Approximately 300 Raymond residents went to the voting pole on Tuesday, August 14 to cast their ballot, voting either for or against the RSU14 withdrawal process. Out of the 301 individuals who voted, 171 voted for and 128 voted against, with two votes remaining blank.
Raymond Selectwoman and chair, Teresa Sadak, is a proponent of the withdrawal and was among the individuals who obtained signatures that put the issue to vote. “I am very happy with the results,” stated Sadak, “The next steps will be to notify the RSU and the Department of Education. Then we will put together a Withdrawal Committee and get to work.”
Sadak also stated that the main goal will be to focus on what is best for the students as they are the top priority. “If Raymond does go through with the final withdrawal, then we will have local control back and hopefully more parents [will] get involved,” she stated.
Sheila Bourque, a Raymond resident who attended the Special Town Meeting and public forum on Tuesday, July 31 to express her concerns regarding the RSU14 withdrawal, stated in an interview that she anticipates challenges during the withdrawal process. “The challenges I anticipate are based on my concerns regarding the withdrawal itself. The unknowns include debt assumption, special education, developing and staffing a school board and administrative staff, the added burden to existing Town staff, negotiation of the withdrawal agreement and the willingness of the Select Board and Raymond voters to invest in our schools.”
But now that the town has voted to begin the withdrawal process and a committee of local community members (to include outside consultants) will soon take place, Bourque is willing to offer her thoughts and become a positive part of the process. “My advice is to make sure that the committee has representatives from all segments of the Raymond community,” she began. “Individuals both for and against including families, seniors, young adults and summer residents. All have a vested interest in the results of the process.”
Bourque also stated that, if asked, she would consider serving on the committee.
Town Manager, Don Willard, said that the 22-step process of an RSU withdrawal will be quite extensive and it will take time to work things out. However, despite the lengthy process, positive change can take place. “This vote presents a significant opportunity to closely examine the past and present state of our local schools,” he began. “I am confident that through this exercise, a cogent plan will be formulated to move forward with a goal to provide local schools of excellence in keeping with the educational tradition of Raymond.”