September 30, 2022

DESE Says Dighton-Rehoboth Amendment Required


The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) says both member towns need to approve an amendment to the regional school agreement before a K-8 withdrawal can occur.

In a letter dated August 1, Commissioner John Sullivan notes the amendment would be needed “only if one (or more) of the member towns approved the withdrawal of elementary grades K-8 from the District at Town Meeting under Section IX of the existing Agreement. Although Section IX allows for the withdrawal of grades K-8 from the District upon the approval of one member town, such a change would still constitute an amendment to the Agreement to reflect, at a minimum, the new grade configuration of the District.”

“As noted, all amendments to regional school district agreements are subject to the approval of the Commissioner of ESE under 603 CMR 41.03 (2) and amendments cannot be in effect unless approved by the Commissioner.”

The Rehoboth Special Town Meeting will be held Saturday at 1 pm at Francis Farm. The first warrant article is a vote to withdraw K-8. The second warrant article is the formation of a K – 8 school committee. Selectman Michael Deignan explained the article won’t be voted on if the K – 8 withdrawal is not approved.

A mailer calling for the withdrawal of K-8 was distributed to Rehoboth residents in July. Dighton-Rehoboth School Superintendent Bill Runey said the information in the mailer was “categorically false.”

“What I am concerned about is that there are various narratives that are floating around,” Runey added. “Some call this a de-regionalization while others say it is simply a withdrawal. There is talk of a prior statement from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) that this is something that DESE would not sanction. People are questioning whether or not the Regional Agreement applies.”

In his April 12 letter, Sullivan outlined the steps the two member towns have to take before the Commissioner of Education “would entertain an amendment to reconfigure the district and approve the creation of two new school districts.”

These include:
• Each town must submit to the Department a long-range education plan to document how it will serve and support its elementary and secondary school populations.
• The District must provide information to the Department to document how withdrawal will affect its Grade 9 – 12 student population and regional operations.
• Each long-range plan must address the requirements of 603 CMR 41.02 (2) as well as describe how each new entity will be governed and managed, how it will be funded, how the reconfiguration and separation will impact students, staff, and parents, how all outstanding obligations to the District will be met, and the fiscal implications on each district.

In 2021, the town of Rehoboth filed a lawsuit against the school district in an attempt to obtain financial information. The Board of Selectmen has been highly critical of the way the school department spends money. 

Deignan explained withdrawing K through 8 “doesn’t dissolve the district” but instead returns local control to the town of Rehoboth.


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