/07)
Q: Can an SAU form/join more than one Reorganization Planning Committee (RPC)?
A: Yes, an SAU may participate in more than one RPC for purposes of planning but it’s preferable for an SAU to conduct its broad-based explorations informally, and then to focus on participating in one RPC soon after filing the Notice of Intent, as the due date for the plans is December 1, 2007 and therefore decisions need to be made in time to meet this deadline. Please note, also, that an SAU may request only one $2,500 stipend for miscellaneous costs on behalf of one RPC, for whom the SAU is managing these funds. (8/22/07)
Q: Under what conditions could school choice be taken away from future students in a community that currently has it?
A: Before governance is transferred from the current School Administrative Unit (SAU) to an RSU, SAUs may rescind the rights of their own students to school choice, as is allowed under previously existing law. RSUs may not rescind the authority of a member SAU to offer school choice. The Reorganization Law is silent as to how a previously-existing school unit might decide to continue or discontinue school choice once the RSU is formed. The Department is required to submit to the Education Committee, by January 31, 2008, recommendations and proposed legislation necessary to implement the reorganization law; the Department will include a recommendation that this issue be clarified. (8/22/07)
Q: Does our SAU need to request financial data to meet the requirement for “due diligence?”
A: Yes. For units of fewer than 2,500 students filing their Notice of Intent, a determination that “the financials don’t work” must be based on the Department’s response to a request for financial data, and a careful review of that data by the SAU and/or RPC.
Q: Who must go through the reorganization process?
A: ALL school administrative units, whatever the current structure and whatever size – SADs, CSDs and municipal school units (city/town/plantation), small and large must work with other units to reorganize into larger, more efficient units; or where expansion of the unit would be impractical or inconsistent with state policy, reorganize their own administrative structures to reduce costs. A school union is not an SAU – each of the municipal units that make up a school union is an SAU and each must work to reorganize, each must file a Notice of Intent, and each must file a Reorganization or Alternative Plan. (8/1/07)
Q: What exhibits due diligence?
A: Due diligence: the expectations of any responsible person; good faith effort; applying the right attitude; taking the necessary steps to fairly and considerately explore all options.
Q: UPDATED: What are the requirements for each RSU or municipal school unit to have a public high school?
A: Each RSU’s plan must provide comprehensive programming for all K-12 students, and must include a public or publicly-supported private high school(s). There is not a requirement that the high school be physically located in the RSU or municipal school unit so long as there is a contractual relationship (or contractual relationships) ensuring that all students – including those in special education and alternative education – are provided comprehensive programming. Please note that RSUs that choose to provide K-12 programming for all students in their RSU without having a public high school within the RSU are likely to face challenges in meeting this requirement. Solid contractual relationships must be shown to meet this requirement and it may not be easy to find high schools – public or private – willing to commit to taking all students. (updated 08/01/07)
Q: UPDATED: Who decides who is on the Reorganization Planning Committee? How do we get started? What if I want to be a member?
A: The law leaves great flexibility to the local communities in creating the Reorganization Planning Committees, only requiring that there be representation from the schools, the municipalities, and the general public. We encourage school boards to take the lead, invite municipal officials to a meeting and to jointly agree on a format for creating the RPC and choosing members. The Department has developed Guidelines for the Formation and Work of the Reorganization Planning Committees, available on the DOE website, that can help in that process. (12/09/10)
Q: If an SAU qualifies as an efficient, high-performing unit, does it still have to go through “due diligence?”
A: Yes. All SAUs must explore options and analyze their financial situation to ensure that steps to achieve sustainable, long-term administrative efficiencies are taken, either on their own or with other SAUs. (7/23/07)
Q: If an existing SAU has over 2,500 students and plans to file an Alternative Plan, does it need to file a Reorganization Plan?
A: We encourage all units, even those who would not be required to reorganize, to explore all options. However, if an SAU with over 2,500 students decides in the end not to reorganize, it needs only to file the Alternative Plan. (7/23/07)
Q: Do the different high schools in the same RSU have to offer the same curriculum?
A: No. However, all high schools should be offering a program of instruction that meets Maine’s Learning Results standards, and any other requirements in the law or in regulation, as is the case currently. (7/23/07)
Q: If you already know you will opt out and accept the penalties, do you still have to submit a plan?
