BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Monument Valley Regional Middle School –Student Center
March 1, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.
School Committee: S. Bannon, A. Potter, J. St. Peter, D. Singer, A. Hutchinson, R. Dohoney, D. Weston,
B. Fields, S. Stephen, K. Piesecki
Administration: S. Harrison, P. Dillon
Staff/Public: B. Doren, M. Berle, K. Farina, S. Soule, K. Burdsall
List of Documents Distributed:
RECORDER NOTE: Meeting attended by recorder and minutes transcribed during the meeting and after the fact from live recording provided by CTSB. Length of meeting: 1 hr, 42 minutes.
CALL TO ORDER
Chairman Steve Bannon called the meeting to order immediately at 7pm.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The listing of agenda items are those reasonably anticipated by the chair, which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed, and other items not listed may be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. This meeting is being recorded by CTSB, Committee Recorder, members of the public with prior Chair permission and will be broadcast at a later date. Minutes will be transcribed and made public, as well as added to our website, www.bhrsd.org once approved.
- Dillon – there is all sorts of good news but we are skipping good news tonight to leave more room to talk about the budget. The first thing is, Amy is going to request to an exciting field trip around student centered learning. I hope you can approve it. She sent a nice memo about it. In her previous role she went with students annually for the last five years and we think students have a lot to say about school reform and improvements so to enlist students in this is really important. Amy can come up and talk about it if she wants but she doesn’t have to, is that School Center, Inc. has agreed to cover the costs associated with it. That is quite wonderful and generous of them.
- Overnight Field Trip – MMRHS to Rhode Island MOTION TO APPROVE THE OVERNIGHT FIELD TRIP FOR MMRHS – B. Fields Seconded: Potter Accepted: Unanimous
- Continued Discussion – FY19 Budget – P. Dillon – the committee asked us to come with a few things and be prepared to discuss other things. I think the first thing I would like to do if it is okay with the chair is to talk a little about the communications plan. That was one of the things people wanted some additional clarity on. I left something on the table for folks in the audience and I am handing it out as well to the members of the committee. It is just a one pager. Let me just talk you through this a little bit. The complexity of doing communications around a district with a $26 million budget and several hundred employees and 1,300+ students is large. Mostly I am doing the direct outreach to local media and I think I am pretty good at it and the local media is very supportive and write a lot about us, mostly very good news and occasionally harsher looks into what we are doing. I think it is good. What I would like to think of in this role is to really have three phases. The first part would be to bring in a consultant to analysis and map our existing approach; look at our assets and liabilities. We tried to do this once a few years ago and for a variety of reasons, that approach wasn’t as successful as I had hoped it would be. In Phase 1, having someone come in a doing an objective analysis of what our practices are, what we are communicating and how things work. In Phase 2, I would like to hire somebody locally to help us implement the plan that is developed in Phase I; to work with me and other staff, particularly in the case of the high school or maybe the middle school, students and to figure out a way to embed practices into our daily routines. My hope is to publically share students’ work and accomplishments, to set a bunch of common standards around the web, social media, print and other press. I would like to develop other materials in every possible way around recruiting students, staff, community, partners and then use this as a place to generate materials that we can funnel into separate work around grant writing and applications. Finally, in Phase 3, I see distributing those roles, having a number of people within the district taking this on in each building as well as in the district office. I would still play a role in authorizing or approving things before it become public. I wanted to do this in a way that was very much a valuable opportunity for revision and I would like to track all sorts of outcome measures including hits, the number of articles and pieces and the impact of this work on what we are doing. I hope that gives you a little more clarity on the communications piece. When we get to the next part, and Sharon put together a cool graphic and some number behind it, we can talk about this some more. I am happy to respond to any questions around the communications idea. Hutchinson – what is the timeline on it? P. Dillon – I think more than two weeks but much less than a year. Maybe four or six weeks. I think some of that work would have to be on site, but I think some of the work can be done by somebody offsite. R. Dohoney – The $25,000 captures all three of these phases? P. Dillon – yes. R. Dohoney – do you have a sense of how you break out Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3? P. Dillon – my gut is around ten in Phase 1, fifteen in Phase 2 and then over the years, I think the Phase 1 thing is a one time cost. Then in the second year, I may recommend, depending on how we are doing, something similar to the fifteen or something slightly less but eventually I hope for the work to become imbedded in our practices. R. Dohoney – I am a proponent of this because I have concerns about the amount that we spread you and the rest of the administration to thin and that time is taken away from you and Sharon and Kristi to do this type of work, particularly in light of our relationship with Shaker Mountain. Can you quantify how much of this work is currently performed by your or by other administration staff? P. Dillon – I think probably upwards of 70% of it is done by me though individually teachers and principals and other folks are very responsive to the media but I think when press releases get done when we reach out people, I am doing a lot of it but not all of it. The other thing we have tried to do with some success lately, as we shifted the good news to being a written document and less of a formal document, that become a very friendly, four page memo that we can then turn around and send to local media and they can use that as a starting point for stories then follow-up. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel everything there is something interesting. The media folks can pick and choose from some of that. R. Dohoney – let me ask you this, and it is going to sound critical, since we updated our website in the last year, who did most of it. P. Dillon – we have three webmasters at each building. It is a real growth area for us. That is our first impression. You get one chance to make a first impression. I think we have a lot of work to do there. There is some neat information there but it is not as well organized as it can be and we live in a world where webpages are the portal for more important things. I don’t have the time to do that. It is neither my expertise nor can I have the most impact on it. A. Potter – I think my concern would be … I have questions about the sustainability of this approach. Currently we have basically a roles-based communication strategy. There are three web people across the three schools. It seems problematic to not have a single point of contact around communication strategy and on a day-to-day basis, working the problem as opposed to a strategy that gets laid out for a year then somehow it becomes a game of telephone over the years maintaining that strategy. P. Dillon – I think that is valid and part of bringing in an outside person will help us articulate that. This is my best thinking at the moment and part of my thinking is sort of many hands, little work but to set up that kind of approach, there needs to be some structures and systems to support that. B. Fields – want to other districts do in this regard and what do they offer as pay? P. Dillon – there are not a lot of models of this within Berkshire County. There are more models outside of the county that are interesting. This is not a full-time position, this is a consultant thing. Before the meeting I was talking to some folks, and there are very few organizations with a $26 million budget that don’t invest some resources into doing this. It is almost bizarre that we haven’t to date. I can come back at a future meeting with an analysis of what other school districts do. Very big systems obviously have whole press offices and that is not what I am asking for. I am asking for a very small piece of that. When we get to the budget thing, I have a very creative way to fund it that I think you will appreciate. B. Fields – my second thing is, I think I said it at the last meeting, I don’t see why students as an intern experience, young in their high school career in regards to, I know you wouldn’t want a senior but there are people at the high school that are freshmen and sophomores who would certainly be able to do some of the technological work, that this position entails from looking at print digitally, images, video, etc. I am sure there are kids would be willing and able to do this. I’ll throw that out to the committee. P. Dillon – if you look at my first sentence of the Phase 2, I acknowledged your suggestion and I am actually psyched about it. I have this vision of one of the most powerful things we could do is share examples of students doing meaningful work and in a context of everybody does a photo release in all the schools at the beginning of each year, we should take really neat pictures and videos and digital media of that and we should share that in a deliberate and thoughtful way. I think students are well positioned to do that.
