The committee pressing for Richmond to withdraw from Regional School Unit 2 meets Wednesday night. Its members, from left: Amanda McDaniel, Russ Hughes, Andrew Alexander and Michael Wing. Town Manager Laurisa Loon is also shown. Screenshot

RICHMOND — The town group pressing for Richmond to withdraw from Regional School Unit 2 is eyeing a vote on the matter for next November.

The town’s withdrawal committee was reformed after residents were asked in the November 2021 election if they wanted to start the withdrawal progress again.

By a vote of 714-373, residents opted to allocate $25,000 for the process to restart. The committee met Wednesday night to choose its chairperson.

Richmond already went through the entire withdrawal process last year, but the question did not receive enough voter turnout in June to validate the vote. Since a majority of residents voted in favor, despite not having a large enough turnout, the process could resume again without town residents having to wait.

Russ Hughes, a member of the RSU 2 board of directors, has said the withdrawal effort “reflects a dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in academic rigor in Richmond schools” and a feeling of “being held hostage by the other RSU 2 towns.”

Jon Hamann, chair of the RSU 2 board, attended Wednesday’s meeting to help the Richmond withdrawal committee choose a chairperson. The committee includes Hughes, Selectman Andrew Alexander, Michael Wing and Amanda McDaniel, and they unanimously elected McDaniel as chair.

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As committee chairperson, McDaniel will serve as the main contact person between the school district and the committee.

The lengthy process a town needs to follow when withdrawing from a school district is set by the Maine Department of Education. Dresden, also in RSU 2, formed an exploratory withdrawal committee in September and hosts monthly meetings to go the withdrawal process.

RSU 2 also includes Farmingdale, Hallowell and Monmouth.

Because Richmond already went through the process fairly recently, town attorney Mark Bower said most of the withdrawal agreement would be similar to the previous one, with the exception of having to gather new data for updated financial information. Bower was the lawyer for the previous committee and is expected to help the new committee.

“If you remember, a lot of the process last time was trying to figure out the information we needed, getting the information from the RSU, all the logistics,” Bower said. “We have all that stuff now. It’s just a matter of updating it.”

The town’s committee has to meet specific deadlines to ensure the question will be on next November’s ballot.

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The committee is now on “step nine,” according to Bower. There are 27 steps, but because Richmond already has some information, the committee members think they could be done with the withdrawal agreement before the March 15 deadline.

Richmond must come up with a withdrawal agreement that has to be sent to the commissioner of the state Department of Education. The commissioner has 60 days to send the draft back with changes or recommendations, bringing the timeline to June 30.

Hamann said the only hurdle in the way of RSU 2 is the district is undergoing contract negotiations for teachers and educational technicians. He said the negotiations should be completed by the end of June.

“That might play a bigger role,” Hamann said. “We are doing that at the same time as negotiating with you. That’s a big open item on our end as we move forward with you.”

In preparation for the next meeting Jan. 5, Richmond committee members were asked to go through the previous withdrawal agreement to find areas that could be updated. The next meeting is expected to include discussion on what the committee members find so they can then be sent to RSU 2 Superintendent Tonya Arnold.

The Jan. 5 meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and be live-streamed through the town of Richmond’s website.

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