A: Yes – there is no provision to allow an SAU to simply “opt out” – only the voters can do so and only by voting down a proposed Reorganization Plan. Please see separate question: “If we decide we’d rather just take the penalties, how can we opt out?” (7/23/07)
Q: If we decide we’d rather just take the penalties, how can we opt out?
A: It is not up to SAUs to “opt out” – only the voters in an SAU can do so and only by voting down a proposed Reorganization Plan. SAUs must submit a Reorganization Plan to the Commissioner and, if approved by the Commissioner, that plan goes to voters at referendum. (SAUs that fit into one of the exemptions or exceptions and file a Notice of Intent may receive approval for filing an Alternative Plan rather than a Reorganization Plan. In those cases, voter approval is not required.) (7/23/07)
Q: Will penalties for opting out be one-time-only or annual?
A: Annual. (7/23/07)
Q: What prevents two entirely separate Reorganization Planning Committees from forming within the same region, both with the intent of moving forward?
A: Technically, nothing. However, it is the SAUs that will file the Notices of Intent and file the Reorganization Plans or Alternative Plans. The Reorganization Planning Committees will need representation from the SAUs and will need to work in partnership with the SAU boards in order to be effective. (7/23/07)
Q: Who develops the Reorganization Plan, and who files it with the Department?
A: The Reorganization Planning Committee that is made up of representatives of the SAUs for the proposed RSU develops the Reorganization Plan; however, it is ultimately the responsibility of each school administrative unit (SAU) to file its Plan with the Commissioner of Education. Where several SAUs are working together to form a new Regional School Unit, each would be expected to file the same Reorganization Plan with the Commissioner (though each might also include backup plans should voters in the other SAUs in the proposed RSU vote against the plan). (6/22/07)
Q: Who develops and who files the “Notice of Intent”? The Reorganization Planning Committee or the school administrative unit?
A: The Notice of Intent is filed by school administrative units (SAUs). Communities are encouraged to convene their Reorganization Planning Committees as early as possible before the August 31, 2007 deadline for filing the Notice of Intent. Those conversations will inform their decision-making on the Notice of Intent; however, the ultimate responsibility for filing the Notice of Intent belongs to the SAU, not the Reorganization Planning Committee. (6/22/07)
Q: Who convenes the Reorganization Planning Committee? And who picks the members of it? In one place in the law it looks like municipalities; in another, the school administrative unit.
A: Reorganization Planning Committees must include at least one representative of the schools, municipalities, and the general public from each SAU in the proposed regional school unit. The law calls for significant participation by both school units and municipalities. The Department of Education recommends school boards convene meetings as soon as possible with municipal officials to plan the creation of a Reorganization Planning Committee. The Department released “Guidelines For The Formation And Work of Reorganization Planning Committees” to assist in this process. The Guidelines are available on the Department website: http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/guidelines.rtf . (6/22/07)
Q: What does the reorganization law mean for career and technical education (CTE) centers and regions?
A: CTE schools will continue to operate with their own governance structure and will not be absorbed into Regional School Units. Because the makeup of the member SAUs will change in some cases, CTE boards (in CTE regions) and advisory boards (in CTE centers) will have to re-examine their governance structure and may have to reassign representation on the board. (6/22/07)
Q: Students in our community currently have school choice. Will they still have choice if the community joins other school administrative unit(s) with their own public high school?
A: Yes. Communities that have choice for their students now will continue to have choice after reorganization.
Every one of the reorganization plans that was proposed in the Legislature, including the Governor’s bill introduced in January 2007, has preserved choice for communities that currently have it.
This includes communities with contracts and those without. In those SAUs with a contract, the RSU would negotiate any new contract once the current one expires, to preserve that choice for students. If there is a relationship now between a community and a private school, or a public school in another school administrative unit, but no contract, that relationship can continue,
Details of these guarantees can be found in Section 1479 of the reorganization law. You can read it online at http://www.maine.gov/education/reorg/reorglaw.rtf . (6/22/07)
Q: What if a community that offers choice now decides it does not want to pay for choice in the future, and wants to send its students to the public high school in the RSU they have joined instead.
A: There is currently no provision in the law for communities to take that choice away from their own students. (6/22/07)
Q: What if a school administrative unit that currently tuitions students to a public school outside the district, or a private school joins an RSU and the RSU wants to force all the students from that unit to go to the public high school?
A: The law does not allow for that. Communities that have choice now will continue to to have choice in the future. (6/22/07)
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