Minutes – January 23, 2020
BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Monument Valley Regional Middle School – Library
January 23, 2020 – 7pm
School Committee: A. Hutchinson, J. St. Peter, A. Potter, B. Fields, M. Thomas, D.Weston, R. Dohoney
Administration: P. Dillon, S. Harrison
Staff/Public: K. Farina, B. Doren, K. Burdsall, T. Lee
Absent: D. Singer, S. Bannon, S. Stephen
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 hour, 8 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.
December 12, 2019 –
MOTION TO ACCEPT SCHOOL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF DECEMBER 12, 2019: J. ST. PETER SECONDED: R. DOHONEY ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Dillon – we wrote two grants around the potential regional consolidation; one with us and Richmond, Hancock and New Ashford around how to proceed going forward. We got that for $45,000. That is good news to use that on planning and having some additional meeting particularly with Richmond around that. Beth Regulbuto with that group is there is a 24 member committee that is being formed so each of the eight towns is appointed three members to that committee. It is my understanding that most of the town has appointed those people and that group will start meeting shortly. That group will have a $50,000 budget to support consultants, to support meetings and facilitation, planning and analysis. That is a nice step forward.
- Good News Item(s):
- Tim Lee, Muddy Brook Elementary School – Last night was our winter concert for grades 3 and 4. The performance ensembles of orchestra, band and choral groups as well as some performances from general music were done. I am very proud. The kids did a great job. I am very grateful to our music staff: Ms. Moran, Ms. Chirichella and Mr. Carlsen. I am very impressed by the turnout last night of families and friends of students. You may recall that we made a shift last year to start offering a few of our concerts in the evening to meet the needs of working parents and if last night was any indicator, then the move was very positive for many families. This week, our 3rd and 4th grade teachers have been working with the teachers’ development group out of Portland, Oregon. It is a continued part of the professional development series, Math Habits. Math Habits is a set of strategies that teachers can employ and bring into their math work. It is basically designed to enhance student interaction around mathematical thinking but also to teach teachers new strategies to better pull mathematical thinking out of their students. The way that professional development has been taking place at Muddy Brook is around a series of studio days and that is where one of the teachers from the grade-level team teaches a lesson with the other grade-level teachers watching and then they go back to the conference room and they process what they saw with the trainer of the development group. It is a very powerful professional learning experience. There is immediate feedback for the teachers and I am seeing a lot of change in the teachers practice when it comes to the teaching of mathematics. I am very happy with the way that has been going. A note of gratitude in general to our faculty at Muddy Brook; this month of January especially these weeks in the middle of January, we are incredibly busy with mid-year benchmarks, concerts and progress reports. Teachers are finishing up their mid-year progress reports now and they are quite detailed. Our teachers have been putting a lot of effort into some quality and informative comments for parents. I think they are giving a really good picture of the kids’ progress thus far. I just wanted to give a quick shout-out and thank you to all of our faculty at Muddy Brook for all of the work they have put in to progress reports of the past couple of weeks.
- Ben Doren, Monument Valley Regional Middle School – Next week, we have parent/teacher conferences. We postponed those because we had a great opportunity to have the anti-defamation league come in December to do some professional learning with our teachers around hate and working against bias. We have this exciting opportunity for our parents to come in next Wednesday night and Friday afternoon for conferences. It is an exciting time of year where we get to check in with families but what I also love about our school is how communicative we are throughout the year. In the past couple of years, we have not had a huge turnout at Parent/Teacher Conferences. I hope this year we have more but the reason is because when we have concerns about kids, we reach out and we communicate a lot of stuff on how kids are doing. I am proud of our faculty for not just sticking just with students but also with families and seeing families as partners. What I am also looking to do before the session on Wednesday and Friday, is the same activity I did with you at the last meeting around proficiencies and deeper learning. I am kind of excited about sharing that. It is good to spread the word about these new ideas in education. At our last faculty meeting there was an amazing session doing the activity. The whole point is it gets folks talking about what you value in education; what do you value in the outcomes. Having done it now with our faculty and with the leadership team, and with you also, I hope that doing it with parents too, folks just start talking about what our vision is for the future for our students. Last Wednesday, we had a visit from the Kaleidoscope team to our school to meet with our 5th grade team to really talk about what we want to do. As a snapshot of our school, I