Trenton School Committee: We’re staying in AOS 91

TRENTON — The Trenton Elementary School will remain part of Alternative Organizational Structure 91 (AOS 91), according to a prepared statement read by School Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Bonilla at Tuesday’s meeting.

The formal response, unanimously approved by the School Committee, follows the School Evaluation Options Committee’s (SEOC) recommendation that the School Committee begin the process of leaving its current district.

The SEOC, which recently disbanded, was made up of town residents concerned about rising school costs. The group’s formation was not authorized by the School Committee nor did it have any authority over the school. In recommending the school leave the district, SEOC members said that Trenton does not having a meaningful say in AOS-wide decisionmaking, which is contributing to an increasing school budget.

“The assertion that Trenton has no voice is merely an unfounded sound bite rather than the truth,” Bonilla read.

“On the contrary, Trenton is an equal member of the AOS. Votes are based on student enrollment.”

Trenton’s three votes, along with having representatives from the town who have served as the chairman and vice chairman on the AOS 91 School Board, give Trenton

a say in its educational decisions, she said. Echoing statements made in last month’s meeting, Bonilla said, “The [School Committee] has complete confidence in the leadership of the superintendent as reflected by the AOS Board’s unanimous vote to extend his contract by five years.”

The SEOC had previously called for the School Committee to hold a vote of no confidence for the district’s superintendent, Marc Gousse.

School Committee member Tom Reeve shared his research supporting the committee’s decision to remain a member of the AOS.

“To reduce our budget, it would mean less services for students and families,” he said. Administrative costs are not what is taking up much of the budget, he said.

The SEOC had previously recommended analyzing spending at Hancock Grammar School and Lamoine Consolidated School, as they are two schools similar in size to Trenton and are in their own school district.

“The education budget in Lamoine is approximately $1 million less than Trenton’s … it is the belief of the SEOC that the cost savings to Trenton could be great if a detailed analysis were made to determine what worked and what didn’t work in independent schools,” the SEOC previously said.

Part of Reeve’s report compared Trenton to the

Lamoine Consolidated School.

He reported that Lamoine pays $350,000 less in special education costs. He also said that differences can be traced to the two schools’ salary scales. While similar scales, Reeve reported that Trenton has a higher percentage of staff at the top of the salary scale due to having staff members who have more educational qualifications or more years of teaching experience.

He said that about twothirds of staff members are above the median figure and for Lamoine, this percentage was about half.

Reeve did say that the recommendation from the SEOC for the school to bill MaineCare for certain special education services should be looked into, but that it would only save costs if the entire AOS billed for services and not just Trenton.

His full report will be available on the Trenton Elementary School’s website and the AOS 91 website.

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]
Rebecca Alley

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