Minutes – June 6, 2019
BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Great Barrington Stockbridge West Stockbridge
SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING
Monument Mountain Regional High School – Auditorium
June 6, 2019 – 7pm
School Committee: J. St. Peter, B. Fields, A. Potter, D. Singer, M. Thomas, A. Hutchinson, R. Dohoney, D. Weston
Administration: P. Dillon, S. Harrison
Staff/Public: T. Lee, K. Farina, B. Doren, K. Burdsall, Juraye Moran, Sunwha Reiner, Corey Sprague, Glen Chamberlin, many more
Absent: S. Stephen, S. Bannon
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: 2 hour, 03 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.
- Good News Item (s)
- Tim Lee, Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School – Good evening. A couple bits of good news tonight. Going back a bit to May 18th, I want to give a thank you to our PTA for a very successful Mud Day event. If you are not familiar with Mud Day, it is a very popular community building event and this year marked our 10th year of Mud Day. It is environmentally-focused, outdoor, community building, play day for kids and families. We had a number of different community organizations participating. Pleasant Valley Nature Center, our own Chess Club, Project Connection and Flying Cloud Institute all participated. A special thank you to Randi Craft our PTA president who orchestrated all of Mud Day this year. Also a special thank you to Josh Briggs who helped out a lot with the set up and organization. I also wanted to give a special thank you to Jeff Jennison. He is one of our custodians who was on duty that Saturday. He went above and beyond to help us to set up and make sure we were ready for the day. Also, a special thank you to Steve Soule and the facilities crew who did a lot of extra work basically moving mud around, making sure that we were going to have a good event and it was. It was a great turnout. Another thing I would like to point out is that last Friday our music teacher, Kim Chirichella, led and event. It was the first one we had of this sort in a while. It was an early childhood, family sing-a-long event that took place in the evening. We are trying out some new formats for our performances and concerts this year. This was one such example. It was very well attended. Parents and kids had a great time and I wanted to recognize Kim for her effort for putting this together. Also, today an event at our school with our 2nd grade team had a culminating parent/community event celebrating a three-week study that they called the Landmark Unit. It was an integrated unit beginning with English Language Arts involving some social studies. They started with some work on the topic of ancestry and then they looked at the countries that the students in the classes had ancestors coming from. Students did more of a focused study of the landmarks of those particular countries that the families were coming from. It culminated today with a bit of a fair where students shared what they learned about the various places and also they were all charged to create a model of a landmark from a particular place. We saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, some Scottish castles, Myan pyramids. The kids did a great job and the teachers did a great job pulling together a really integrated a fun thematic unit over a number of weeks. Thank you to our 2nd grade team. Finally, a general thank you, I am really grateful to all of our Muddy Brook staff. We have a wonderful staff. The past few weeks have been somewhat challenging in terms of finding coverage and making sure that school was able to run smoothly while we had a lot of events taking place and we also had professional development going on. I would like to recognize tonight our exceptional paraprofessional staff who especially in the past two weeks have really stepped up and helped us to cover classes, make sure the kids were well supervised and otherwise just help the school run smoothly. Thank you to our awesome paraprofessional team.
- Ben Doren, Monument Valley Regional Elementary School – Good evening. First of all, I have yearbooks so you can each take one. Keep them under wraps if you have kids in the middle school. It is a great yearbook this year. Our yearbook team is 5-8th grade crew. It is a lot of fun to put it together and it is a great celebration for the kids. For 5th grade news, which is actually 4th grade news, we just had an open house for families coming up from the 4th grade. We had Muddy Brook families and those coming from private schools and those choicing in. We put on a nice program, giving a tour of the school and talking about the wonderful parts of our program. It was very well attended. Sixth grade is taking trips. We kind of got rained out today so they are doing the Jiminy Peak trip next week and doing the trip to French Park. The 6th grade has really come together and this is really a celebration for the kids’ hard work for the year. We also just came away from our 8th grade Washington DC trip which was a blast. It is the 5th year we have done it. The past two years, we started out by going to Gettysburg because the 8th grade studies the civil war so it is a great curricular connection. We then end up in DC, touring the monuments. A big thing this year is we got tickets for the first time to the African American Culture Museum and it was phenomenal. It is just so hard to get in so the tour company got us tickets which is great. We toured a lot of monuments, Lincoln, MLK, FDR and just to see a lot of the sights around the city and we always end with the Newseum which a an amazing museum of news and media. What is great about the trip is that it is not just fun and games. The students do a lot of study about DC leading up to it with disciplinary study and then they are in groups and collect evidence toward their project when they are in DC and then spend several days this week on putting together projects and presentations. Next week, we have our YES program which is our year-end service program. We did it last year for the 8th graders; it was leading up to graduation and we in the past we were just creating busy work so around the county a lot of middle school have done projects like there where they have the 8th graders do service. Last year was amazing. We had about 11 projects where kids do trail work, they learn how to be babysitters, they made art for students with disabilities, they did the billion graves project archiving and uploading on graves. There is an amazing amount of service around the county and it was so exciting with our new 7th and 8th grade teams that we would do it for all of the 7th and 8th graders. Every single 7th and 8th grader next week is going to be in a three-day service project. We have about 14 projects so it is amazing. Our faculty is stepping up and creating an amazing experience for kids. To end the year, 8th grade graduation is next Thursday at 6:30. We welcome all of you to join us. Just call the school and let us know or send an email. We would love to have you. It is always a wonderful experience to come and see the 8th graders and see the families. We have a lot of great awards and student speakers.
