BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING

Teleconference Meeting

June 18, 2020 – 6:00pm

Present:

School Committee:                 S. Bannon, D. Weston, B. Fields, S. Steven, M. Thomas, A. Potter, A. Hutchinson, R. Dohoney, J. St. Peter, D. Singer, A Potter

Administration:                       P. Dillon, S. Harrison

Staff/Public:                             B. Doren, K. Farina, S. Soule

Absent:                                     T. Lee

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:  hour, 58 minutes.

CALL TO ORDER

Chairman Steve Bannon called the meeting to order immediately at 6pm.

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.

MINUTES:

  • June 4, 2020

MOTION TO APPROVE BHRSD SCHOOL COMMITTEE MINUTES DATED JUNE 4, 2020         A. POTTER            SECONDED:  S. STEPHEN              ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS VIA ROLL CALL

Superintendent’s Report:

  • Dillon – The best news of all is we finished the school year and what a school year it was. I really want to thank the staff, the teachers and paras, principals, custodians, food service, technology and everybody who helped out.  It was a heck of a spring and people worked very hard.  There is lots of professional development going on already and more to come.  The food service people are continuing with their Friday distribution which is a big help.  I don’t think I made an official announcement yet; I want to acknowledge and recognize and congratulate Amy Shaw for stepping into the Director of Learning and Teaching role.  Amy had been with us for a year supervising the after-school and out-of-school time work and she was moved into the Director of Learning and Teaching role.  Rob Putnam and Dan Leibert were both working there part-time during this transition from when Kristi was in the role.  I am very excited about that.  I thought at her first school committee meeting when she is in the role, it would make sense for Amy to announce another grant that we received.  A. Shaw – recently the district was informed that we were awarded a $25,000 grant for developing a high-quality, project-based learning which is kind of interesting.  The grant focuses on the middle school teachers working with our after-school instructors to develop project-based learning as a continuation of what is happening in the classroom throughout the school year.  It is very exciting.  Ben is fully onboard and we are looking forward to developing some really great initiatives that our students can capitalize on.  P. Dillon – I am particularly excited about this because when we wrote the initial after-school grant maybe ten years ago, one of our goals was to use that as a laboratory for innovation and this funding lets us continue doing that work.  We talked a little bit with the school committee and I talked with Andy about this in his technology subcommittee role. We have been talking about moving to a learning management system and initially we thought we would go with Schoology.  We have since changed our minds.  We did a little more research and talked a lot with other folks, and we decided to go with Canvas.  Canvas is the system that much of the county is going to be using.  The neat thing about how this is structured is, we own the relationship with Canvas, the company; there are opportunities for us to do things collaboratively with other districts, but in terms of our own professional development, we really can structure it as we like.  What ultimately led us to shift from Schoology to Canvas was, from a technical perspective they are roughly equivalent; from a professional development and customer service standpoint, I think Canvas is much more supportive and responsive including 7/24 support which is really unheard of in technology circles.  Lots of professional development, self-directed or taught.  That was a big reason, there are a host of other reasons and I will send around the memo that I sent to staff explaining it.  I think it will be a good transition for us to move forward with whatever is happening.  We continue to wait for guidance from the commissioner and the governor around what school is going to look like next year.  Initially, we thought we would have something on the 15th.  Now it looks it might be the 22nd and probably you will read it the same day I do in The Globe then after we read about it, I will get a report and I will share it with you.  We will talk about this later in the agenda but Steve Soule is doing a lot of ordering of things connected to the virus to get ready for the start of school.