- The next thing, is digging into this really cool graphic that Sharon put together. You asked us to come up with $250,000 worth of changes and we did that and raised you up to $318,000. What I would like to do is have Sharon talk through the graphic and then after that I will talk through some of the implications and you will probably have some questions about this. While I never like to make reductions, I think together, Sharon and I and the administrative team, the principals, came up with a range of things that are able to lessen the tax burden on our citizens and do it in ways that are not particularly impactful on learning and teaching. Almost all of these I am comfortable with. One I am less comfortable with. We are here to share them and talk about them. Harrison – you will see this is broken into three sections. I just have A and B and I will explain that when we get to the second page. A is where we are recommending reductions not to be reinstated because we believe these can be out without much effect. The first one is the additional stipend reduction related to the co-curricular athletic director next year and this is the amount for the student activity account manager. We had already reduced the budget by a little over $20,000 for the athletic director and assistant athletic director lines. The second one is the communications specialist which we are recommending to take out of the operating budget and to use shared services revenue for that amount. We would use that through a different fund. We have carried, historically, a small amount of money in a high school speech line in anticipation of any need. Typically, speech needs are addressed before students get to high school so we are comfortable that that can now come out. Section B, our reductions, you will see on the left side, the order of reductions would start with the high school maintenance, paraprofessional, after-school bus, elementary school teacher, and then if you were to reinstate that, we would go from the bottom up, the elementary school teacher up to the high school maintenance. After speaking with Steve Soule when we were looking for coming up with $250,000, we were looking at the $116,000 we put in and we see that there were two places that were absolutes for next year. One is $25,000 for a handicapped bathroom, which is a requirement; then $15,000 for the science equipment. Based on my conversation with Steve, he is pretty comfortable that a good deal of the smaller repairs, such as the drains, sinks, exhaust fans, he can do within his own professional services budget. The middle school paraprofessional, we are looking to reassign an existing paraprofessional. We believe we won’t have that need for one student next year, so we will reassign one. The after-school bus, which has been requested annually but students and families, we put it in this year. We had it many years ago and haven’t had it. Given our increasing needs of our families, we thought that this would be the time that we should put that in to supplement the after-school bus for the Project Connection program. R. Dohoney – wait a minute. To supplement … this is not for Project Connection. This is in addition to that. S. Harrison – yes, this would be for everyone. The elementary teacher, we are recommending reducing second grade to three sections based on enrollment as you have seen in the material we gave you. However, while we are looking to take that out to reach the $250K, we would recommend maintaining the funding for a second Pre-K program. We do have to provide those services. If there are any questions, Kate is prepared to answer those. That would be the total reduction of $237,383. Based on the renegotiated tuition agreements, it is approximately $6,421 and that is based on enrollment and the new tuition rate. We went through the final choice before the lottery list and it looks like we will have another $75,000 there for a total increase in review of $81,421 and a total impact on the budget of $318,804. P. Dillon – in a moment, we will look at the second page. Again, we can do all of this if you want us to. If you were to put something back, our strong recommendation would be to put back the elementary position which might afford us some flexibility, particularly around a second Pre-K class. As you know or as you may not remember, we run Pre-K classes for two groups of students. There are students with IEPs who those services are mandated for. There are kids who are peer partners for those kids. An analysis of our numbers, and you can have eight peer partners to seven kids with special needs as identified in their IEPs. As we look at our numbers now, it looks like we will likely be obligated to offer two sections. Ideally, we would keep those resources there. R. Dohoney – the two Pre-Ks are in the budget right now as we speak? S. Harrison – no. R. Dohoney – it’s one Pre-K in the budget as we speak. S. Bannon – I think a follow up to Rich’s questions, so you are saying for your fourth choice for reductions would be the elementary teacher but you strongly recommend we don’t do that because we need that second Pre-K? P. Dillon – yes. R. Dohoney – so we aren’t going to have it? So you are moving the money from the elementary school teacher that is in the budget now to this Pre-K teacher that is not in the budget? If we agree in cuts, we have to cut them both. S. Harrison – right. P. Dillon – but you could take the 314 from the 318 and still get to a pretty high number and have your cake and eat it too. S. Harrison – to see how you can do that, if you go to the second page. In anticipating that we want to see what this will look like, we have four, you can have more options, I put four just based on the discussion. Option 1, this is why they are numbered A & B. In all four, you see the additional amount for choice and tuition, the 84,221 into the budget. Option 1 is we take all the cuts above that line for A and B and you see where we get to with a percentage increase with the amount of the change. Option 2, choice and tuition, revenue less A. Those two things we are recommending come out of the budget and not be put back in. Option 3 is additional revenue less A; add back the teacher and Option 4 is the addition choice and tuition less those things in A and out of B only the paraprofessional is out. (audience member inaudible) D. Weston – can we just clarify for the audience, I think we are saying….we have x number of teachers. The current strategy is there is not as much a need in second grade for a teacher. The current plan is to move that teacher to Pre-K. By eliminating that we aren’t exactly eliminating the second grade teacher; we are eliminating the transfer of that position to Pre-K. S. Harrison – we are eliminating one elementary school staff. P. Dillon – there is the possibility that where kids are, what happens, where they land, and we might come back to you on this, it might change. What we are proposing is, we can meet the needs of kids with the people we have though we are reserving the right; it could be one grade, it could be more. We don’t know yet. Kate, do you want to speak to this at all? J. St. Peter – can I just get a point of clarification? So right now, as far as early K and Pre-K, how many early K and Pre-K teachers do we have? One of