talked about this with the 5th grade team today when we debriefed the visit from the three folks at DESE; the folks walked in and met with me for about 2 or 3 minutes. They didn’t want to talk to me; they wanted to go see the teachers and the kids. They walked in to such solid instruction. We had a STEM classroom where a teacher was using a room where our teacher development group practices doing a science lesson of cutting up an apple; is it a physical or chemical change around the apple for being cut and the apple browning. That is a great engaged dialogue but the kids actually have to turn and talk with each other, shout out different ideas and have an engaged conversation. Very critical work. Another group was actually talking about division and they were so excited. This is about the transition from the thinking about division to the actual algorithm of actually having to do division. Another classroom was annotating a writing highlighting what was important and actually analyzing their own essays and getting ready for peer reviews. The next classroom was actually sitting and getting ready for 20 minutes of silent reading. The fifth room was our neighborhood where a special education teacher was working with students on that same writing project and really supporting kids that needed the help. The visitors from DESE were floored. They were amazed that for 30 minutes of visiting classrooms, how much instruction they saw. I just want to be clear how amazing what the teachers are doing and what the kids are experiencing and DESE appreciated that. For Kaleidoscope we are trying to push the idea for our teachers on how to integrate all of that into a more invaluable experience for the kids. We are still engaging with them and wondering how much they can help us. It is a good dialogue for us to have and actually brought a lot of dialogue into the school. Tuesday’s faculty meeting really showed that. The teachers really want to talk about our values and what our vision is. It was nice to have that opportunity. I am proud of our faculty to see what they do for our kids.
- Dillon – I want to share one more bit of good news before Kristi comes up. As you know Kristi has been our principal at Monument since this past June. Going into the year, I thought I might do a full search but as I spoke to students, parents and colleagues and reflected on my work with Kristi, it became increasingly clear that Kristi is doing a wonderful job. I extended an offer to Kristi and she accepted. I am really excited about it and I think her colleagues are too. Kristi brings a lot to this role and even though it is embarrassing to be talked about at a public meeting and on TV, I will do it anyway; real stability and continuity, years of relationship and trust building in that building and across the district, significant inside knowledge, significant smarts, a passion and desire to support and improve Monument and a host of other this that I am not articulating well tonight. Please join me in welcoming Kristi to her new role and I am looking forward to what she will do.
- Kristi Farina, Monument Mountain Regional High School – Thank you. I just want to thank everyone on the school committee for your confidence in me and obviously the staff when I shared this with them on Tuesday and as most of you know Monument Mountain is really my home away from home. I consider everyone there my family and I am really excited to continue leading the work we are doing in the building. To echo some of what Tim and Ben shared, I do want to also thank the students and faculty at Monument for the work this week. We are at our midterm so we have had midterm exams, projects and presentations happening yesterday and today in longer blocks. It was great to walk around the school and see the work that was going on. The faculty now probably has stacks of things they need to grade so they can turn around and get those grades into PowerSchool for next week. I know it is a lot for all of them so I do want to acknowledge that and thank them for their work. Last week at the high school, connected to our Mass Ideas grant, we are going for the implementation grant, and that is divided into four components. The first component was due last week and I want to thank the Mass Ideas team led by Sean, Emery Gagnon, Krista Dalton, Eva Sheridan and Greta Luf all put a lot of time into getting this component one done. Amy Shaw even stepped up and joined us on the day it was due because we were facing the deadline to get that in. She was there to provide some additional support so I want to thank her for that. Karl was here this evening and initially he was selected by District G as the DamCo recipient to recognize his good work that he has done in our school in supporting athletics and holding our teams and coaches and all to a higher standard. We want to congratulate him publicly for that. The final piece of good news at the high school is this week our Project Connection program at the high school began. We are offering 13 programs and we have 35 students signed up and enrolled in that. I think we are off to a great start. We have all of the programs had input from students who worked with our site coordinator, Ryan Kelly, and they are doing things like Spartan Strong which is strength training. There is both a girl’s session and a boy’s session. We have Spartan Racing which we actually had years ago before Project Connection even started in the elementary and middle schools. We have a Spartan Studio where kids are doing art and students cooking. It is really great that we are now offering the program at the high school.