- Kristi Farina, Monument Mountain Regional High School – What I hope is the first bit of good news is that this is the first time at the microphone as the interim principal. I stepped into that role on Monday. At the high school, as most of you are probably aware, we just finished up with senior week. We had graduation. Everything went very smoothly which is always a great thing to say about senior week. There were no huge bumps that occurred in the road as we passed through that week. I also would like to recognize all of the work that our guidance department does to pull everything together, getting grades in. Literally on Tuesday to actually be able to verify that all our seniors are ready to graduate and can receive their caps and gowns Tuesday afternoon and then the senior awards assembly that happened on Wednesday so it is a very fast turnaround that happens during that week. The office staff who did amazing work pulling together graduation breakfast and all of the programs for graduation and breakfast even in our horticulture department they made beautiful arrangements for graduation and for the breakfast. Our food service staff that put on the breakfast was wonderful. It is really a team effort. Our custodial staff setting up, taking down, setting up, taking down, etc. I just want to recognize all of the people who are involved in making these events happen and run smoothly for our students and our families. Thank you to all of them. As I stepped into this role on Monday, Monday night we had our junior awards ceremony and I think that is actually a remarkable ceremony. It is not a competitive ceremony. It is really all about recognition and this year we recognized a third of the junior class for their accomplishments as they progress through their experience at Monument. It was a remarkable thing for me to be able to jump into on my first day as principal because I literally got hear about these students who were freshmen when I was in the classroom two years ago and I did not teach freshmen that year so I really did not know the students. It was very nice to join that celebration and hear about all of their good work. Next week is our last week of classes and we have final exams approaching. Last day of classes will be on Tuesday and we will have final exams on Wednesday and Thursday. We are wrapping up the year with surveys that we are going to be getting out to students tomorrow. I will be sending them out to parents in the bulletin this week and then to faculty next week where we are actually asking some questions around student voice and engagement and questions about advisory, both of those are connected to the grant we received from Mass Ideas. We are trying to do work connected to that as we move into next year. We are trying to get feedback from different constituencies regarding that work. On June 21st we are hosting the Relay of Life again. Ok, I’m going to put my other hat on and from the DOLT perspective there are a couple of things I do want to share. We did receive three grants from the Department of Education for our out of school programming to expand that work. One of them is that we are bringing back the 8th to 9th grade transition program. It will be a small program this year but we are trying to rebuild that program. It was a program we had years ago and it is something that is really needed for some of our students to participate in during the summer and get them ready for coming into high school. We also received two grants to expand the Project Connection program in the summer at Muddy Brook, one of them and the other is at Monument Valley. We also received two grants from Berkshire United Way and that is also to support the Project Connection out of school programming at Muddy Brook and Monument Valley. We are really excited about that as well.