 

  • Requests to Approve:
    • Resolution: COVID-19 State Funding – P. Dillon – in your packet is a resolution that many school districts or committees around the Commonwealth are doing. It is essentially asking the state to cover the additional costs of COVID-19.  I think symbolically it is important that we do this.  We are getting some money from the CARES act at the federal level that we can use.  There is a think kicking around by the American Association of School Administrators saying the cost to a typical district, and we are much smaller than a typical district, from this virus is about $1.7 million.  I don’t think ours is nearly that much but it is high or could potentially be high.  I think the motion expresses what Bill often talks about of the consequences of unfunded mandates.  If we spend several hundred thousand dollars responding to COVID-19 and that is several hundred thousand dollars we don’t have to spend on something else.  I think the motion makes sense if somebody wants to move it, that would be great and maybe discuss it and amend it to make it stronger than it is.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE SIGNING OF THE COVID-19 STATE FUNDING RESOLUTION           FIELDS              SECONDED:  A. POTTER        ACCEPTED 8:1 VOTE           R. Dohoney – I don’t understand the logic behind this.  The state doesn’t fund a large part of any of our mandates.  Why is this any different?  P. Dillon – I think the supporters want funds to cover the required shifts to open schools safely.  B. Fields – I think it just puts pressure on them to follow through and not do what they have done with regional transportation.  A. Potter – let’s be honest with ourselves.  It is symbolism and I think it is a good kind of symbolism.  I think it is something we should do.  R. Dohoney – I think it is encouraging the state to not let us open and I don’t want that to happen.  A. Potter – I don’t think it is going to have an impact on us if we open or not frankly.  S. Bannon – I think when the state redoes their budget and looks at this, if they aren’t going to give us any more money, at least they won’t cut it.
    • FY21 Revised Calendar – P. Dillon – We anticipated that they were going to run the marathon at the end of September but it looks like that is not going to happen. We have two options.  One would be to amend the calendar and take the day out.  The other would be to leave the calendar the way it is and use that day as a professional development day, potentially around technology which wouldn’t be a bad thing in early September if we are doing something.  I can go either way on it.  If we took out that day, we might substitute it with a day later in the year.  It would be a good day to use to help teachers implement new technology.  Fields – I like that idea.  I think the state wants to open up the schools; there is no doubt about it.  I think the more help we can give the teachers to adjust to this new form, whatever form it is, it is going to be new, is important and whatever gives them time to adjust is really needed.  S. Stephen – I think the more training and actively involved in online learning that teachers can get exposed to, that is what they need.  P. Dillon – if there is wide support for that, let’s do that.  I will revise the calendar and likely what I will do is take a day that would have been a professional development day in March and have it be a regular school day.  R. Dohoney – why doesn’t Peter go back and revise the calendar showing the 14th as a professional development day and adjust the March date and then we will approve it at our next meeting.  S. Bannon – that sounds fine.  P. Dillon – teachers, parents and students will appreciate that we take a day during the first few weeks of school to provide people with some more support.
    • 7/1/20 – 6/30/23 Cooperative Contract for Support Staff – P. Dillon – There is a recommendation to approve the contract for cooperative staff and support staff. Our negotiating team worked really hard.  Their representative was Paul Gibbons and a host of other people from the separate groups.  The one thing was around the greenhouse aid position.  Steve and I worked on that this morning.  It is on page 6 of the contract and we resolved that.  It is my strong recommendation and probably the negotiating committee recommendation too that you support that contract.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE COOPERATIVE CONTRACT FOR SUPPORT STAFF             POTTER              SECONDED:  B. FIELDS                    ACCEPTED:         UNANIMOUS VIA ROLL CALL