- Athletics – K. Zigmand – I just wanted to talk about the new MIAA changes. The first one is about the new eight district alignment. Berkshire County is going to combine with Pioneer Valley to form a new District I. It is more for voting and committee representation. I am currently on the wrestling and soccer committee but when we combine with Pioneer Valley, I will just be on the soccer committee. That kind of stuff is what we are talking about there. That already has been passed. It is going to start next school year. The hot topic is the next one which is the state-wide tournament. Are there any questions about the new district? Dohoney – it is already a done deal right? K. Zigmand – yes. This one is up for vote. The MIAA is going to go to a state-wide tournament. It is going to eliminate the Western Mass tournaments as we know them. Each division will be a 32-team field. There will be some play opportunities if you qualify with a 500 win percentage. How we organize as Berkshire County schools is to be determined. I know the principals and AD’s are meeting in February to discuss that and how we want to go moving forward. There is a lot here that you can read on your own, but are there any general questions on this state-wide tournament? No more Western Mass; 32 teams but like the NCAA tournament; we just keep moving through the brackets and if you win, you are the state champion in that division. R. Dohoney – is it your sense that Berkshire County is going to hang together and reach a consensus? K. Zigmand – that is the hope. There are some that would like to see some combining with the Pioneer Valley to play schools more our size or where we will gain maximum seeding points. There are others that don’t want to lose that Berkshire County rivalry type of game that is so special like Monument/Lenox soccer for example. Lenox is a smaller school and when we play them it won’t be as much of an advantage to play them instead of Wahconah who will be in our division. There is still a lot to be determined on how that will work out. P. Dillon – do you anticipate dramatic shifts in cost connected to this proposal? K. Zigmand – there could be. If we have to travel a lot more, like the football team does to the Pioneer Valley, there will be cost implications for transportation and things like that. That would be the big one that I would worry about the most. J. St. Peter – football travels to about three or four away games but soccer or basketball or baseball, those games play over 20 games so that would be a potential 10-12 away. K. Zigmand – then you combine the many different sports, it could be big. Swimming and wrestling, etc. the impact is to be determined. Nobody really knows how that is going to look for state-wide tournaments. J. St. Peter – this isn’t done yet. My assumption that there is a vote to be had and each school gets one vote? K. Zigmand – we get a vote but we are a smaller area, so fewer votes. Most people feel most likely it is going to pass. It hasn’t happened yet. J. St. Peter – so the vote in your opinion is going to be symbolic? K. Zigmand – I would like to think not but if you look at the number of schools that are pushing for it. A. Potter – the idea was hatched in the east so…D. Weston – MIAA, it’s not a part of the government. It is an association that the school participates with optionally. Is there any reason why Western Mass, Pioneer Valley west might elect not to be a part of MIAA? K. Zigmand – that could happen. After a couple of years of seeing this and it is not working for us, I could see that being proposed down the road. I think it is going to be challenging for our schools in our district to really have that success like we see at the Western Mass; getting that Western Mass championship. Now you just have to keep playing and winning to see if you get the state championship because you are going to run into some really strong schools. D. Weston – this is not a huge deal for me but you are not going to be putting up any new banners in the gym. You are going to be third round, state tournament winner which was the Western Mass champion. I think people will be sad. K. Zigmand – one of the things is the district is looking at is leading a portion of the schedule for each sport and building in a little bit of a sectional or Western Mass tournament so we can kind of create our own tournament at the end of each season which would be kind of nice to get some of that stuff that we are going to lose in the state-wide tournament. The last thing is, the seeding is going through MaxPreps; no longer will there be a soccer committee like I was on where the group looks at all the records to determine your seeding in the Western Mass tournament. The MaxPreps seeding will begin next year. That is also a definite. That is not such a big thing though. It is just a computer generated way to seed teams. R. Dohoney – do we want to give Karl any sense on this? A. Potter – I can tell you my personal thinking is I’m not worried about hoisting banners in the gym, I am worried about the budgetary implications of the additional travel. R. Dohoney – I am worried about the budgetary aspect of it but it was great when the girls’ soccer team had their postseason run this year but it took a lot out of the kids and distracted them off of academics. If you add a couple hours of travel to that, it is a lot on the kids. D. Weston – is it conceivable that a first-round game be against Provincetown? K. Zigmand – Yes. D. Weston – I think that at this level