each? S. Harrison – we have one Pre-K and two EK. J. St. Peter – so next year, what was the original proposal? To keep one EK and…. S. Harrison – the original budget? J. St. Peter – yes. S. Harrison – the original budget has one Pre-K, two EK. But then after, we got more numbers which Kate will talk to; we realized that we may be in a position where a second Pre-K may be needed. J. St. Peter – so going forward this is proposing two Pre-K and two EK? S. Harrison – correct. S. Bannon – there are some semantics here. This is somewhat proposing that we cut the position all together but if we add it back in, it would be added in as two Pre-K and two EK. P. Dillon – tentatively. K. Burdsall – just in terms of our Pre-K numbers, we have run since 2014-15 since I have been in this position, we have run our Pre-K full every year which means we have had seven students in there with disabilities and we have had eight kids in there that are peer partners. With that though, those are not the only students who turned three and were identified with disabilities. We have other kids out there that have been found with disabilities eligible for special education who may be in Head Start or other preschools come and drive to us, or if they are in Head Start they walk across the hall and they still get services from us. Just in terms of looking at where we have been, in 2014-15 we had nine referrals. In 15-16 we had eight referrals and in 16-17 we had eighteen referrals. Today date this year, we have eleven and we still have several months left of the school year. Projected already for next year, we have about ten. By October 1st of next year, how we will start the year with the kids we already have in Pre-K, many kids move on but based on their age, some of them will stay for another year and based on their needs as well. Our projections are, based on our Pre-K we have right now, we will be full by October 1st. Any referrals that come in after October 1st, we have to take care of those kids. S. Harrison – when you say next year, you are talking next school year? K. Burdsall – sorry, yes. 2018-19. R. Dohoney – and when you say take care, I know what you mean but explain what you mean. K. Burdsall – if there are kids that have very mild needs and can do drive in services that is very easy. They just come in and get their services. If they are kids with really significant disabilities that need a special program, we won’t have a program for them. We are legally obligated to do that and without question, we will have kids that will need that kind of intense programming. Our numbers, as you look across the board, they have increased every year. R. Dohoney – we are obligated to educate everybody at five years old. If you have a disability, we are legally obligated to educated at three years old? K. Burdsall – Correct. I have the program standard, the book. It is like 80 pages. I can send you the link of you want to look at it. R. Dohoney – no, that’s what we have you for. S. Bannon – any other questions on that? R. Dohoney – so if we do this, we are adding eight more peer buddy spots, correct? K. Burdsall – yes. R. Dohoney – and what is our right now count that we project for EK? K. Burdsall – I cannot answer that question. M. Berle – Our biggest projected cohort based on census data is four year olds next year. I think it does make sense to think about positions a little bit flexibility right now. It could be that we need two PKs and two one EK and a mixed four/five as a second one but I think all of that will come in for a landing in the next few months. We certainly have the numbers in the early childhood….R. Dohoney – so right now in EK, we have two sections with one of 17 and one of 14, correct? M. Berle – yes, but we had a number of people who moved out. It wasn’t 14 at the beginning of the year. R. Dohoney – yeah, I know, you got burned on that. If it was the same, we would take 8 of those from the 14 class, move them as peer partners then move the other 6 or 3, or maybe some people don’t get turned down for EK which happens every year, and we don’t need two EK teachers. You and I have had this conversation before. M. Berle – I think right now what we are doing is trying to make sure that we have the opportunity to meet demonstrated needs and as long as I am in the picture, I am happy to report back about whether there is a need that we don’t need if we might shift later. K. Burdsall – there are students in EK with disabilities. M. Berle – many. K. Burdsall – so it isn’t just peer partners going in there. If you think of two PK’s with 8 peer partners and 16 kids going into EK, there are still other kids with disabilities going into EK as well. M. Berle – I think strategically, having as many kids ready for KDG as possible is a long-term strategy that is really valuable. R. Dohoney – I agree 100%. J. St. Peter – so this past year is the first year, we have had two EK’s is that correct? M. Berle – that is correct. J. St. Peter – before that we have always had one EK and this year two? M. Berle – part of it as our numbers have gone down, our census numbers for some of the older grades, we are seeing more kids who are younger and where we want to maintain enrollment it seems like a good idea to support that. We have a very high number of four year olds in the community for next year.
- Dillon – questions or reactions or things you are wondering on with this? B. Fields – on the high school maintenance, the proposal is $15,000 for science equipment; I thought we were looking at and I don’t know if Steve talked about this, one of the issues in the science lab is lack of mobile learning stations and making things be able to be moved. What is the status of that? We are going to give them new equipment but they aren’t going to be able to work with the existing lab benches that they have. If we have all this new equipment, I thought part of it was not just new equipment but a new structure in the labs itself where kids can move around. I don’t know whether the science department….R. Dohoney – this does not include the mobile lab benches. S. Harrison – no. B. Fields – it sounds like to me that it is out because it is a $40,000 reduction and that would be what I thought we were considering in regards to the $116,000 part of that a new environment in the lab not just an increase in science equipment. I know they added, they wanted in their line item $19,000 so we are adding $15,000 more for science equipment which I think is really neat and that follows what Rich said at one of the earlier meetings. What about the learning stations? We are going to give them new equipment but not have new learning…we are still in the 1960s with stationary benches. I just wanted to bring that up. S.Bannon – what our hope is tonight, we will have a little more discussion; we will have the public hearing and have a lot more discussion and hopefully come with a recommendation for our vote next week on the reductions or not that we want to see. If we have any other questions now, ask them, otherwise I think we will open the public hearing, allow people to speak and that should generate more discussion. Then hopefully we will entertain some sort of motion so that we give a clear direction to Peter and Sharon to come back next week with a number. Any questions or comments on that?
