AYER — Reacting to a recent Public Spirit headline that he said suggests the prospects for a three-town regional school district are fraught with potential “deal breakers,” interim Superintendent of Schools George Frost said that is not the case.
While he conceded that a member of Ayer’s Regionalization Committee may have used that term, Frost said it’s misleading to focus on it.
The public can learn more about the regionalization process, add their views and air concerns at a public forum set for Monday, Jan. 5 in the Middle-High School cafeteria.
Frost said he and the Regionalization Committee hope for a strong turnout.
Although the job of each town’s three-member committee is to negotiate the best deal possible for its constituents, the combined nine-member Ayer-Lunenburg-Shirley School Regionalization Planning Board has a common mission, he said. That mission is to draft a regionalization agreement that is financially fair to each town and enhances educational opportunities for students in all three towns. “Everyone at the table is committed” to that goal, Frost said in a recent interview.
Although “what-ifs” noted in the news article indicate the complexity of the negotiations, he said those at the table believe there are no insurmountable barriers.
“We’ve come a long way it’s a good working group,” Frost said.
In addition to three members from each town — appointed in accordance with state law — the three school superintendents and Shirley’s school business manager round out the table. And the state’s growing interest in a process that is now nearly two years along underscores the seriousness of the effort and may boost its chances for success, Frost said.
A recent meeting at the Massachusetts Statehouse spotlights that point, Frost said. State officials who met with the local regionalization team included representatives from the House Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Pam Resor and her elected successor, state Rep. James Eldridge; newly elected district state Rep. Jen Benson; the state commissioner and assistant commissioner of education; and the governor’s education secretary and his assistant.
The weighty line-up shows the state is paying close attention to the proposed ALS merger and hopefully means that it aims to help, Frost said.
It’s not the first such meeting and likely won’t be the last, he added.
That said, the path to regionalization isn’t all roses. There are issues to be worked out, Frost said, and an advisory group to Lunenburg’s School Committee has been appointed to explore “life without regionalization” scenarios that are the flip side of the issue. Such efforts represent the “due diligence” that is part of the big picture for all three towns.
Still, the overarching aim is to draft a regionalization agreement and all of the people at the table are committed to the three-town goal. The first priority is “what is best for the kids” and the board agrees on that. “It’s the right thing to do,” Frost said.
Regionalization board meetings are posted and public, held in each town on a staggered weekly schedule. The next is a working session on Saturday, Dec. 13 in the Lunenburg High School library.