of sports, it is not conducive to our high school sports. You are talking about driving two hours each way for a first-round game. R. Dohoney – I think they said they are looking at regional preferences for early games but nothing I read mandates that. K. Zigmand – it is possible. If you go on the MIAA website, they have created what it would have looked like this year if they did that. You can see all the different teams. They actually did it for softball and you can see all the teams in our division. There are a couple that if we drew that team, we would have to go all the way out there which obviously wouldn’t happen in Western Mass. It is unlikely, but it could happen. D. Weston – I am not in favor of it. B. Fields – I am not either especially where it says teams in the north and south sections consistently face more teams than schools in the west and central regions during the sections where they make the state tournament. That is their problem. Why don’t they fix it? This seems to me an east move to fix a problem they are facing that we aren’t. Do you agree with me? I won’t put you on the spot. Is it possible that is what is happening here because we don’t have that problem in Western Mass as much? K. Zigmand – our district felt pretty strongly that we were happy with the way things were. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That was my thought. A. Potter – I will entertain a committee motion just to express the consensus of this committee on this issue. R. Dohoney – I think the comments are good. I would make a motion for a vote of no confidence. B. Fields – I think that for athletes in this district and I have seen to for 40 years on the other side, it is a lot of fun doing the run to the Western Mass. It is wonderful to go to basketball at The Cage. The kids see something that is tangible. I think if you go to UMass and see what they do hanging from the Mullins Center is final four, that is something to strive for. I listen to other coaches in other areas in the district in Berkshire County and they love the Western Mass tournament. When I coached, if you got to the Western Mass tournament and went from there, everything else was gravy. That is the issue. I totally think we should say we disparage it; we hate it, let’s keep what we do in Western Mass. If they want to change what they do in the east, let them. R. Dohoney – this is our opinion as things currently stand. Whatever work you do amongst the Berkshire County coaches, if you guys can negotiate things or work on things, we are not trying to tie your hands or question your own judgment on it but from our district’s standpoint, at the very least it doesn’t do anything for us and has potential to harm us. D. Singer – I think it is a big disservice to the kids in a huge way. They grow up watching the older kids go to Western Mass and that is the key to so much of the competition in this county. There is a lot of travel within this county but there are a lot of really good competitions between schools that kids grow up with in the soccer leagues, the Golden Knights, the Hoosy Hoops. It is like your own family after a while. As a parent you watch the kids grow on the other teams and the kids have a really good sense of competition with those schools. To take that away would be sad. D. Weston – there is no part of this that subsidizes transportation is there? It is obvious that schools out on the cape and ones in Western Mass are going to share the additional cost. A school from Boston isn’t going to play a first-round game on our field. They are going to meet someplace in the middle. So we are going to have lost revenue. Financially, it is not good. It is not good for the time the kids spend travelling and I think it is a tradition we don’t want to change. A. Hutchinson – the students can’t go watch the games if they are far away and the same thing with all the families. I agree with the kids growing up watching all of this. They all have been playing together across the county and they get to continue to play once they get to high school. MOTION FOR A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN THE CURRENT PROPOSAL OF MIAA R. DOHONEY SECONDED: A. POTTER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Requested Votes:
- To Accept School Choice Students for the 2020-2021 School Year – P. Dillon – every year we have a state obligation to ask you to approve school choice for the next year. We did that one experiment where we limited school choice a few years ago and it was not a good experiment so I strongly recommend that someone makes a motion to accept choice students for the 2020-2021 school year. Dohoney – I am wondering what type of outreach has been done to increase the number of school choice students. If we don’t have a sufficient plan, then I am going to vote against it. If we have a plan to do it right, then I will vote for it. P. Dillon – there are two parts to it. We have a significant number of students and parents who have already expressed an interest at all grade levels and we are tallying that. The lottery happens after February 1st and one of the things we are going to do differently this year is try to do it significantly earlier so that if people are making decisions between here or going somewhere else, we accept them sooner in the likelihood of them accepting us. We will be trying to get it done in the middle to end of February instead of May as we have done in past years. That also plays a role because sometimes people are looking at