- Karl Zigmand, Monument Mountain Regional High School, Athletic and Co-Curricular Director – (presented a film and PowerPoint presentation (read from PP presentation)(attach if available) I am looking to start unified sports teams. Wahconah has unified sports teams. Hoosac is the second team in Berkshire County that has a unified sports team. We are going to work really hard to see that Monument Mountain becomes the third school in Berkshire County to have an inclusive sports program. Potter – will you define that please? P. Dillon – it is to include a wide range of students with a wider range of abilities so kids that might in some other context be classified as special needs or have some physical challenges that will be part of a team. It happens informally now but to move to a unified team is a more formal deliberate thing. K. Zigmand – we lost boys tennis so we have to look at that to see what we can do to get it back. Some feel that ultimate frisbee might have taken away kids from the tennis program, I’m not sure. It we want to keep adding programs, we have to figure out what to do. There is a lot of talk about maybe Monument joining the other Berkshire County schools to allowing middle school students to participate on the teams to increase our numbers because our numbers are low not just in tennis. I am not saying that I think we should go that way but it is out there. We will see where that goes. J. St. Peter – whose decision is that ultimately? P. Dillon – the opportunity to have 7th graders participate, my understanding is it is contingent on having, and not to confuse it with the other unified, but a unified campus. If kids are in the same building, 7th-12th, then you are able to include 7th and 8th graders on high school teams. That is not the case here so it is my understanding that we cannot do that. K. Zigmand – it has changed though, there is now a waiver process that you can pursue. If you look at the Berkshire County schools, Wahconah has now gone that way, Mt. Greylock has been doing this for years. P. Dillon – but they are 7-12. J. St. Peter – Wahconah I know for a fact waivers their kids onto the varsity and they do not have the same principals or buildings. Northampton does it. There are a significant of high schools doing this. K. Zigmand – that is probably a discussion for another meeting. It is something to consider. It would increase our numbers. B. Fields – is that for all sports or a waiver of an individual sport? P. Dillon – let’s come back with some research. R. Dohoney – I don’t think it is worth the discussion. I think it is a stupid idea. P. Dillon – I don’t disagree with you but let’s save it for a future meeting. K. Zigmand – another goal is we had some issues with students violating MIAA regulations whether it was smoking or jeweling and there was some behavior on the field that I wasn’t happy with. We had a couple of players ejected from games which is not acceptable. We need to keep working on that. Any questions? R. Dohoney – how do you think the new role and position is going? For those of us that have been on the committee for awhile, we had a lot of years where all we talked about was cutting positions and eliminating positions and a lot of us put a lot of effort and we were excited to be able to expand the position you now occupy. There are a lot of people really invested to make sure it goes well. You are the guy who would know. What are your thoughts after the first year? K. Zigmand – From talking and meeting with my coaches and in the community, I have heard positive feedback. I feel really good that we were able to host every event, we made every event, there were buses 100% throughout the year. There is a lot to be proud of. I think it is going well. You would have to talk to the athlete, the coaches and people in the community. B. Fields – do you have a system of evaluation for the non-sport activities such as the play, Jacob’s Pillow, etc.? K. Zigmand – not yet. That would be challenging if it was going to really meaningful and authintic. I get to a lot of practices. I am at every home game for every sport. B. Fields – you were the first on to be at a golf match because I talked to somebody that said they couldn’t believe you were at a golf match. They hadn’t ever seen somebody from the school at one. K. Zigmand – I enjoy the games. I like watching practices. I was an athlete and a coach. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to be fair. I’ve been at a rehearsal, a number of them. I was at the play but I don’t know if I have the time to evaluate everyone fairly. A. Potter – in terms of the 52% participation, are your happy with 52% or do you have ideas about how to perhaps expand and make some of these activities both on the club side and the humanities side as well as the sports side. I am hearing a pretty heavy tilt toward the sports and athletics side as opposed to the club and other activities. Do you have an idea how to build that up? K. Zigmand – the clubs we look at that we actually kept record with, the numbers were good. If we really had everyone that was actually part of the spring production, our numbers would have been much higher. I am more concerned about sports teams like the football team and some other teams where our numbers are really low and how do you increase those numbers. I have always felt a good quality youth program like the Housatonic program for boys basketball, they do a wonderful job developing young players and they are staying in the system. I think I need to work with some of these youth programs to make sure they are quality programs. I was just with the Golden Knights and they asked me to come to their board meeting. We were sharing ideas. You have to build it from the ground up and then your numbers will increase at the high school. K. Farina – the other piece in terms of building numbers and it’s a conversation that we have had for some time but I think we have to revisit it, it actually connects to the work we are doing that I mentioned around the grants and building out of school programming, is the lack of transportation for some folks. When we talk about increasing the numbers, there very well could be students who are interested in participating and are prohibited from doing so because they don’t have the transportation they need particularly in 9th and 10th grade. That is something we have to consider. J. St. Peter – I have heard nothing but good things and I think this is one of our best hires and I think as a committee this is one of our best hires, both the after school program for the high school, both varsity and high level plays where kids have to show up for practices. These