    • Grant Positions/Mass IDEAS (.5 Special Education Teacher, .5 Administrative Assistant – P. Dillon – These are positions connected to the Mass Ideas grant.  They are already positions that exist.  Kristi can explain it in a little more detail but because they are grant funded and out of the budget, we would like your position to move forward with them.  Obviously they are grant funded.  Farina – The half-time education teacher that we put into the Mass Ideas grant budget is to increase our work in co-teaching classrooms next year. That was work we began last year and have data that is indicating it is successful supporting some of our students who need additional support in classrooms.  We budgeted for that and it would be a .5 special education position.  It would be a one-year appointment because it is a grant-funded position.  The administrative assistant in the grant is specifically to provide support to Sean Flynn and Emery Gagnon who are serving as co-leads for the implementation grant and that position is to take on all of the tracking of paperwork, appointments, budget and the like in order to support both Sean and Emery in their ability to complete the work around this grant.  It is a .5, one-year, grant-funded position.  MOTION TO APPROVE .5 SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER AND .5 ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT FOR MASS IDEAS GRANT                    A. POTTER                SECONDED:  S. STEPHEN                 ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS VIA ROLL CALL  P. Dillon – one add on to this is connected to the CVTE role.  As I think everybody knows, Sean Flynn worked in that role for several years and did quite a nice job.  He is going back to working in guidance but also supporting the other grant.  We are in the process of recruiting someone or some people for the CVTE role.  I just want to run by the committee and Steve I don’t know if I need a formal vote on this or just an acknowledgement, but as we look to fill that role, much of the work happens in a particular time period in the late afternoon, from 2-6 and our thinking around it is we might be more effective having a couple of three people work part time in that role as opposed to having one person work full time in that role.  Just one person doesn’t have enough capacity to be in all the places we need them to be.  This would include, and Kristi could add a little detail to it, but somebody specifically involved with internship coordinating and visiting sites when young people are there often in the late afternoon.  K. Farina – Sean and I have worked hard to categorize the work he has done over the past two years and there seems to be three buckets of work.  The first, Peter described around the internship work.  The second is the work around the grant specifically the innovative pathway grant and the development of the advanced innovating pathway, the healthcare pathway and the reporting connected to that grant, the project lead the way grants and the perkins grant.  So there is grant work connected to what he was doing.  The third area is what you would most likely think of when you think of CVTE coordinator position is the actual work within the program with the CVTE teachers, the curriculum development, accountability connected to the chapter 74 programs, the work with the advisory committees.  Those are kind of the three buckets we have outlined for what the job descriptions would be and what we are thinking is it would make more sense to have more than one person sharing that work.  It could be two or three but we would like the option to fill it that way if it makes more sense.  S. Bannon – are there going to be new job descriptions or is it the same job description?  P. Dillon – I think it is largely the same job description but instead of it being 1.0 it might be .5 and .25 and another .25 or a .6 and .4.  S. Bannon – how does everyone feel about that?  I don’t think that is something we have to vote on.  S. Stephen – is this essentially saying Sean is not doing the CVTE job and we are hiring other people to come in and do it?  P. Dillon – yes.  Sean expressed an interest in going back to a guidance role.  He was very effective in the CVTE role but he missed the direct connection to kids particularly in context of the college and post-high school process.  He wanted to do that.  He helped us move forward in this process and he is ready to pass the baton to somebody else.  B. Fields – I think Sean’s role in guidance; I’m on the sustainability committee and he is on that too so we haven’t lost his connections at all.  The internships are part of what is going to be presented to us later on in August in regards to the sustainability of Monument.  Kristi knows a lot about this so we are not losing Sean.  He is still going to be connected in many ways to what he has started in the last few years.  K. Farina – specifically, he is still serving as co-lead of the new Mass Ideas implementation grant which is a big role he has in addition to the guidance counselor work he will be doing and he will still be involved with internship placement from the guidance side.  What we need is somebody to do the internship in connection with the placement and site visits which he can’t do effectively from his role as a guidance counselor which is what he had been trying to do before the new position had been created three years ago.  The position was posted as a full time position.  S. Stephen – so what we are asking for is a full time position of multiple positions at this point.  K. Farina – we are asking to be able to fill the position, not as a single full time position with one person but to be able to divide it.  R. Dohoney -are any of these part time positions include benefits?  P. Dillon – if it was half time or more, it would.  The worst thing I could do from a financial perspective is support Kristi in doing two half time positions because that would cost us more but if we do one half time and two quarter time positions, the cost would be the same.   There is the possibility that we might put somebody in the role that is already receiving benefits so there would be no cost.  S. Stephen – I just want to make sure Sean is still involved.  He has been doing a phenomenal job since he started it so I don’t want him to just go away.  K. Farina – I can assure you that he also wants to see this work carried on because he has invested a lot in it.  It wants it to go well.  R. Dohoney – is this an administrative position or under the contract.  K. Farina – it has been a part of the unit A contract so it will continue to be.  S. Bannon – so this person will be a certified teacher?  P. Dillon – yes.  K. Farina – that is correct.