attending our schools versus local, independent or private schools and many of those schools have days when they have to make deposits by so if we can offer it before the deposit, our yield may go up. In the past, you suggested a postcard mailing to every mailbox all around us. There is something appealing about it but as we are in conversations with these other districts about other things, there may be some downsides to doing that. R. Dohoney – are we going to have any kind of open house? P. Dillon – we can do open houses but it is different than what you were talking about before. The folks from the middle and high school have set up a time with the Farmington River superintendent to do presentations out there for their current 6th graders so incoming 7th graders. D. Weston – I declare a conflict of interest. MOTION TO ALLOW BHRSD TO ACCEPT SCHOOL CHOICE STUDENTS FOR THE 2020-2021 SCHOOL YEAR B. FIELDS SECONDED: A. POTTER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Approval of 2020 – 2021 School Calendar – P. Dillon – in your packet is a draft calendar that I want to share with you. Let me talk you through a couple of things in it. What is a little unusual is we are asking staff to come in on the 26th and 27th of August, a Wednesday and Thursday, for professional development, then the young people would start school on August 31st. This year, Labor Day falls fairly late. Contractually, it is within our guidelines and I spoke to the co-presidents of BHEA about this. I think this is a pretty good calendar. We are going into a year when the state is not allowing blizzard bags any more and that is based on some equity concerns they have. Our earliest last day would be June 16th and if we had five snow days, it would be June 23rd. Depending on what happens with our conversations with Richmond, I might come back to you to make a slight change to this because they are also working on their calendar. I think this is a very close approximation. If people have questions, I am happy to respond. If you are comfortable with it, I will take a motion to approve the calendar as stated leaving a little placehold that I might come back to you to amend it slightly. MOTION TO ACCEPT THE 2020-2021 BHRSD CALENDAR HUTCHINSON SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Approval of Donations Received – S. Harrison – the first one is for $1,200 to Monument Mountain for the Joe Spartan fund from the Care Bear Foundation. MOTION TO ACCEPT THE DONATION FROM THE CARE BEAR FOUNDATION TO MONUMENT MOUNTAIN WESTON SECONDED: J. ST. PETER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS. The second is also donations to the Joe Spartan fund to families and nonprofit organizations in the amount of $1,486.42. MOTION TO ACCEPT THE DONATION IN THE AMOUNT OF $1,486.42 R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS D. Singer – the Girls’ Basketball Booster Club would like to fund or accept a donation of a bike for their team for use during practices. I have spoken with Karl about the weight room. There are only free weights there but a bike is something that could be a very welcome addition especially in lieu of so many injuries on the basketball team. This is one of the things kids care do very early with ACL injuries or other injuries and can be part of physical therapy they can do during practice. Most of the bikes are on wheels and can be wheeled out into the area where kids can be present during practice and it would be stored in a safe area but not available to all of the kids, all of the time. Karl was concerned if it wasn’t monitored appropriately, it might be broken and he didn’t want to take that responsibility for it. Certainly, if other teams wanted to use it, that would be fine. It would be for either approval of a donation that would be made to buy a bike from the girls’ booster club or it would be donation of an actual bike depending on which is easier to procure and suits the purpose best. MOTION TO APPROVE AN ACCEPTANCE OF FUNDS FOR THE PURCHASE OF A BIKE OR IN KIND DONATION OF A BIKE R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Set Date for FY21 Public Hearing – P. Dillon – I recommend we set the date as February 27th at 7pm in this building but in the student center. Dohoney – the plan is to vote that night too. We have gone back and forth on that in past years. There is also a tentative meeting scheduled for the 5th as well that if we have more work to do. J. St. Peter – refresh my memory. The administration is going to present the budget on the 13th which is the next meeting and then do we as a committee to make comments? Right after that presentation or after the public meeting? R. Dohoney – you can make comments at any time and we traditionally don’t make motions to amend it until after the public hearing. Traditionally, we have never voted on the night of the public hearing. The schedule has gotten a little later for a number of reasons but more importantly we don’t have much motion practice after the public hearing. We did schedule the March meeting if needed; but only if needed. The last two years, we have not voted on the night of the public hearing even though everyone was ready to. I don’t think we gave enough notice that it might be happening. We are not locked into anything but if our work is done that night, then we can vote. MOTION TO APPROVE FEBRUARY 27, 2020 AS THE DATE FOR THE FY21 PUBLIC HEARING AT MONUMENT VALLEY REGIONAL MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT CENTER AT 7PM R. DOHONEY