- Bannon – The public hearing – anyone that wants to speak, please come to the microphone. There will give their name and address; they have three minutes to speak and we will listen to that, close the public hearing then we will continue our discussion. MOTION TO OPEN THE PUBLIC HEARING: A. Potter Seconded: B. Fields Accepted: Unanimous
- Michelle Loubert, Housatonic, MA – First of all, I would respectfully request that for a hearing like this, a different format of seating be arranged or miking; I couldn’t hear anything that was said at the other end other than the first question that was asked, I have not idea what that question was. I think maybe design a different presentation than this so everyone can hear. My other comment is, Mr. Fields had mentioned about internship, helping with some of the work at the school. I would encourage a conversation with the Town of Great Barrington where the town offices have used interns quite successfully in my opinion. I was always very impressed with some of the work that the interns did. I, personally, like to see more conversation between Berkshire Hills Regional School District and the towns that are involved. I have lived in the Town of Great Barrington so that is why my focus is on that. My other issue or question has do with the director of co-curricular athletics. I may have missed a meeting, there are so many meetings going on; I see there was a job description on the table. Could you update me on that. Is that still in consideration for budget approval? Bannon – that is still in the budget because we haven’t taken anything out and that isn’t recommended by the administration for removal. M. Loubert – my question being this; I was here on a February 15th meeting where I spoke and asked some questions and then the next day, I happen to be on SchoolSpring and I see the job advertised. For me, the Town of Great Barrington will tell you the same thing; it is the process I watch. So as a taxpayer, I am saying that BHRSD is so confident that this budget is going to be approved that they are already advertising this position. Also the position did not say on SchoolSpring pending budget approval. If I could have an explanation why the school district is advertising a position that the taxpayers have not yet approved. P. Dillon – the posting on the website does say contingent upon budget approval and I wanted it to be out there so we a candidate pool. While it is slightly unfair to the candidates if it is not approved in the budget, then I would reach out to people and say that it was not approved. M. Loubert – I have it here and I did not see that. As a matter of fact, I printed it out the first time I saw it and printed it out before I came to the meeting. It is possible that I missed that language. P. Dillon – I will pull it up and read the exact language but…A. Rex – I also looked at it the day after it was posted and that language wasn’t in there so I called Doreen Twiss to have her update it. S. Bannon – so you may have read it Michelle before it got corrected. M. Loubert – Just before I got here, I looked and did not see it again. I have the printout. I may be missing it. SchoolSpring, in my opinion, is not the most user friendly site to use, so it is possible it is in there and I just missed it. It stood out like a sore thumb to me the day after February 15th. I do know it was in the Berkshire Eagle and it did say pending budget approval in there. But on SchoolSpring which is accessed by many people, is it there? P. Dillon – on the district website it does say pending. M. Loubert – I am saying SchoolSpring. R. Dohoney – it was a typo then. No one is suggesting it is not by budget approval. More importantly, every teacher in our school and all our administrators, are living year to year. That is the flaw with this whole process. There are teachers in our school district right now who may not be here next year pending budget approval. M. Loubert – personally, myself, I don’t know what Mr. Dohoney’s comment has to do with what I am saying. I was just questioning that one position. S. Bannon – if it is not on SchoolSpring, we will make sure it is added in, but it is on our website and in the Eagle. M. Loubet – Again, I am just asking a simple question. S. Bannon – thank you Michelle. Anyone else?
- Jennifer Tabakin, I am the Town Manager of Great Barrington. I live at 1084 Main Street. I am also a parent in this school and I am a big fan of the school system. We think it is excellent. I have a couple of things I just wanted to bring to the attention of the board and I am going to urge the board to not vote on this budget at this meeting or the upcoming meeting. Instead, come and meet with the Town of Great Barrington and see if we can work on something that will work within the framework of the Great Barrington constraint of Proposition 2 ½. Bannon – Just to be clear. It is 45 days before the town meeting and we are voting next Thursday. J. Tabakin – I would like to finish. S. Bannon – that is fine. I just want to make sure everyone realizes that we have had this discussion. J. Tabakin – I get my time on this and I am speaking to the whole committee. I asked by a couple of committee members to bring this issue to the whole committee. S. Bannon – in public? J. Tabakin – yes. S. Bannon – you were asked in public to come here? D. Weston – I think she means by our school committee. J. Tabakin – I am happy to sit down if that what the chair prefers. S. Bannon – no go right ahead. Please speak. M. Loubert – as a citizen, I would like to hear her. S. Bannon – I said please speak. I agree Michelle. J. Tabakin – We need to have a budget for both the school and the town that works within our levy limit. We have a proposition 2 ½ which is a Massachusetts law that prohibits or has a limit to how much we can increase. In the past years, the school increase was able to be offset by decreases in the town budget. At this point, because we also tapped our reserves and made additional cuts, we don’t have that ability, we don’t have a window of levy. We are up against our capacity. That is a concern and it has implications because in order to bring it within the levy it requires a trade off between town services and school services. Town services are equally important to us as parents, as residents in the community. As school services, I would personally not want to see cuts in any area. I think we need both an excellent school system, fire, department of public works and police and other services that the town provides. I believe there is a way to really work this out both for this year but also in light of what you are working on this year being something that is going to be setting a precedent for the next couple of years. If we are making commitments at this point, it is important for those making policy positions to be understanding of what the implications are financially and weighing the options. I really think we are looking at things together and we can share what it is but there is a problem. I am not going to be shy about raising the problem so that people can make sure we are doing what we can to solve the problem and sit down and meet and work on things. We can get into a framework where we can set some targets for setting up a process that will work and work toward that together. I think that is essential both for the success of the school but for assuring that the commitments that you are making to teachers, to