  • Updates:
    • COVID-19 – Reopening Planning – P. Dillon – we are still waiting for guidance from the commissioner and the governor around COVID-19. We are doing some scenario planning.  Steve Soule is ordering a bunch of stuff.  We will do some training.  We will see what the directives are and then we will come up with a range of proposals and bring them back to you for your questions and potential approval.  I am frustrated that we continue to not get guidance in a timely manner but they are juggling a whole lot of stuff and there are a lot of unknowns so I try to coach everybody around the uncertainties.  The only certainty is there is going to be a lot of uncertainty.  Hopefully we get guidance soon enough so we can develop a plan and test it a little bit with people before we are implementing it.  It is putting a kink in all of our work; our scheduling is a little tied up because we don’t know what model we are building for.  Fields – I looked at what the state is requiring in regards to ordering supplies and I was aghast at some of the things they are requiring.  They are talking about face shields, PPE equipment in every building, supplies, I know we have already ordered 15,000 masks but when you space that out over a year, that might not be that many.  I am wondering where is the money coming from in our budget in order to order these things and pay for them.  We just had a resolution in which we hope the state and federal government is going to reimburse us but that is questionable.  I just want to know, are there transfers going on or how are we ordering all this stuff and the second thing is every other district in the state is doing the same thing and is every district in the country.  Are the supplies there?  We have heard horror stories about this.  I will throw it to you; where do we stand in this and how are we ordering all this stuff.  P. Dillon – Steve has done a really nice job on this and reaching out to people.  He has some sources.  The state also has activated a state bid list with existing vendors.  B. Fields- that’s called a big buy, I read.  P. Dillon – right.  I think it is a little like the toilet paper thing; there is a shortage because everybody is buying it but there are no shortages in people’s garages.  Somebody has 400 rolls of toilet paper and I can’t seem to get any.  I think we will watch it.  The potential source to cover it is some of our CARES funding and that is more than $100,000 that we will get from the feds probably in early August.  If we purchase some stuff now we can transfer that to cover it.  We are going to do a very careful job, as we always do, around coding things that are related to COVID-19 so if we are able to get reimbursement for it, we will have a coherent want to see that.  Sharon, are there any other things from a financial perspective around that?  S. Harrison – I think you have covered it.  Unless we can get some FEMA or MEMA reimbursement which is difficult because that is supposed to be for immediate emergencies.  P. Dillon – I heard and I can’t totally verify this but there is the possibility that cities and towns are receiving money discreetly to cover some of this and they in turn have an obligation to share some of the resources with school districts whether they are town, city or regional school districts.  I haven’t gotten into the nitty gritty on that but I will be looking into that as well.  When I get a clarification on it, I will reach out to the town managers and administrators and see if there is an opportunity there.  R. Dohoney – I am concerned about the financial planning.  I think it will work out in the end but I will agree with Bill; schools are opening in September and I hope on the educational side that everyone is preparing for that; administrators, teachers and on down.  I don’t want to get caught short with “I didn’t think school was going to open, so this or that wasn’t ready.”  P. Dillon – I think we will be in very good shape and people are going to work very hard.  I do want to manage expectations around the learning management system.  I think on August 30th our implementation of it will not be perfect and I think at different grade levels and different areas, we will build our capacity over the course of the fall.  People always ask about athletics.  I don’t know.  People ask about buses.  I don’t know.  Hopefully we get some clear information there soon.  R. Dohoney – on the athletics end, the level of outreach and organization that typically went on in the spring for the fall sports, hasn’t happened.  That is indicative to me that people think it isn’t going to happen.  I’m not banking on that either.  P. Dillon – maybe it will be differentiated.  Maybe you can run a fall golf season in a socially distanced way but you can’t for some other sports.  R. Dohoney – but we have a bunch of 8th graders that don’t know there is a golf team.  P. Dillon – we can do some messaging.
