May 24, 2020

SAD 32 to reapportion directors, change voting

ASHLAND — Communities belonging to SAD 32 have formed a committee to reapportion the district’s board of directors to reduce its size and govern it by the one-person one-vote principle.

The 18-member board, which represents Ashland, Garfield, Portage, Masardis and Oxbow, has been surrounded by controversy.

One superintendent left last year amid allegation of financial wrongdoing. A second superintendent left the district’s employment earlier this year in disagreement with board members and residents, apparently regarding the budget process.

To facilitate the budget and administrative process, Education Commissioner Eve Bither appointed neighboring SAD 1 Superintendent Gehrig Johnson acting superintendent. Charles Anderson, SAD 1’s business administrator, also has worked with the district on its budget needs.

According to a notice from Bither dated May 28, the residents of SAD 32 petitioned the commissioner asking for reapportionment proceedings after determining that the district was not in accordance with the one-person one-vote principle.

Bither set the first meeting of a reapportionment committee for June 4. The committee is scheduled to adopt a reapportionment plan within 90 days of the first meeting and no later than Sept. 2. Otherwise, the commissioner will prepare a plan, according to Bither’s notice.

During the first meeting, the committee agreed that an optimal board size would be five to nine members. It also was agreed that the district should be governed by the one-person one-vote, instead of the current weighted vote system.

Three plans of reapportionment were developed by the committee, with each plan employing the new voting principle and reducing the board size by five to 10 members.

Johnson has been directed to analyze the plan and seek an opinion from Bither regarding the legality of the plans under Maine law.

During the next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, at the Ashland High School cafeteria, the committee is scheduled to adopt a method of representation and determine the future board’s size.

Chairman of the committee is Peter Louridas of Ashland; Bob Sawyer of Ashland, vice chairman; and Joann Nelson of Portage, secretary.

Other members of the committee are Frank Martin, Ashland; Dalton Tibbetts, John Orcutt and Linda Orcutt, Garfield; Gerald Charette Jr. and Danny Higgins, Portage; John Craig, John Weeks and Vernon Craig, Masardis; and Jayne Wakefield, Andy Michalka and Dave Dow, Oxbow.

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