BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING

Teleconference Meeting via Zoom

June 3, 2021 – 6:00pm

 

Present:

School Committee:                 J. St. Peter, D. Singer, A. Hutchinson, C. Sprague, R. Dohoney, M. Thomas, B. Bonn-Buffoni, Zoe Holmes (Student member)

 

Administration:                       P. Dillon, S. Harrison

 

Staff/Public:                             T. Lee, K. Farina, B. Doren, S. Soule, K. Burdsall. K. Retzel

 

Absent:                                     S. Bannon, S. Stephen, B. Fields

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, 59 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.

  • Executive Session: (for the Purpose of Negotiations: (Chapter 30A, Sections 21, 22 & 23 #3)
    • Negotiations – Unit A thru Google Meet) – The Berkshire Hills Regional School District School Committee will enter into Executive Session pursuant to M.G.L. C. 30A, Section 21(a) #2, #3 to discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining. Holding this discussion in open session may have a detrimental effect on negotiations.  Immediately following Executive Session, the School Committee will reconvene in Open Session to continue the Regular Meeting via Zoom/ Facebook (login instructions above).  MOTION TO ADJOURN TO EXECUTIVE SESSION     THOMAS         SECONDED:  J. ST. PETER            ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

 

  • Minutes: May 6, 2021 – MOTION TO APPROVE MINUTES OF MEETING DATED MAY 6, 2021    HUTCHINSON             SECONDED:  C. SPRAGUE           ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Superintendent’s Report:
    • Good News Item(s)
      • Dillon (for K. Farina, Principal, Monument Mountain Regional High School) – some of you saw the walk-in of the Gala at the Norman Rockwell Museum and I am amazed at how mature and put together our students are. It is amazing to see them come together for that.  We also had this morning the award ceremony in the gym instead of the theater.  Two family members could come for each student.  We didn’t have presenters come in.  That was really amazing too .  This year our community and philanthropies awarded our students $450,000 in scholarships.  That is everything from family foundations to former schools to the Rotary, Housatonic Hose Company and everything in between.  It was amazing and wonderful community support.  The graduation is Saturday and it looks like the weather will be pretty good, maybe a little warm.  We are looking forward to seeing school committee members there and the community in general.  We have extended that people can bring up to 10 family members and if for some people there are 11 people in your family, we will work with you.  Reach out to the high school.  It might be a good day for sunscreen and a hat.  They are doing it at the school and not at Tanglewood which is our normal tradition because Tanglewood is unavailable for graduations now.
      • Doren, Principal, WEB DuBois Regional Middle School – I am really excited to share some good news with you. We are so happy to be back at school full time.  It really feels like school.  Classes are back in full swing.  So many kids have come back from remote as well.   Crew is going great.  It feels really good to have a community really pumping the culture around the school.  It has been a good unit all the way through the changes all year whether we have been in distance learning or hybrid.  Right before we came back full time we had family conferences which was great.  We used it as a crew connection.  The crew leader was able to talk about what happened in the past year and what students had accomplished and of course what to expect going into the following year.  We also piloted for a few crew student-led conferences which we are going to do next year.  It is a pretty transformative experience for the kids.  They lead the conversation around where they have come from and how they have grown and what they have accomplished and what their goals are.  Some fun news, we had a bunch of 7th and 8th graders participate in the Massachusetts middle school science fair and we had students in 7th and 8th grade place in all the top categories which is pretty exciting.  Lots of fun for students to do some intense science experiments.  Our anti-defamation league world of difference program even though we have been in a pandemic we had about 15 students commit all the way through to continue to work on being a peer leader and we were able to do our thing.  We had students in the past month do work with a first, second, third and fourth grade class where they led activities around anti bias, hate and community.  We have also had students join at the high school to understand students moving up.  We also had our anti defamation league students attend the conference with the district attorney.  It was virtual this year but they did present our world of difference program.  We had a whole slew of 8th graders just join as participants so it felt really good just to do things that were normal even though this year has not been normal.  We have the end of the year coming up.  Graduation will be on Tuesday on a hot evening but if everything goes right, no rain for my 10th year in a row.  Thank you to the high school for hosting us.  We will see our 8th graders off from this really odd year.  The following week, we get to have our traditional team awards where we gather the kids and the staff and give appreciation.  On the last day of school we will have our 5th kids meeting their 6th grade teachers, 6th graders to 7th grade teachers, etc.
