Yarmouth, Dennis Selectmen Invited to State Meeting on New Agreement Stalemate

Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School.

YARMOUTH – A pair of Selectmen from both Dennis and Yarmouth have been invited to attend a meeting tomorrow with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Malden.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the issues between the communities regarding a new Regional School Agreement.

A proposed agreement from the school committee was approved by Yarmouth at town meeting, but rejected by Dennis residents.

The proposed new regional school agreement would have lessened the burden for Yarmouth and increased costs for Dennis.

Yarmouth selectmen voted in January to sue the school district over the process used to win approval for the proposed $117 million regional middle school, which bypassed town meetings and passed by just 25 votes during a district-wide vote.

Officials in Yarmouth said they would drop the lawsuit if a new regional agreement is approved by both communities.

Yarmouth Selectman Erik Tolley opposed sending anyone to the state meeting and said it is a complete waste of time.

“You have no answers. You are walking into a meeting blind with no hopes of a positive outcome,” Tolley said.

The rest of the Yarmouth Board members thought it would be a good idea to attend the state meeting.

“We have no idea what the goal is, but I think it is far too important to not at least listen to what they are trying to offer,” said Selectman Tracy Post, who offered to attend the meeting. “I really just want to know what their plan is. I want to know what the goal is and what we are trying to achieve.”

Post said a lot of residents have urged the board to attempt mediation with Dennis.

“I think it would be hard for us not to at least attempt it,” she said. “I think the problem is that ultimately, regardless, it needs to pass in Dennis.”

Selectmen Mark Forest shared the concerns of Tolley and thought the town should be entitled to know what the meeting was about, what the purpose is and what expectations are. He also understands the view of Post.

“If this meeting in a broad sense can be construed as finding a way to achieve consensus, mediating, resolving differences then I think there would be value in that,” Forest said.

Forest believes the state should be facilitating support for the agreement that was proposed by regional school committee.

“I’m a little bit concerned about how our lack of presence could be interpreted as well,” Forest said.

Selectman Norman Holcomb said they need to talk with the people who are across the table, one way or another.

“I don’t see that kind of discussion coming about fruitfully at this stage from any of the parties in Dennis right now,” Holcomb said.

The proposal would have Dennis cover 35 percent of the costs of the proposed new regional middle school and gradually increase the town’s share of operating costs over the next five years to a fixed 65-35 split.

The major changes were made to how the communities share operating and capital costs.

Current operating costs are based on the number of students each town sends to district schools.

The new agreement would have used the foundation formula, which counts all students for whom the district is financially responsible, including charter and school choice students. The formula does not include private or parochial school students.

When the current agreement was approved 20 years ago charter and school choice did not exist.

The operation costs changes would also gradually increase Dennis’ share over the next five years. The proposed split for the 2019-2020 school year would have been 68 percent for Yarmouth and 32 percent for Dennis.

The Dennis share would have then increased by 1 percent each year until 2024 until the split was fixed at 65-35.

The proposed agreement would have also divided capital costs, such as new schools, at 65 percent for Yarmouth and 35 percent for Dennis.

The changes would have increase costs for Dennis as the current agreement is based on enrollment.

In April, the Massachusetts School Building Authority extended an original April 11 deadline for the school district to sign an agreement to receive $44 million in funding. That letter would require no pending legal action or a threat of a lawsuit related to the project.

That deadline was extended to the end of June.

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