others, that are backed up with the funds for this year, for next year and the year after; that we structure our investments in capital assets in a way that results in a level debt structuring so that doesn’t impact the taxpayers. That we have similar policies on the use of some of our reserves and some of our special funds and we also look for ways to increase revenue. There is no magic solution but right now I am flagging a problem. I think it would be a mistake to go forward without really understanding the implications of some of the decisions here that are going to be impacting the town budget. I am happy to discuss this more with anyone or go over any details of the Great Barrington budget. We are up on our levy capacity and that is a concern. Thank you. S. Bannon – if anyone wants to ask the Town Manager questions, they are welcome. R. Dohoney – so the request to delay our vote, which is not legally possible anyway, is that your request or is that a request of the Board of Selectmen? J. Tabakin – that is my request as Town Manager. I am recommending that because I think it would be beneficial for the budget for the town and I think it would be beneficial for the school committee. While I understand you have a 45 day deadline, perhaps there is a way to work within that with everybody’s schedules. At the same time, we also have to work within the levy capacity and I am assuming that most people would not want to go for a type of scenario that would require an override. I think you have two rules that you need to comply with. I don’t know which rule will rule in terms of the deadline or working within the levy capacity. I think that the cuts that are made, I think it is a well thought out plan. We just need to make the numbers work. I am continuing to work on my budget. We are making changes but I would really like to make sure that everybody is very informed. S. Bannon – any other questions? Thank you Jennifer. Anyone else? MOTION TO CLOSE THE PUBLIC HEARING – A. Potter Seconded: B. Fields Accepted: Unanimous
- Bannon – let’s continue our discussion. Don’t be shy. R. Dohoney – as a procedural point. I understand that we are not voting tonight. S. Bannon – we are not voting on the final budget. R. Dohoney – do we have to start with a motion to approve and then we make amendments from there? Is there going to be our informal consensus until Peter comes back with a final project that reflects whatever we voted on? I think either way is fine. S. Bannon – there will be a formal vote to come back with a final product. D. Weston – does anybody know when the first town meeting is? S. Harrison – the first Monday in May. S. Bannon – so May 7th would be the Great Barrington Town Meeting. D. Weston – what is our drop dead date for our budget? We could vote as late as, by my calculations, March 15th. Being realistic that we are not going to have meetings on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. S. Bannon – I think that is right. So that is an extra seven days. I will not be here on the 15th but that doesn’t mean that the committee can’t vote then. We have always done it the week before. R. Dohoney – you have to because if you don’t get a vote…we have had a final budget go to a 5:5 vote before. D. Weston – you run the risk of violating that law if you don’t get it done by the 8th. You have to post a meeting how many days ahead of time? S. Bannon – 48 hours. R. Dohoney – our budget has been posted on five posted meetings of the school committee. The finance committee has met 11 times on budget related things. Our finance committee is made up of a subset of our school committee so those of us on it go to these meeting and those. Unlike the Board of Selectmen, we are not paid. There was a lot of opportunities to discuss their budget publically. We are happy to see a majority of the selectboard here last week; two of whom made good public comments. I think the process is pretty well closed. I have been going back and forth with Jennifer. I know she has talked with some Great Barrington members and we are going to try to get together tomorrow. At this point, I don’t see any point in continuing the vote. S. Bannon – that is a school committee decision. D. Weston – I just wanted to understand it fully. S. Bannon – I would entertain any motion from a member. Before us, we have a series of reductions which is larger than we requested which we are not going to complain about. We need some input from the school committee, not necessarily a motion yet, but some discussion on the feeling. R. Dohoney – there has to be more stipends. D. Weston – you are eating away tiny, tiny pieces. R. Dohoney – ok, I won’t waste time with that. I agree. D. Weston – I am going to make a motion for discussion. MOTION THAT THE SUPERINTENDENT AND BUSINESS MANAGER COME BACK WITH A BUDGET TO VOTE ON MARCH 8TH THAT IS DEFINED BY OPTION 3 – D. Weston Seconded: A. Potter Accepted: 8:1
- Discussion on Option 3 – numerous people talking and review Option 3; P. Dillon – the reduction less the additional revenue is $276,579. Bannon – discussion on the motion. R. Dohoney – I am very torn on the elementary school teacher. We had a population shift that the administration has determined we don’t need a teacher for. I don’t understand why that gets a match with the PK/EK programs. We had three or four years ago a comprehensive review and everyone was set with what he had and it always seems that we make changes to the PK program the minute another nickel slips away. I would like to fully fund a comprehensive PK program but we don’t do that. S. Harrison – are you speaking PK or EK? Because PK is mandated. R. Dohoney – I am just speaking EK, whatever is KDG and younger. If we are not 100% sure and we are not taking as much out of E&D as some of us want, we can handle an emergency in July if we get more kids than we need. I agree to take a riskier budget approach and not budget the teacher now and if there is a need, there is a need rather than a placeholder for the money. I think it is a close call either way. We don’t know. Clearly, Kate and Mary are trying to make sure they are in a position to do what they need to do legally and is best for the students. S. Harrison – just to follow up on that, while we may have the E&D, should we need to use it, that would be considered an increase to our operating budget which would require town votes. R. Dohoney – so if we were to transfer money out of E&D in July….S. Harrison/S. Bannon – it requires a town meeting vote. S. Harrison – because we are increasing our operating budget that require formal votes by the towns. R. Dohoney – is that the one where we send the notice and they can say they are voting or not voting? S. Harrison – no, this is an actual vote. P. Dillon – which then has associated costs. I don’t remember what they are. R. Dohoney – I feel like the line is here and Mary and Kate are on one side and I am a little bit on the other side and no one is really sure what to do. D. Weston – my two cents thrown in is that I think it is widely accepted in education that you get the most bang for your buck the sooner your address needs and it is probably the most efficient way to spend money to deal with an increasingly challenging population and maybe a needy population for a whole slew of reasons that children are needy. If you are looking at it as a dollar and cents turn, that is where you want to spend your money. Mary and Kate have been very