      • Lee, Principal, Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School – It has been about three weeks since we had a positive COVID case or a potential exposure and we have not had to quarantine any classes or send home any classes. We are happy about that.  With the school year winding down, classes are spending a lot of time outdoors enjoying the weather on the grounds around the school.  Most of our classes can be seen taking their daily snack time outside.  A number of classes are taking trips to the Project Sprout garden and a few of our kindergarten classes have done some planning there.  We are heading outdoors for daily PE classes and trips to outdoor learning areas around the school.  Our specialists are planning a specialists field day on the 11th of June which will be a fun way to get all the kids outside doing some fun activities in the way we would do in a typical year.  One thing that has been a bit of a downer with all the outdoor time is the ticks are really bad this year.  We had to do some pretty extensive tick checks when the kids came back into the building.  Additionally our 4th grade faculty is planning for the end of the school year recognition and celebration of our 4th grade students moving up to the middle school.  We are planning the somewhat traditional drumming workshop that we have for 4th graders at the end of the year with individual classes taking the workshop led by Otha Day.  There will be some all school participation when we will probably have the first chance we have had all year to get together outside and recognize and celebrate our departing 4th graders who are going over to the middle school.  Unfortunately recognition with parent participation on school grounds has not been figured out yet but there will be some recognition that individual 4th grade classrooms are conducting virtually with parent participation.  Some adult news as well regarding staffing with planning and transitions to the new school year, at this time we project to be fully staffed with the exception of one para position.  It means we have hired three classroom teachers and one SPED teaching position.  These are due to retirements and moves that we have had this year.  We have some time planned towards the very end of the year for our new principal Kate Retzel to come in and spend some time with the staff and me and Nan and then some additional transition time built in beyond that.  All of our end of the year tasks, report cards, placements, etc. are on target right now and we are just moving along really well to what I think will be a very nice close of the school year.  One shout out I would like to give before I close, I want to thank our third grade teacher Molly Cosel.  Some might know Molly, she is a teacher but also a professional photographer and she was one of our faculty members who expressed a while back that they really regret not having group pictures of their classes this year.  It is something we look forward to every year, a memento of our time together with our students and unfortunately due to COVID at the beginning of this year, we couldn’t take group shots.  Molly, being a professional photographer, donated her services and yesterday cycled all of our classes through a staged outdoor photography area and we were able to get a group shot of all of our students that will be a gift, a memento for parents and students to have with them for this year. Thank you very much Molly for lending your talents to this year and thank you to our friends at Staples in Great Barrington who are going to print the photos for us at a greatly reduced cost and really help us to celebrate the end of the year.
    • Approval: 7/1/21 – 6/30/24 Berkshire Hills Education Association – Unit A Contract – P. Dillon – we worked really hard with the negotiating team of the school district and the negotiating team of the Berkshire Hills Education Association Unit A to reach this contract.  Our large focus was on updating and shifting the salary schedule.  That is the bulk of the work.  One of our challenges was 50-60% of our teachers were off step or off our salary schedule so this new contract and salary schedule gets everybody back on.  The other change is folks progress on the salary schedule in two ways; one is through credit accumulation or degrees and the other is through experience.  The steps previously were referred to in years.  Now they are represented by letters.  Folks will be placed where they should be by a letter and that is how we will go forward.  Two other things, we added an additional health insurance option which is the rate saver that is a high deductible plan that is offered by the Berkshire Health Group.  There are incentives for people to participate in that for a number of years then there is the opportunity for participants to create a health savings account which can be used towards medical expenses and for use as an investment vehicle.  It is another option in a portfolio of choices.  We updated the stipends and the compensation for those in Exhibit B and probably most importantly we updated the hourly rate for teacher work from $40/hr to $50/hr and I think that is the first time we have changed that in 12 years.  I am happy to respond to any questions or comments from the committee.  Previously Unit A voted to ratify the contract.  If you were to make a motion and vote to ratify the contract it would be in effect for the next school year which starts July 1.  We appreciate your support.  Jason, Molly and Anne were part of the negotiating team as was Sharon.  Dohoney – I think the work that everyone did on the financial aspect of this was momentous and I think this is fair and more importantly I think we finally got the contracts to a point of being clear and digestible.  I did in the last couple of weeks engage briefly with Steve and Peter about some issues I had that were totally non-financial, carry-over language, things in the contact which were too late in the game and not appropriate to deal with there, I am going to vote for this contact but I am going to try to engage and maybe I will put something in writing and get it to the negotiation committee and maybe sometime between now and the next contact comes up, we could engage in a round of new negotiations with the teachers about the non-financial terms.  I just want to make sure that the contact reflects our district values and our existing policies out front.  MOTION TO ACCEPT THE CONTACT FOR UNIT A           A. HUTCHINSON                 SECONDED:  M. THOMAS              ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