  • Next Steps – Social/Justice Dillon – Recent national events are clearly provoking all sorts of conversations.  There is a national conversation, a local conversation, conversations in work places and homes.  We all have a lot of work to do.  What the district is doing is what we have committed to do for a while.  I broke it up into really four areas.  I am going to talk about it broadly then I am going to let principals share more specific examples.  I think we have an obligation to look at all our policies and practices in particularly places where we have gate-keeping things.  I think we have work to do there.  Are our policies and practices reinforcing problematic behaviors.  They may be.  I think we need to look at hiring, recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce.  That is not an easy thing to do in the Berkshires.  Pittsfield has done some interesting stuff partnering with the historically black colleges and universities and there may be more opportunities for us to work on that.  I think generally, we are well thought of in how we interact with families in our community but I think it is worth us taking another look at that.  In recent years, we have done a whole lot more with the immigrant community and I think that has been well received.  The last bucket I am looking at is our curriculum and approaches to instruction.  That is really a building based thing.  We are doing some work at the district level but principals and teachers and teams of teachers and paraprofessionals are looking at their practices.  What I thought I would do now is start with Tim and work our way up and have the principals share some of the things they are working with students and staff on.  Then after that I think we can respond to some questions.
    • Lee, Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School (not present)
    • Doren, Monument Valley Regional Middle School – We have been really appreciative of some opportunities that were brought to the district several years ago. The Anti-Defamation League program was an opportunity that was brought to a lot of kids in different districts across the county and I know that Monument had taken advantage of it several years ago and we were able to take advantage of it a few years ago.  We had students trained as peer leaders.  The Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference program really teaches our students and we had 5th – 8th graders really focusing on this on how to have difficult conversations with their peers but to make it engaging.  They talk about identity, experience of marginalized communities, racism, sexism, homophobia, and many other things that come along with discrimination to students and families that have to live in poverty and disabilities.  It is really great because it makes talking about this with students something they can do and not something that is mystifying or overwhelming or scary.  Dom Sacco, our school adjustment counselor, really implemented the program, had some success with the students getting trained and doing work with their peers but it really took off this year when we had the training.  Pat Boland, our health teacher and coordinator, really took it head-on as well as Annie Alquist.  Annie was our intern with Vicky Shufton, our district psychologist.  Annie was so taken in her pre-internship work with the ADL training that she asked the trainer to come back and train new cohorts this year.  The reason I am spending a lot of time on this is it had such an impact.  The students in 7th and 8th grade led along with their 5th and 6th grade student leadership peers several advisories, and what I mean by several, is pretty much once a week for three weeks so about nine different advisories in the 5th grade.  This was our 13 and 14 year olds and some of our 10 and 11 year olds going into 5th grade classroom and doing the hard work, anti-racist and anti-biased work with our own students.  They also went to the WEB DuBois homesite.  They were also chosen to go to the Strive conference which is put on by the DA’s office every year and to present, not just to be participants.  We are sending eight students to the high school to be trained.  In term of our curriculum, we have always had a strong curriculum throughout all the grades and understanding diversity but also overcoming adversity and then specifically when we move up to 6th, 7th and 8th grade, very specific pieces of our curriculum, the african american experience, the latino experience as well as a lot of global issues that have come along with poverty and hunger.  We are really starting to jump into that.  We had also planned this year but got shut down by COVID, a really exciting engagement with our 6th and 7th graders going out to the archives at UMass Amherst and the 8th grade around understanding the black experience in America as well as national and international stuff but specifically about WEB DuBois.  What is very exciting is the instructional leads have decided that we need to spend time having conversations as a faculty and we have invited Albert ….; he is a trainer who works with the Collaboration for Education Service from Northampton to do some direct development around culture responsive teaching.  He will be doing some workshops with faculty and really confronting us with how we think and our curriculum then continuing through the school year working with the teachers to really think about how we integrate diversity.  We are jumping in to the top of our heads and take this really seriously.