consistent and uniform in presenting this and I am in full agreement with them that this is the time to try to deal with issues. Not first grade, not third grade and certainly not high school. A. Potter – I agree with that Dan and I am certainly on their side of the line. R. Dohoney – I think we should leave the school bus in. J. St. Peter – a quick point of clarification, so the paraprofessional from the middle school; it looks like a 1:1 is being aged out so that would free up that para? S. Harrison – that paraprofessional will be free based on the student. J. St. Peter – so that position is not going to be reduced? S. Harrison – right because earlier we were not aware of this situation. R. Dohoney – a procedural question for the chair is if I want to put the after school bus back in, should I just let the motion go and then I can separately make a motion on that? S. Bannon – you can make an amendment to this motion and that would be the cleanest way to do it. R. Dohoney – ok, so supposed everyone is in support of Dan’s motion, but wouldn’t be if the after school bus was added back in. S. Bannon – so make an amendment and then we are back to Dan’s original motion. MOTION TO AMEND THE MOTION TO ADD THE AFTER SCHOOL BUS INTO THE BUDGET – R. Dohoney Seconded: A. Potter Motion Fails: 1:8
- Bannon – ok, we are only discussing the amendment to adding the after school bus back in. My concern there is unfortunately I have been here too long and I think I remember when the after school bus were originally cut as part of a budget process and as much as they are needed, this is not the year to add it back. I always get antsy when three, five or ten years down the road, we add things back in that we cut. We are still having budget problems. I am not blaming anyone. The budget is just the way it is. The Town Manager expressed her opinion and costs in Great Barrington and the district are rising and we have to find somewhere to reduce. As much as I would like to see the after school bus and other things too, I just don’t think it is the right time to do it. A. Potter – it is noted that is has annually been requested by students and families. Do we have that quantified somewhere? R. Dohoney – I can tell you from the cuts that we have done since I have been on the school committee, it is the only one people continue to complain about. Everything else is just water under the bridge. A. Potter – it seems to me it is still antidotal. When I see something like that, I like to see some sort of quality. That is the cheapest way to move something through a process like this. D. Weston – is that bus fall under the Chapter 71 money that we get reimbursement for? S. Harrison – no it does not. D. Weston – we are paying the whole amount on that. Is that one single bus or multiple buses at that time? S. Harrison – we would do similar to what we are doing for Project Connection where we would have a couple of buses and there would be group stops. S. Stephen – as Andy said, it has been quantified so do we have any idea how many students it would affect or benefit? B. Fields – do we know how many students are currently on this run? A. Potter – there is no run. S. Bannon – are you talking about Project Connection? S. Stephen – I am just referring to this extra line in the budget for $36,000 for extra school bus. How many students would actually be utilizing it? S. Bannon – do we have a projection of how many student would utilize it this point? P. Dillon – it is hard to know because the people may say they are going to use it then not use; people may not start using it until we offer it. It is a tough one to unpack. D. Weston – we would run this after sports practices? If you add it up what everybody spends on gas driving back and forth to get their kids, it is probably a savings for the community as a whole but I don’t know if the district wants to save everyone else money. It is also good for the environment. S. Harrison – it was also in consideration that demographics are shifting so greatly that we have a big need in our community for this kind of transportation; families that are working two jobs, there are children that cannot participate in after school activities unless it is Project Connection because they don’t have transportation. That was really our thought. R. Dohoney -would be be available to middle school and high school students? S. Harrison – yes. Certainly if we discover after a couple of weeks that no one is riding because we would save money. R. Dohoney – oh, so you could cancel mid-year and … S. Harrison – it would be on an as needed basis. Basically we would run it five days a week but if nobody rides it, we wouldn’t offer it. It is not like regular bus runs where the contract is for a specific number of runs. S. Stephen – so what would be the criteria to cancel it? If you had 10 people riding it; 5 people riding it? That is something we would really need to know. P. Dillon – Sharon can you reminded people about how many, if we are using a regular sized bus, how many high school aged kids can ride. S. Harrison – 55 high school and middle school children can ride on a bus. S. Bannon – just to be clear, if we cancelled the bus the money would go into E&D for the next year. S. Harrison – correct. S. Bannon – just so everyone is clear. It is not saving any money in the budget magically halfway through the year. R. Dohoney – the money wouldn’t it be wasted. S. Bannon – I have no doubt that the bus would be used. I just don’t know if we can afford it. P. Dillon – knowing that a bus has 55 spaces on it, is there a number that the school committee would be comfortable with in terms of the average ridership to warrant doing it? 20, 30? D. Weston – I really trust the administration to know the numbers and to know the circumstances of those students riding it. If you have a small number of students who are riding it but that is the only way they can access some of these activities, I am very supportive of that. If we have a bunch of people riding it and it is just because parents don’t want to come get their kids and they want to do something fun, that is a different situation. I think we have a number of students that can’t access stuff because people are working or the other child is someplace else. Even if it is not a big number a see support for those wanting to use it. S. Bannon – I agree with everything Dan says. However, it is a little premature to decide how many kids can be riding on a bus. So we have an amendment to the motion which is to add back the $36,000 which would reduce the savings from Dan’s original motion from $240,579. J. St. Peter – In a perfect world, I would love to be able to support all of these that we are cutting out. I personally can’t justify an after school bus and leave out all of the cuts to the science equipment. That is an in school activity that is critical to our academics and I think if anything should be put back first, it should be more money into the science lab. I would be happy to have both the bus and the labs but if I had to prioritize them, the science labs would be number one. I appreciate the hardships that it does cause but I think the academic aspects of the science labs outweigh the benefits of the school bus. S. Bannon – I will also say that I cannot support the amendment because I just feel that the $36,000 is better reducing our budget. As much as we need it, this is not the year to do it. I understand the thought.
