Wiscasset selectmen plan to ask voters for a committee about education in town.
Will the question call it a committee on schools’ future or come closer to residents Judy Colby and Bill Maloney’s proposed wording to evaluate the financial impact of tuitioning out the high school grades? The board was not sure Tuesday night, Feb. 16. But after member Jeff Slack reiterated he was seeking a vote that night to commit the board to proposing a committee to voters, Chair Pam Dunning said, “You don’t need to vote on it, Jeff. We’re all on board with working on this.”
One member felt selectmen were the wrong board to be fielding Maloney’s and Colby’s proposal. “I really feel like this is not our place. We have a school board of elected officials,” Selectman Kim Andersson said. She asked Maloney why he did not approach them.
“Because the taxpayers are paying the bill on it,” he said. Maloney concurred with board opinions that the would-be committee can do without a paid consultant and instead tap the expertise of local professionals and officials.
Selectman Katharine Martin-Savage gave another reason selectmen have taken up the proposal: Townspeople keep asking. “Dozens and dozens and dozens” have asked her in the past four years, Martin-Savage said. She said the issue regards the high school grades, not eighth grade and under.
Selectman Sarah Whitfield argued against putting “tuitioning out” in the question seeking the committee. “That comes across as very negative to a lot of people.” Slack agreed. Whitfield suggested it be along the lines of “examining the future of the schools,” since that is what the work would figure out, whether school choice would be disastrous “or the best saving money thing” ever, she said. “Either way, it’s talking about the future of the schools.”
Andersson suggested consulting Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin, who might know things Wiscasset does not, Andersson said. For example, she said, if the Boothbay region is considering a new school, “their enrollment numbers are the same as ours. Maybe the commissioner will be like, ‘Hey, why don’t you guys get together and build a new high school in Edgecomb’ ... Rather than work in a vacuum, let’s go to the person in charge of education.”
Town Manager Dennis Simmons will draft a ballot question for the board to consider. Members said it could take multiple drafts.
Also Feb. 16, selectmen reappointed Steve Williams, Ervin Deck and Ray Soule to Wiscasset Municipal Airport’s advisory committee and Jacqueline Lowell and Lester Morse to the planning board; and picked committees to be liaisons to: Dunning, planning board; Whitfield, ordinance review; Martin-Savage, budget and appearance of the town; Slack, airport; and Andersson, waterfront and shellfish. Shellfish might be her favorite, she said. “It’s really down to earth, or I guess, down to mud.”
Whitfield and Andersson serve on the comprehensive plan committee, and Slack, the investment advisory committee, Simmons and selectmen noted.