WEST BATH

West Bath is withdrawing from Regional School Unit 1 — that was made resoundingly clear last Tuesday when 82.8 percent of voters who turned out for the referendum vote made that choice.

So, now what?

Peter Oceretko, West Bath selectman and co-chairman of the West Bath Withdrawal Committee, said a transition committee — Kyle Yacoben, Dennis Crews and Mary Brown — was appointed by the West Bath Board of Selectmen the day before the vote, in the event the referendum did pass.

“They will coordinate with the superintendent and principal to lay out a foundation for administration, take the budget outline developed by the Withdrawal Committee and insert some real numbers, and organize a special election for a school board within 90 days,” he said. “The members of the Withdrawal Committee as well as its predecessor, the Working Group, stand ready as support and advisers to the Transition Team.”

The overwhelming support for withdrawal wasn’t a surprise, said Oceretko, who added that the committee “figured the simple 50 percent majority, plus one, was a piece of cake.”

“We had opted to aim for the end of the year and risk a two-thirds majority so as to not bother with the November election, which did require a minimum voter turn out of 50 percent,” he said. “Turn out was always a major concern for us. In March 2014, the state changed the rule to a minimum turnout of 50 percent after Jan.1, but neglected to inform anyone. We were notified by email in late June.”

In order for the vote outcome to be valid, 560 voters had to turn out — West Bath saw 565 people come to the polls, surpassing what was needed by a mere five voters. Oceretko said they knew meeting that 560 threshold would be challenging.

“We knew that meeting the turnout was going to be a difficult feat. We spent all the past week ‘working the phones,’” he said. “About 6 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 13) night, it was clear that we may not make it, with only 445 ballots cast. A couple of us went back home and hit the phones again.

“Those last voters who trickled in just before 8 received rounds of applause,” Oceretko added. “I think the last phone effort helped to put us over the top. Five votes is cutting it awfully close (.088 percent) … but good enough.”

According to the withdrawal agreement, which was approved by the Maine Department of Education on Nov. 18, RSU 1 has agreed to have Bath Middle School and Morse High School serve as the schools of guaranteed acceptance for all West Bath middle and high school students for a period of 10 years following withdrawal.

West Bath agreed to pay tuition for the actual number of West Bath students in grades 6 to 12 who are attending RSU 1 schools, or for 75 percent of the total number of West Bath students in those grades attending public schools, whichever is greater. A reciprocal tuition agreement applicable to grandfathered students has also been established.

Next year, it’s estimated there will be approximately 32 school choice students at West Bath School. That number would decrease year after year as grandfathered students matriculate to Bath Middle School.

To see the complete withdrawal agreement, visit the town of West Bath website at www.westbath.govoffice.com or the RSU 1 website at www.rsu1.org.



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