    • Farina – Monument Mountain Regional High School – I don’t want to reiterate everything Ben said but I will tell you that there is a substantial amount of alignment between the work happening with what Ben described and what we have been doing at the high school. As he shared, the high school was actually out in front of the ADL work sometime ago then the ball got dropped for a period of time and this past fall, we have reengaged and have students at the high school who are really ready to go and having these conversations.  Unfortunately, those were supposed to begin in advisory during the second half of the year but that didn’t happen yet.  I will tell you something that is happening soon connected to that.  The curriculum work that Ben described particularly connected to the WEB DuBois initiative we were just getting involved in March.  There was set to be some professional development that some of the high school teachers were going to engage in and again that was cancelled.  We are doing curriculum planning this summer and shifting some of the social studies and humanities work and making sure we are bringing in culturally diverse techs into both social studies and our english is our major focal point for the work our teachers are doing this summer.  What I really want to focus on highlighting is something that is connected to the Project Summer program that is happening.  Ariel Woolis-Pink who is one of the faculty members who was involved in the ADL training this winter, she has connected with Beth Walker and they through the Project Connection program are starting a social justice conversation with students this summer.  We have over 25 students signed up already which is a very positive thing given that it is summer and it is remote and virtual experiences but the plan is over a period of four weeks.  Beth and Ariel are going to be coordinating with multiple community partners.  We are working with Railroad Street Youth, Bridge and AACP, we have representatives from the Elizabeth Freeman Center, someone from Hevreh working with us as well as Leigh Davis from the Great Barrington Selectboard.  The plan is, each week there is going to be a topic of conversation.  They are going to divide the students into smaller groups so that they can have circle meetings, virtually.  The topics are, in the first week, social justice movements in the US and the history around that.  The next is around how to organize for change.  The third is looking at who is in charge and they will look at democracy and how within a democracy one has conversations around social justice and the final is around what is youth leadership and youth voice in this context.  The goal is actually to get these students thinking about their roles beyond the walls of the school and how they can connect with some of these community organizations and get involved in the conversation around social justice beyond what happens within the high school experience.  We are pretty excited about this work.  At the end of the sessions, they are planning a community conversation, a closing circle.  I asked Ariel for the date but they don’t have it yet because they are trying to coordinate with the community partners.  They wanted me to extend the invitation to all of you as school committee members and administrative team.  As soon as I have that date, I will get that out to you.
  • Sub Committee Reports:
    • Policy – N/A
    • Building & Grounds – N/A
    • Superintendent’s Evaluation & Advisory – N/A
    • Technology – N/A
    • Finance – N/A
    • District Consolidation & Sharing – P. Dillon – For Southern Berkshire/Berkshire Hills, there was a meeting the other day and that group has hired a bunch of consultants in different areas: a facilitator, some folks around consolidation, an attorney on retainer who responds to some legal things, and NESDEC to do a more complex demographic analysis. I imagine in the next six weeks, there will start being a lot of interesting work products and we will move past the process which we have been mired in.  We will report back to you on what is going on there.
  • Personnel Report
    • Certified Appointment(s)
    • Non-Certified Appointment(s)
    • Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)

Business Operation:

Education News:

Old Business:

  • New Business:
    • Public Comment
    • Written Communication

MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER                SECONDED:  R. DOHONEY                         ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

Meeting Adjourned at 6:58pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

______________________________

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

 

______________________________

School Committee Secretary