The Saco River separates Biddeford and Saco – but could the two cities share some services? As Saco School Board is poised to hire a year-long interim superintendent within a couple of weeks, the Biddeford School Committee will begin exploring whether the city could share its superintendent with its neighbor. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — The Biddeford School Committee was to meet Tuesday afternoon June 8 to begin a closed-door executive session discussion on the possibilities of perhaps sharing its school superintendent with Saco, Mayor Alan Casavant said in a weekly newsletter. The Tuesday talk, which was to come after the Courier’s weekly print deadline, is viewed as the start of a conversation.

Meanwhile, Saco School Board has interviewed several candidates to serve as interim superintendent for the next school year, said Chair Kevin LaFortune.

Jeremy Ray, who is superintendent in Biddeford and Dayton, and director of the Southern Maine Administrative Collaborative, was hired by the Saco School Board as interim superintendent through  June 30 as the board in April looked to replace former Superintendent Dominic DePatsy.

When it became clear that DePatsy would depart sooner than his stated June 30 effective resignation date, the Saco School Board agreed to hire a short-term interim superintendent and then proceed with a search for a one-year interim.

“We have been working with the Maine School Superintendents Association throughout the process to identify candidates and manage communications between the School Board and those candidates,” said LaFortune in an email. “We expect to have a final decision in the next couple of weeks.”

“I think the discussion that the Biddeford School Board will be having is about whether or not they would support continuing that arrangement,” should Saco decide it wants to go in that direction, LaFortune continued. “The Saco School Board hasn’t made a decision yet. I think that this is just due diligence on the part of the Biddeford School Board.”

Casavant said discussions at the Biddeford School Committee “have a long way to go.”

“The School Board will be meeting Tuesday afternoon, in executive session, to talk about the pros and cons of creating a partnership with Saco and sharing the services of Jeremy Ray and his administrative staff,” Casavant said in the June 6 newsletter. “Currently, Jeremy is also superintendent of the Dayton School District, and he serves as the Executive Director of the Southern Maine Administrative Collaborative, which provides a host of different services to various towns and cities throughout Maine. Those communities, in turn, pay a fee to the collaborative, which is jointly owned by Biddeford and Dayton, and those fees are used as revenue to offset Biddeford taxpayer dollars. Both arrangements have been extremely successful.”

Casavant said he believes there would be savings and efficiencies in a collaboration with Saco.

“It could be as much as a six-figure savings in future years,” he wrote. “Still, we must proceed carefully and weigh the financial realities, as well as determine whether the added workload can work. If it can, the relationship will benefit Biddeford taxpayers, as well as provide additional opportunities for students in both cities.”

SMAC — and specifically Ray, who has been superintendent in Biddeford for nine years and Dayton for seven — was chosen from a field of four candidates interviewed by an ad hoc committee of the Saco School Board for the short-term interim position. Biddeford Assistant Superintendent Christopher Indorf and Biddeford Instruction and Innovation Director Mandy Cyr, both certified superintendents, are also part of SMAC and would help in Saco, Ray said upon his hiring.

The Saco School Board’s vote allowed LaFortune to execute and deliver an agreement with SMAC and Ray, for emergency superintendent services from April 14 to June 30, at a cost not to exceed $40,000.

The need for a short interim came when DePatsy, who came to the district six years ago, departed from the job 2 1/2 months earlier than he had originally planned. He said the more recent decision to leave no later than April 20 was a mutual agreement between him and the board.

SMAC was formed in 2017 to provide staffing services to partner school districts like Acton, Madawaska and Mount Blue Regional School District, along with Biddeford and Dayton school districts and agencies that provide child development services.

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