D. WESTON ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Proposed High School Drop Off Pilot – P. Dillon – We have had issues at drop-off at the high school for years, particularly morning drop-off and cars getting out of there. The arrangement is the GB police are there in the morning and the Stockbridge police are there in the afternoon. Both departments are fairly taxed and if there is an emergency somewhere else in Great Barrington, we lose the GB office in the morning to respond to the emergency or cover something else and similarly in Stockbridge. Over the years, there have been a number of accidents, several traffic studies. We put additional signage in and flashing lights that say school on Route 7. They reconfigured the entrance a couple of times and the only other thing we think we can do is to perhaps create an additional driveway that runs down to Route 7, perhaps by where the greenhouse is and out onto Monument Valley Road or maybe around the other side of the high school. That would likely happen in the context of a bigger high school project, and we are not prepared to do that now. What we are recommending to do and we came up with this idea with the police department and Representative Pignatelli and Senator Hines and folks from the Department of Public Transportation based out of Lenox, to have parents drop off kids at the Muddy Brook parking lot by the greenhouse; for us to maintain that path very carefully and have high school students walk up that path. This may be the boldest recommendation I have made in my superintendency. I think there will be cheers from parents who don’t get stuck at the high school for 20 minutes dropping off a kid in the morning and jeers from kids to have to walk up the hill in the morning. In the memo I sent, on the back of it is an aerial view. I forgot to mention Steve Soule will be involved in this too. The thinking is, people can do that, there will be very specific timelines that Kristi will share but up until 8:20 in the morning when we need that parking lot for the elementary school buses. Kids can be dropped off in the yellow area and follow the green path up to the high school. We are going to start this the Monday after February vacation. Steven and I and Kristi, the police and anybody else who wants to join us will be there in orange vests, teaching people about the new approach. Obviously, we will get a lot of feedback and this will make some people crazy. Folks with mobility issues can still get dropped up top. Other health issues have to be documented with some sort of note. We are going to do this as a pilot starting on that Monday, February 24th and we will try to do it for the rest of the year and see how it works. If parents or students miss that window at 8:20, then they will be able to come up to the high school but probably not straight to the front door as they do now. We can’t use the Muddy Brook parking lot later because their buses arrive. A couple of things could happen. There is a funny disconnect around how many buses we have and how people choose not to use them so bus ridership might increase. Many parents may be happy about dropping their kid off and don’t have to go up the hill. Some kids will be grumpy about that. Any questions? Weston – are they still going to provide an officer for the entrance of Monument Mountain? Quite honestly, I have very little concern about the ability of parents to pull in and out of the high school. It is the students. Our concern, I think, as a community is for students pulling in and out of Monument Mountain and not so much the parents. It may be mistaken. A. Potter – the officer is there for the buses not the parents. Once the buses are out, they are gone. D. Weston – I still want to make that entrance safer for students who are driving in and driving out. My fear is we will see less of a police presence because they will say we are doing this instead. P. Dillon – I think some of the thinking behind this and the police initially proposed this, is by reducing the number of cars that come in and out of the high school in the morning, will be half and that will be safer for everybody. There are a large number of parents who are dropping off their kids in the morning and making a small area congested and the police are there trying to get the buses out as all of these cars are coming in. By eliminating the drop off in the morning at the high school, they are proposing, and maybe Steve could talk to this too, by having less cars come in, the student-driven cars will be safer. For the police office standing out in the middle of a county road, it will be safer and it will be safer to get the buses out. That is the thinking. D. Weston – my thinking is that we should still try to provide a policeman at the entrance. Certainly in the short term, I don’t know how much, or they may just be there for the five minutes for the buses. A. Potter – the buses are still going to be pulling out and they will get bottled up by the regular traffic on Route 7. B. Fields – how are you going to prevent parents from dropping off their kids off where they do now? Is there going to be somebody there in an orange vest stopping cars? How are you going to prevent the parents from saying “I’m not going to the greenhouse? My kid doesn’t need to walk. I’m going to drop him off.” How do you stop that car from going up? P. Dillon – I think for at least two weeks, I am going to be in an orange vest. Steve is going to be in an orange vest and Kristi might be too. There might