- Harrison – the increase to the gross operating with Option 3 would be 2.7%; the net operating budget 2.64% increase with a total net assessment of member towns of 3.16%. The change to each town for Great Barrington would be 5.39% at $825,900; a decrease of 4.7% to Stockbridge at $144,262; a decrease of .32% to West Stockbridge for $9,287. S. Bannon – I think this is a strong budget but I am really not happy with – this is kind of like the school choice scenario where people say we have to go to the state and get more than $5,000. This is a scenario where the minimum local contribution and the way it treats our regional district just isn’t right because if we had taken the increase of 3.16% and divided it without the minimum local contribution, or in some other fashion, it would be a fine increase, it would pass all three towns. There would probably be no discussion because although it is a big number, it is still 3% of a budget which is a reasonable increase. I represent all three towns. I live in Great Barrington but elected by all three towns and the effect it has on any one of the towns we have to look at. The effect it has on Great Barrington not of our own making is more than it should. To be saying to Stockbridge you can have $150,000 reduction while Great Barrington is having the same increase….Sharon I am going to ask you to come back and we can see the figure and I can agonize some more, what would it be if we used last years minimum local contribution? I know it makes no sense but….we have to figure out a solution to this and I don’t know that there is one. P. Dillon – there are two things in play, not for this budget year obviously and maybe not for next year, but maybe for the year after, the rural sparsity aid conversation continues so we will see what happens with that and then Chip Elitzer’s proposal has made some progress so something might happen with that. S. Bannon – Chip’s has gotten further than I thought. I applaud him for continuing to move on that. That is into a subcommittee now I think. Normally, I would say wow, we have a 3% increase; this is a great budget. J. St. Peter – previously you said if our budget and the Town of Great Barrington’s budget were approved at what they were before, they would be over by $29,000? S. Bannon – yes, I think it was around $27,000. Jennifer came to the selectboard and finance committee a week ago with $160,000 reduction and we have asked the administration to come back with another $200,000. I am not saying we are going to accept those but that is what is coming back for Wednesday night. P. Dillon – this puts us well under the levy limit. S. Bannon – we will not be over the levy limit at this point. That doesn’t mean we should applaud but. Jennifer, you are welcome to speak if you want to. (not at microphone, inaudible). S. Bannon – I thought that when we made the $160,000 that put us under the levy limit anyway. R. Dohoney – I would like to address the selectboard; we just made $276,000 in adjustments to lower what we are doing. To equate for that in town cuts you guys would need to cut $395,000. Every dollar that we cut, roughly 70 of that hits the Great Barrington taxpayers. In the Great Barrington school committee partnership, you guys need $395,000 in cuts to equal us. S. Bannon – I look at it just the opposite. If we make $300,000 in cuts, only 70% of that hits the Town of Great Barrington. R. Dohoney – 100% of your cuts hits the taxpayers and 70% of ours. S. Bannon – correct. R. Dohoney – so apples to apples, the school committee cuts, the selectboard cuts. You guys have to do $395,000 if you want to match what we did here. S. Bannon – and we are proposing $360,000. R. Dohoney – we have cut every year you guys asked. S. Bannon – we are not going to get into a Great Barrington discussion right now but I will say that the other thing is the percentage increase in Great Barrington because it is a smaller budget it is different than the percentage increase here because it is a large budget. Any other discussion? We will come back with a motion next Thursday. The school committee can still choose to make other motions at a public meeting next Thursday. R. Dohoney – I am going to get a motion passed at one of these meeting by the way. Last year, everybody shot down my motions. S. Bannon – I understand that but remember we got a huge increase in transportation when the senator retired so maybe as your final vote some year you will get something passed. P. Dillon – is there any other additional information the school committee wants in advance of next week’s meeting? S. Bannon – that is really important, either right now or as an email to Peter because if we vote next Thursday which is the plan, then to ask questions then could be problematic in getting an accurate answer. R. Dohoney – I will say this, if there is going to be a motion on the table about the science labs, I am going to need more information from somebody. I don’t know why we started at $116,000; I don’t know why we are down to $76,000; I don’t know where $15,000 came from. I am hearing from Bill and from Jason that $15,000 is not reflective of what the school committee sentiment was at the last meeting. B. Fields – Sharon, in regards to the high school maintenance, we could take money from E&D and apply that to equal $116,000 or did I hear that it has to be a town vote to transfer money from E&D. S. Harrison – no, if you do it now as part of the budget, then it goes through as part of the regular budget. If you do it after the town meeting, after July 1, then you vote.
- Policy Sub Committee: Bannon – we are in March; David Adler is due to be here in June and I know Amy has worked on this so between now and June, let’s at least have a discussion. P. Dillon – we will and I have spoken to David about this. This is about the valedictorian/salutatorian thing. There is a subcommittee working on it. J. St. Peter – I will bring it to a motion at the least before David comes. Then we can go from there. It has been two years.
- Building and Grounds Subcommittee: N/A
- Superintendent’s Evaluation Subcommittee: N/A
- Technology Subcommittee: Next meeting is scheduled for March 12th at 4pm in Stockbridge.
- Finance Subcommittee: Fields – I would like to have Jennifer come to the meeting of the Finance Subcommittee and go into further depth as to what Great Barrington is facing and I think it would be lucidating for the members from Stockbridge and West Stockbridge to join as well. I don’t think we have anything to lose by listening to the people who are paying the most. I think it would behoove us as a subcommittee and then to report to the school committee as a whole some of the things that are concerning. P. Dillon – can I make a slight recommendation. Because we are a regional district and we represent three towns, I think it would be problematic if we invited only one town manager. We should invite all three. B. Fields – I have no problem with that. S. Bannon – it just so happens that Tuesday, we had a tentative school committee scheduled. I don’t see the need for that. R. Dohoney – Jennifer, are you available on Tuesday? Around 5pm? P. Dillon – I am not. I will be in Richmond. R. Dohoney – I agree that the finance committee would be a good point to let Jennifer let her have her explanation. I don’t know that we need Peter or Sharon’s input there. We are just going to listen to the town manager. P. Dillon – I would love to be there though. D. Weston – it is not going to be as productive. R. Dohoney – this is a unique thing that the Town Manager is asking to meet with us. Every meeting is open to anybody. A. Potter – we also issued invitations for meeting with the towns which I believe was cancelled to lack of interest. S. Bannon – March 6th looks good. We can schedule that and post it tomorrow but I think we would have to make calls to the other towns to see if they are available if there is a selectboard meeting or some other budget meeting then it won’t work. R. Dohoney – I think an invitation is appropriate. I don’t think a confirmation is needed. MOTION TO HAVE A FINANCE SUBCOMMITTEE MEETING ON MARCH 6TH AT 5PM AT THE DISTRICT OFFICES TO INCLUDE SELECTBOARDS AND APPROPRIATE STAFF FROM THREE MEMBER TOWNS – D. Weston Seconded: A. Potter Accepted: 8:1
- District Consolidation & Sharing Subcommittee: S. Bannon – We are still in the early phases. A few important things are going on, one being that it is clear that all four towns or districts are in for the discussion as far as possible regionalization or combining. No one is committing to it but no one is saying they won’t even contemplate it. That was a big positive thing. The other positive thing, and maybe this is personal, but both Jacob from Lee and also myself, we expressed a desire that if we are going to do this, that we do it in less than two year and we don’t just meet for the sake of meeting and we get things done. Sean did you think that was a good point? Stephen – yeah, I think we are going to find a path in the next couple of months. S. Bannon – the other thing that was talked about was having a speaker that Southern Berkshire is wanting us to have and his name is Bill Dagget. I have never heard him speak and I have not had time to Google him. The Mahaiwe has generously offered to donate their facility. P. Dillon – He is a well-known public speaker and some people are very excited about him. I bring it up because if we decided to go with him it is money out of our budget. He normally charges $10,000 but he will do it for $5,000. I said we would at least bring it up. This is not high on my priorities right now, but I understand if all four districts and towns can actually sponsor something and do something together. P. Dillon – between now and the next meeting I will do a little research and the administrative team and I will make a recommendation. S. Bannon – we have to let Southern Berkshire know by March 15th that is why I am bringing it up. P. Dillon – between now and the 8th our team will have recommendation.
