RAYMOND – Teresa Sadak has had a change of heart.

Last month, Sadak, the Raymond selectwoman who has pioneered a petition drive to withdraw the town from Regional School Unit 14, said she was willing to hold off on the withdrawal effort if the district’s Board of Directors postponed talks on a new Windham middle school and focused on re-adjusting the cost-sharing formula that determines how new construction projects are financed.

At an Aug. 13 meeting, with Sadak in attendance, the board decided to postpone the middle school talks and focus on amending the formula, which would allocate nearly 45 percent of the costs of a new middle school to Raymond, even if no Raymond students attended it.

Yet last Tuesday, Sadak pushed the Raymond Board of Selectmen to bring the withdrawal issue to a vote this fall. The selectmen complied, voting 4-1 to hold a referendum at the Nov. 4 election on whether to begin the process of withdrawing from the district.

Sadak said that in the weeks between the school board meeting and the selectmen’s meeting, her discussions with Raymond citizens had led her to change her mind.

“After thinking about it and talking to people, I just decided to push through with it,” Sadak said. “I think the biggest thing that’s important is it needed to go to the people.”

According to Sadak, the school board has become more responsive since the withdrawal drive has come to the fore. She said she figured it was important to continue driving the effort forward.

“All of a sudden we have a petition, so now (the cost-sharing formula) is on the front burner,” Sadak said. “I don’t think they would have done that. I just feel that we as Raymond need to do something to push this thing forward a bit.”

But to Marge Govoni, the chairwoman of the school board, Sadak’s turn-about comes as a surprise.

“I would say it caught me off guard,” Govoni said. “She came to our meeting on Aug. 13 and had stated at that time – we thought she had stated – she was going to hold off on it.”

“I understand the rationale of why they’re doing it, because it’s a long process,” Govoni added. “I think they’re looking to get the pulse of Raymond. How else do you find out if you don’t get something out there?”

The Nov. 4 vote is the fourth step in the 22-step state-mandated process required to withdraw from the school district. The question will ask voters whether they would like to send a petition for withdrawal to the RSU 14 Board of Directors and the Commissioner of Education.

If a majority of voters approve, the RSU 14 board would need to form a four-member committee to draw up a withdrawal agreement, which would eventually be put to a final vote at a special town meeting.

The selectmen voted to hold the Nov. 4 vote in response to a 347-signature petition submitted by Sadak calling on the town to hold a vote on whether to initiate the withdrawal process. Although the board is required to put the question before voters, it did not need to schedule it on Nov. 4.

Selectman Joe Bruno voted against the motion, which also set aside $25,000 in contingency funds toward the formation of a withdrawal exploratory committee.

“I was willing to give the school committee a chance to meet with us and discuss what our concerns were,” Bruno said. “I didn’t feel we needed to rush ahead on this.”

Selectman Sam Gifford, the chairman of the board, said he voted yes on the motion in order to leave the town’s options open. Gifford said he was in favor of withdrawal in a general sense, unless the process turns out to be “extremely costly to the taxpayers.”

“I don’t think anybody would be in favor if it’s too costly,” Gifford said. “There are a number of reasons why it could be good. One of them – a very important one – is the potential for some savings. No. 2, Raymond was noted for many years for its quality schools. We want to get back to that point.”

Bruno said he had not yet made up his mind on the question of withdrawal.

“There’s so much to learn that I don’t have a position, honestly,” he said. “I want to get the numbers, the facts. I want to see what the school committee’s going to do about the funding formula. I want to see what they’re doing to do about the middle school facilities study.”


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