be some police officers there. What we are hearing is that entrance is unsafe. We don’t have a million dollars to make it safer. This is our best thinking around how to make it safer. Hopefully people will buy into it. R. Dohoney – this is just the morning? P. Dillon – yes. We don’t see it as an issue in the afternoon because of extracurricular activities, athletics, people are spread out in different ways. J. St. Peter – do we have any confirmation that the state will be changing that light because at this point it is border line that there are six or seven cars coming from the north and exiting is already getting to be a bottleneck dropping off at the elementary school and regular dropoff for the middle school. In my opinion, that light is going to need to change to allow 25-30 cars to go back down to Great Barrington from the dropoff and another second light to allow 20-25 cars in the left hand turn or we are going to get backups both ways. P. Dillon – we looked into that. That is a good question. If you are coming down Monument Valley Road and you are turning south down toward Great Barrington, that light is on a sensor and will change when there are cars in a queue there. J. St. Peter – Right now it will only allow about 8-10 cars if that to go. P. Dillon – they did a study of that, and they think it will be okay. J. St. Peter – so from your point of view, they are not changing that at all? After people drop kids off, the pressure is off but they have to get work, but staff trying to get to work and trying to take that left which is a high increase in traffic, that is important. I don’t have the data, but at one point when discussing this a couple of years ago, that intersection actually has more accidents than the high school entrance. D. Weston – I have responded twice as many times to the stop light than I have to the high school. J. St. Peter – in my opinion, that intersection is going to be a lot worse now and it is already historically a bad intersection as far as accidents go so I am very skeptical that this is going to improve the safety. We can all say how soft kids are these days; but if it is pouring rain, you are going to ask parents to drop off their kids at the bottom of the hill? That should be kept in context when we are looking forward. P. Dillon – to respond to both, the folks at the Department of Transportation are experts and did a study on this and I appreciate everybody’s anecdotal experience but I defer to the experts on it. I will check in with them around the timing of the light and if they can change it. They will be monitoring it too. The second thing is, this is a pilot. We will try to create a shift in behavior and see if it makes things better and if it does, we will keep doing it and if it makes things worse or more complicated or there is tremendous uproar, then we won’t do it but I don’t think I am comfortable and I don’t imagine anyone here is comfortable in just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that by doing nothing, the situation is going to get better. We spent a ton of time on this. I don’t think it is a perfect solution but if anybody has a better idea and wants to share it, reach out to Steve or me and we will see if we can incorporate it into the plan. D. Weston – I am just concerned that the police departments will see this as an opportunity to provide less police coverage. I think it is worth doing and if it is safer than it is great but I don’t think the need at the front of the school is going to change. R. Dohoney – of all the decisions that I want to overrule, this one is pretty low on the list. I share some of Jason’s concerns that are going on on Monument Valley Road and if we are making one dramatic change, maybe we rip the whole bandaid off here and make this the drop off for the middle and the high school. It is about equal distance to that lot for both schools. We have a centralized dropoff. The middle school loop can be a real disaster as well. It is not great. P. Dillon – the only thing I caution about that is putting double the number of cars in the elementary parking lot when we are trying to pilot something may lead to chaos. R. Dohoney – I hear what you are saying but if you have the cars coming from the middle school, I think having all cars going in one line. It is like Gillette Stadium. Every road is going one way and after the game it is going the other way. D. Weston – I have seen way to many close calls at the middle school crosswalk. I would not want kids crossing that street. P. Dillon – let’s do this in phases. Doing this in itself is complicated. I am nervous if we do both schools at the same time, it just blows up. Let’s do this for two weeks first. Parking on the side of the road at Muddy Brook should be banned. P. Dillon – I agree with that. The sightlines are terrible and often people will park in front of Muddy Book when there are 20 spots open in the parking lot because it is easier. There are times when every single spot is filled but not always. R. Dohoney – we need a fence or boulders. A. Hutchinson – just tell the kids that if you don’t want to walk up the hill, take the bus. B. Fields – walking up a hill could help with what we heard from health and wellness. A. Potter – I think we have a good plan for the pilot. Let’s give it a try. MOTION TO ENFORCE THE HIGH SCHOOL DROPOFF PLAN AS PRESENTED BY THE SUPERINTENDENT R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- FY21 Budget Update – Sharon’s projection was with $1,200 where we landed