    • Revised Statement of Interest (SOI) to Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) / Potential Vote – P. Dillon – special thanks to the school committee for their feedback on the SOI. I took that all and worked very closely with Steve Soule to incorporate it all.  I then had a conversation with Diane Sullivan of the MSBA.  The big questions I had were could we identify ourselves as a priority one.  The debate was about our building seriously jeopardizing the school children.  She shared that we could check whatever box we want.  Based on her sense of the school and she has visited the school and she did not think that made a lot of sense.  If they do another visit and want to change it to priority 1, they would do that so there is flexibility there.  In my revision I did not put that in.  I did entertain number 3, the prevention of the loss of accreditation.  That is really reserved for the NEASC.  We have not participated in that in a long time.  By vote of the school committee we did our own self study and we are doing lots of work connected to our grants which fill that need.  It was a very expensive endeavor to house outside people in hotels to come and give us feedback on things we likely know more about.  Checking that box is really reserved for that.  We did mention that we had gotten some feedback in our Chapter 74 comprehensive program reviews, the vocational programs around our spaces and then the early childhood program falls under a different accreditation body, the NAEYC.  I did not check that box.  The final feedback we got and we will be working on this after graduation is they are interested and it really does favor us to submit a video of the school and to do that in a high quality way with a miced narrator particular somebody who is distinct from the camera person so Kristi, Steve Sould and I have been talking about and have talked to Paul Kakley about it.  We are starting to write a script and a story and we will hit all the things.  In many ways it is a wonderful school and the science labs are not adequate and the HVAC, windows are single pane, all the things in the SOI, we will document those in the video with a soundtrack and great titles to catch their eye and submit that as a supplementary document.  The only other thing that came up and I chose not to include it in the SOI but I would likely include it in a cover with the SOI is in light of the recent accident at the high school, I want to reference the driveway and that challenge.  It doesn’t quite fit into the SOI because it is a non-reimbursable expense but it is an important part of a broader project.  My intent if it is ok with the committee is to include that in the broader cover letter where I detail all the work we did with the regional agreement amendment committee, the current state of the situation in south county, the shift in population, the shift in how budgets have been graciously supported many years in a row, the additional tax revenue from development and the increase of property values but also particularly in Great Barrington the marijuana additional funds and then several of the communities have set up stabilization and dedicated funds in anticipation of a future capital project.  That is a mouthful but that is where we are.  As always I am always open to doing another set of revisions as needed.  I think we caught all the typos; I think the folks that read it again, it has vastly improved.  The tone is better, the case is more compelling and more organized.  If somebody would like to make the motion to submit the SOI that would be great.  There is a very formal motion that is part of the MSBA process. MOTION: Having convened in an open meeting on June 3, 2021, prior to the SOI submission closing date, the School Committee of Berkshire Hills Regional School District of Stockbridge, Massachusetts,  in accordance with its charter, by-laws, and ordinances, has voted to authorize the Superintendent to submit to the Massachusetts School Building Authority the Statement of Interest Form dated June 1, 2021 for the Monument Mountain Regional High School located at 600 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, Massachusetts which describes and explains the following deficiencies and the priority category(s) for which an application may be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority in the future:  Priority 1: Health and Safety of Students; Priority 5: Energy Constraints; Priority 7: Full range of Educational Programs;  and hereby further specifically acknowledges that by submitting this Statement of Interest Form, the Massachusetts School Building Authority in no way guarantees the acceptance or the approval of an application, the awarding of a grant or any other funding commitment from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, or commits the City/Town/Regional School District to filing an application for funding with the Massachusetts School Building Authority    SPRAGUE              SECONDED:  M. THOMAS         ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS AS AMENDED .     MOTION TO AMEND AND REMOVE PRIORITY 1 FROM ABOVE MOTION    J. ST. PETER            SECONDED:  C. SPRAGUE     ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Updates/Continued Discussions
    • Vacancies – P. Dillon – we have a small number of positions we are in the process of interviewing for and we hope to fill them shortly. We did a good job of getting ahead of the interviews.  The sooner your interview people the greater the likelihood you get high quality folks.  We are chugging away on that.  We really expanded our reach.  Jon did some nice work in New York State and for one position at the high school we had 30+ applications.  That hasn’t happened in a long time.  Committees are doing interviews and that is great.
