SAD 4 and 46 coming together to pursue comprehensive high school

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GUILFORD — The first formal step toward pursuing an integrated, consolidated grade 9-16 educational facility shared by SAD 4 and SAD 46 of the Dexter-area was taken by the SAD 4 school board as the directors authorized Superintendent Ann Kirkpatrick to work with SAD 46 officials — who approved the application during a school board meeting earlier in the month — on the initial project application, during a March 21 meeting at Piscataquis Community Secondary School.
“We are looking at a comprehensive high school with Dexter, it would be a 9-16 school,” Board Chair Cindy Hoak said, saying the grades represented beyond 12th are college-level classes. Hoak said there is a multiple-step application process to the Maine Department of Education (DOE) “and if we get approved the state would build it.”
Following a presentation on a trip to Worcester (Mass.) Technical High School made by Tri-County Technical Center (TCTC) Director Dr. Patrick O’Neill and board member Niki Fortier to learn about the institution’s combination of academic and vocational programs, O’Neill said, “The Department of Education has said we want two or three districts to come together and break the glass ceiling.”
He said the state has about $100 million earmarked to fund a new comprehensive school, and the first application is due by May 1. O’Neill said if the first application is approved then SAD 4 and 46 officials would have 60 days to complete a second, more in-depth document. “It will probably take a good five years to bring this plan forward,” he said.
O’Neill said TCTC in Dexter serves students in a half dozen area school districts, but the pupils only attend on a part-time basis as is true for the approximately two dozen other technical centers across Maine. He said a comprehensive institution would enable students to attend this type of school full-time. O’Neill added that TCTC has no more space available to add additional programs.
A meeting with area businesses such as Cianbro and Quirk is scheduled for the near future, O’Neill said to get these companies involved in the planning of a comprehensive high school would help train students to work in the area’s industry following graduation.
Kirkpatrick said a school shared by SAD 4 and 46 would be much smaller than the 1,400 enrollment at Worcester Technical High School, but a future facility in the region could still provide training areas such as in the veterinary tech, automotive and welding fields. “There are technical jobs that need to be filled,” she said. “These would all be primed to go in there.”
“What we are looking at tonight is either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as we want to apply for part I,” Fortier said.
“Probably the hardest part is going to be where to put this,” O’Neill said, as a number of decisions would be made in the future if the first application is approved by the DOE.
“The whole point of this is broadening your options when you leave,” Kirkpatrick said, as students could have the opportunity to graduate with certifications to work right away having already earned college credits.
In other business, James Bell of the board’s finance committee said the state has reduced its proposed 2017-18 funding for SAD 4 by more than $750,000 for the current academic year. “I will say this, the state robbed us again,” Bell said.
In the current budget the state allocation to the district is just under $2,800,500, which represented a decrease of approximately $214,700 (7.12 percent) from 2016-17.
Bell said the state would only be funding 39 percent of the SAD 4 spending plan. “So that leaves us with a lot of money to find because we are not at that 55 percent,” he said.
Kirkpatrick said she is working on three different budget scenarios, including “kind of an as is budget,” another with grades 7-8 moved up the street to Piscataquis Community Elementary School with TCTC programming housed at the secondary school to bring in revenue for SAD 4 and a third with grades 7-8 at the elementary building and high-schoolers tuitioned elsewhere.
“Hopefully by our next budget meeting we will have some solid numbers,” she said about the April 4 budget committee meeting — starting at 6 p.m. at the secondary school.

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