from the governor’s perspective which is good. A couple of things just to clarify, we got the $30 per pupil increase which is about what 56-58% of the schools in the Commonwealth got. There are some really interesting maps when you see it. In Chapter 78 which is general education funding, the increases range from $30/pupil to the high of almost $1,700/pupil. Communities like ours didn’t benefit from that additional money and we are waiting to see what happens with the student opportunity act but that money will largely go to gateway cities and cities with real economic need. The quick thing is it is neither great nor terrible news. It is what it is. The continued emphasis on local communities to pick up more and more of their budget as the state’s percentage continues to go down is going to get hard on communities like ours and some other communities will be even more susceptible to that. There are real issues structurally with education funding in the Commonwealth. Potter – also the expanded role of the school; schools are now doing things that they were never asked to do. When you start piling that on and start taking on roles that in the past were handled elsewhere…S. Harrison – we will be presenting the proposed budget in two weeks. Pretty much as Peter said, the detail on the revenue is in your packet. Just subtract $1,200 from your Chapter 70 money. We do have a change in the minimum local contribution which will change the percentages slightly but other than that the minimum local for Great Barrington is down about $66,000; for Stockbridge about 20 and for West Stockbridge up about $40,000. We will have the full packet and the new numbers at the presentation. P. Dillon – the finance sub-committee met tonight and will continue to meet. Rich will give a report on that when we get to that.
- Policy Sub Committee – NA
- Building & Grounds Sub Committee – NA
- Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – NA
- Technology Sub Committee – NA
- Finance Sub Committee – R. Dohoney – We met earlier today and reviewed a lot of the same information that Peter and Sharon just shared. One thing I will add, the state forcing more burden on our communities is a major issue for us but we are also receiving a state income tax cut effective this year. We have the lowest income tax of any of our neighbors. If you went to NY or CT your taxes would go up. I hope people voting at the town meetings remember that. Local taxes might be going up but state taxes are going down. We also spent a lot of time going over the communication and administration’s response that we received from the teachers union that all of you got. We didn’t get deep into actually addressing any of them. We just reviewed them and digested them a little bit. I think we will continue to address those. The proposals were very well thought out and worthy of further consideration by this committee.
- District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee – P. Dillon – there are two things going on. The 24 member committee with Southern Berkshire. Dohoney – I don’t think that is part of this committee anymore. I think that at some point we will need a separate line item for this. There are going to be three representatives from this committee on that committee once it gets formed and it will be on those three people to keep us in the loop. P. Dillon – and there is the conversation with Richmond which is separate.
- Next Steps Sub Committee – NA
- Retirement – P. Dillon – I would like to recognize Hugh McCartney at the high school. He is a French teacher and he is retiring at the end of the year. He has also been a track coach for many years. Thank you for his many years of service.
- Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)
|Leave(s) of Absence:|
|Moran, Juraye||Music Teacher – District Wide||Effective apr. 2/3/2020–apr. 3/2/2020|
|McCartney Hugh||Teacher – MMRHS||Effective the end of school year – June 2020|
|(all 2019 – 2020 unless otherwise noted)|
|Zantay, Valerie||Academic Affairs Committee Member|
(replacing Karen Luttenberger)
|$40/hr. up to 25 hours ($1,000 max)|
FY20 Q2 Transfer Report & Overview – S. Harrison – the bulk of the transfers were done to adjust for general operating needs from when the budget was approved. That happened through the second quarter. One transfer was done to move money from the director’s learning and teaching salary account and professional services and fees because of the filling of that position on an interim basis. Two transfers were completed because expenses were reallocated from general supplies at the school to principal’s supplies and this is really just to align our expenditures to the DESE table. Two transfers were done to move funds from contingency to appropriate salary accounts. MOTION TO APPROVE THE FY20 Q2 TRANSFERS R. DOHONEY SECONDED: A POTTER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Public Comment – Valery Zantay, Spanish teacher at the high school – I just wanted to comment on the proposed plan for dropoff and I hope that in the pilot program there is a study on weather-related events and arriving at 8:21 for first period. I think it might be an issue.
- Written Comment
MOTION TO ADJOURN – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
The next school committee meeting will be held on February 13, 2020 – Regular School Committee Meeting, Monument Valley Regional Middle School, Library, 7pm
Meeting Adjourned at 8:08pm
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
School Committee Secretary