    • Summer Plans Informed by Family and Staff Surveys – P. Dillon – we had a really big response to the summer plan survey. Maybe 220+ families representing about 400 kids expressed interest.  Jon, Tom and Ryan are working through it very carefully and trying to break people up into potential classes and will be reaching out in the coming week or so with updates on that.  We will run some small groups but we don’t want to run groups with two people.  Really, nice interest from families and I think we will put together something that is meaningful and meets the needs of all.  Hutchinson – has the information gone out in Spanish?  P. Dillon – we have done a lot of work with VIM.  We may do some additional phone calls and other things.  We are meeting tomorrow about different ways we can do some outreach.  All our folks that speak a range of languages, if you go to our website, Google Translate is built in and we have done a good job of sharing that with people.  We try to translate whatever we can and then additionally if we miss something, that is an option and families are aware of that .  A. Hutchinson – are we coordinating with things going on at Berkshire South?  P. Dillon – we are.  We are talking with them.  I don’t know the most granular details on it but at our next meeting I will share an update on that.  C. Sprague – could there be an option for families to opt in at a later date?  P. Dillon – at some point it will make us nuts but if somebody did fill out a survey and did express an interest, the survey is still up an we are accepting responses and I think maybe when we reach out to people and say here are the things we are offering, it is highly likely there will be seats available in each of those things we are offering so at that point somebody could do it.  Our hope is that if people are interested in doing something they would have completed the survey.  C. Sprague – my sense is the survey was for more to gauge interest.  P. Dillon – we will work it though and go back out to people.  If 400 students expressed interest and all of a sudden there are 800 students who want to participate, we will be in a pickle.  Can we mess around with 100 more, certainly.  C. Sprague – it might make sense to go out again saying if you are explicitly interested in doing this, fill out this survey.  P. Dillon – ok.  That is good feedback.
    • Overview of Early Dismissal Plan / Potential Vote – P. Dillon – since we last met I held two community forums and a staff forum. Quite explicitly I’m not going to ask you to vote on it and we are going to revert or just continue with the plan we previously did.  I am not going to request that we implement the early dismissal plan.  There were three main reasons that were shared.  I don’t know if I agree with all of them but I did hear them.  One of the main reasons was the impact on learning time and quality of learning particularly coming off of a COVID year.  If people have real concern that investing so much in professional development it would take away from student learning time and they felt strongly about that.  The other one I heard was that early Wednesday would be a burden to parents.  I don’t totally understand it because we are offering programming for everyone and bussing but many parents expressed that it would be a burden.  The third one was this broad notion that it would be inequitable.  It is one the back burners.  I am not proposing we vote on it.  What I am recommending is we use our previous approach which is the two professional development days before school starts, two during the year, one on election day and one in March and then a number of half days during the year.  The one slight change I am going to recommend is that instead of holding those professional development half days on Fridays, which pretty clearly leads to very low student attendance, that I’m going to have them happen on Wednesdays.  It is the same amount of time.  The downside is some people like to take the half day off on Friday and make a long weekend of it and go somewhere and I’m sorry I’m messing up people who do that but if we care deeply about student learning time then it is an ok tradeoff.  From a school committee perspective, you approved a calendar with a start and end date but you didn’t approve a calendar with professional development days and half days so I like to propose we do that with the slight shift from Fridays to Wednesdays.  The March date is not on the calendar.  Let’s do the 18th March and I will share an updated calendar tomorrow.  I think it lines up with Richmond and Farmington River.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE CALENDAR AS AMENDED ADDING A  PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT DAY ON MARCH 18TH              HUTCHINSON             SECONDED:  M. THOMAS                  ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
    • COVID-19 – P. Dillon – Tim spoke to this a little bit. Things are moving in a good direction, thank goodness.  The countywide numbers are down dramatically and keep going down.  I think as a county we are likely to be green in the next few days.  The nurses continue to do an exceptional job and families are doing good work.  There will be a few more clinics at the school and then it will largely be based in the testing center by the police station in Great Barrington.  I think the next thing to happen will be we get word from the CDC that students younger than 12 will be eligible and the clinics in the school might start up again.  Lots of people in the 12 and up have been getting vaccinated and that is great news.
  • Sub-Committee Reports:
    • Policy Sub Committee – N/A
    • Building and Grounds Sub Committee – N/A
    • Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – N/A
    • Technology Sub Committee – N/A
    • Finance Sub Committee – N/A
    • District Consolidation & Sharing Sub-Committee – N/A
  • Personnel Report:
    • Retirement(s) – P. Dillon – Wendy Scott is retiring. She is a long time paraprofessional and we greatly appreciate all her work in the district.  Her daughter is also graduating this year.  We will miss Wendy quite a bit.  I would like her for all of her hard work.
    • Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)
  • Business Operation
  • Education News
  • Old Business
  • New Business
    • Public Comment
    • Written Communication

 

MOTION TO ADJOURN – ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

Meeting Adjourned at 8:02pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

 

______________________________

Stephen Bannon, Chair

 

______________________________

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

 

______________________________

School Committee Secretary