Personnel Report: – P. Dillon – this is the time of year where we start getting retirements. We are losing three people who I really care a lot about and I am sad. Ron Getchell has worked for us for quite a while as our skilled maintenance supervisor. You will notice, particularly in the high school, but in all the buildings, there is a lot of handcrafted woodwork that he has done including cases, a monitor went up in the high school, all our trophies are encased in things he built and he does great work. He will be retiring in August. Jen Miller is a teacher of special education at the high school and she announced that she is retiring and Ed Shaw is a long-time custodian and custodial supervisor and he will be retiring in early September. I wish them well and appreciate all they have done. At our next meeting, Steve may talk more about Ron and Ed.
Name Position Salary/Stipend
Leave of Absence(s):
|Miller, Jennifer||Teacher – MMRHS||2 days per week to become effective immediately thru the end of the school year in June, 2018|
|Mercier, Elyce||Teacher- MMRHS||Effective apr. 5/21/2018 thru the end of school year – June 2018|
|Getchell, Ronald||Skilled Maintenance Supervisor – District||Effective 8/7/18|
|Miller, Jennifer||Teacher – MMRHS||Effective the end of school year – June 2018|
|Shaw, Edward||Custodial Supervisor – MB||Effective 9/21/2018|
|Berle, Mary||Principal – MB||Effective 6/30/2018|
- School Safety – P. Dillon – I wanted to talk about this in two context. Obviously, we have a lot to talk about and lots to do. In the context of the horrible situation in Parkland, everybody is worried about school safety. What happened there, could it happen here? How safe are we? Where are we going? After that, I sent out a note to parents in the school community around what we are doing. We always have more work to do. We have a number of safety procedures and approaches to safety, some are public and some are not, because to make them public would compromise our approaches. We work closely with both the local police, particularly Chief Walsh and the Great Barrington Police but also Stockbridge and West Stockbridge and then with the state troopers. We do drills and training and some of them are around safety that could include intruders or shooters, etc. and some are around fire drills and tornadoes, etc. A different times we have practiced different kinds of evacuations. Anytime something as horrible as what happened in Parkland happens, you revisit what you are doing, what your procedures are and where there is room for improvement. We are doing that now. Connected to this, this is also a moment of upset and youth voice and protest. There are at least three protest opportunities that I am aware of and probably more over time. There is a 17 minute walk-out on the 14th, then there is another potential protest on the 24th that may include the protest in Washington as well as major cities including Pittsfield and maybe Great Barrington. Then the 20th of April is the anniversary of Columbine so there are things planned for that. Students at this point at the middle and high school are talking to the principals and me about something on the 14th that may include some activity at the high school soccer or football field. We will share updates on those as they become clear. There was a superintendent in Texas who unilaterally said if students participate in protests, he will suspend them for three days. That is not the approach we are taking at Berkshire Hills. I have spoke to the other superintendents about this and what we want to do it make safe spaces for students to voice their opinions in whatever way that works and obviously we are not taking any disciplinary action against anybody that participates. That doesn’t make much sense. I image in the near future, working through four budgets in the same three week period is quite complicated, we will make some time for some sort of parent/community forums to get additional feedback around safety. Several people particularly in the mental health field have reached out to me to volunteer their services around this and I think there is an opportunity as a community to look very closely at safety in a broad way and I would hope to convene some sessions around that. On the 14th, the Berkshire Eagle has put together a panel with Barrington Stage. That will be in Pittsfield and I think that could be interesting. There will be education and law enforcement, etc. I think Jen Smith is moderating it. There is lots going on. We will do some sort of convenings in the near future. We will keep talking about this. There are all sorts of things we can do from a structural/physical perspective to support safety then there is a bunch of stuff we can do from a training perspective both for adults and children. I keep going back to this and it isn’t just because I think it, there is actually a lot of research around this, we will continue to emphasize our strong relationships as a foundational point of supporting safety. Some schools have metal detectors and they scan people for metal and I like to think in our interactions with each other, we also scan people in a much more humanizing and thoughtful way. This has provoked a lot questions. Any things that people are thinking about related to school safety. Fields – I would just like to say that I don’t know if it is proper to make a motion now but I would certainly hope that everybody on this committee is against this arming of teachers in any way shape or form. I think we should send a message to the staff that this school committee is totally opposed to that proposition and we will never have teachers in this district armed. I don’t care how well they are trained. I just read an article by an ex-marine who says he doesn’t want to care a gun. I would hope that we could just get something on the record that this school committee is totally opposed to that concept and what Peter has said actually works against the excellent work our staff does with its students. MOTION TO NEVER REQUIRE OR ALLOW TEACHERS TO BE ARMED IN BERKSHIRE HILLS SCHOOLS – B. Fields Seconded: A. Potter Accepted: Unanimous
- Public Comment
- Written Communication
MOTION TO GO INTO EXECUTIVE SESSION: A. Potter Seconded: J. St. Peter Accepted: Unanimous
The next school committee meeting will be held on March 8, 2018 – Monument Valley Regional Middle School, Student Center, 7pm
Meeting Adjourned at 8:42pm
Submitted by: Christine M. Kelly, Recorder