are life lessons that are invaluable. When the get into the real world and have jobs or when a coach says something and they disagree with it, they are going to have to deal with it. If we can get a kid hooked on something and makes them want to come to school and do well in school and get good grades, then it is invaluable. To me, this is critical and important. I want to thank you for doing such a great job. P. Dillon – this conversation is really important in the context of the meeting a few weeks ago with the prevention needs assessment survey and the risk factors and protective factors, these things are all highly protective and wonderful. B. Fields – Karl, in regards to that participation rate, how do we stack up? I was always under the currimpression when I was teaching here that we had a very high percentage of kids involved in extracurricular activities all spans of them, in regards to other schools? K. Zigmand – I can find that out because they are all using the same program to register students so they all have the data That is a good question. I will find out. B. Fields – I am just interested because we always talk about the standardized test scores, which we all know how I feel about that, but why don’t we do that for other things. I see the value of keeping kids in extracurricular activities so much so it would be good to see how we rate with other districts. I think we are higher but I don’t have anything to base that on. R. Dohoney – We had for some period of time an online sign-up for sports and he has expanded it to other activities. Correct me if I am wrong, the stats you put up there are just drawn from activities that function off the online registration system. K. Zigmand – yes. R. Dohoney – so, Poetry Out Loud doesn’t go online? K. Zigmand – no. R. Dohoney – so that is not really representative of what is going on here. K. Zigmand – I use the ones that we are using for online registration and those are the clubs and activities that there are multiple days where you have a commitment to come to rehearsal or practice. There is a user fee involved for the spring musical and the Shakespeare but we could. The other clubs we could generate that data if we wanted to. R. Dohoney – if you we going to calculate the total student hours per week dedicated to extra-curricular activities, I think we are comparatively through the roof. K. Zigmand – the number if you are doing at least one thing each week after school has to be above 80% in my opinion. I would be surprised if it wasn’t. R. Dohoney – there is a great tradition going back to when some of us went here to of activities, sport going organically. They are the richest experiences for students. D. Weston – if you are ever having trouble sleeping and want something to do it would be interesting to look at how many individual data points that it is. So, if you take the percentage of students over the course of the entire year that are participating because it is going to be higher than 52% just using the data that you have, because there are some people that just did one, but if you did the musical and fall sports, it starts to add up and I think we would see a higher number of students that are participating in at least one of those activities during the school year. K. Zigmand – Peter and I were talking about something like that I think. R. Dohoney – just one more thing, I am happy to see this and I know it was part of the job description is the coach’s evaluations. Diane and I were sitting at a basketball game and she said something to me which really stuck in my mind, which is you don’t get to see your kids in class and you don’t really get to see them in school but we get to see them playing sports or doing plays, etc., and I feel that is true for parents but it is true to the community at large. Even though it is not the whole picture, it is the community’s only connection with the school. When I worked for Governor Saluchi, the thing that would make him blow his top often is when people complained about the Department of Motor Vehicles. It was the most important program in state government because this is where people touched it the most and he always said “if people don’t have faith in the Registry of Motor Vehicles, they are not going to have faith in us to do the other programs.” I feel if the parents, the students and the community doesn’t have faith in what they touch or face, which is the coaches, theater people, play people, then it affects everything else. I am not saying it is a problem but it is really great that we are dedicating a lot of resources toward that and at that level we are always up to the same par we are with our academics.
- FY20 Appointments:
- District Treasurer – MOTION TO APPOINT RICHARD JETTE, CPA AS THE TREASURER FOR THE BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2020 EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2019 THROUGH JUNE 30, 2020 DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- School Committee Recorder – MOTION TO APPOINT CHRISTINE KELLY AS THE DISTRICT RECORDER FOR THE BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2020 EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2019 THROUGH JUNE 30, 2020 DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Request to Approve Instructional Program Overview – 2019/2020 – Monument Valley Regional Middle School – P. Dillon – Ben sent around two things, a program instructional overview and a memo talking about it that promotes some response. It was a draft memo and we had a very busy weekend in relation to that feedback. We are at a point where I would like to look forward on this and set a good process to continue that dialogue going forward. I think it makes sense for Ben to talk about it.
- Discussion of Proposal Process Going Forward: Doren – this first thing a want to say is I feel really bad about the discord about the idea this has brought to the community. That was not the intention. The intention behind all of this is to share a lot of difficult situations with the schedule and sharing academic, exploratory and performance music programs. This year was very hopeful because we talked about aligning schedules across schools and it didn’t happen in a way really allowed us to address these issues through the schedule and I spent many years trying hard to creatively balance out all the different programs and it turned out we were unable to do it. This was just a year where the faculty really moved ahead with a lot of different ideas about how to progress with the middle school program and then created some tensions. I had to make some tough decisions in proposing how we could do that. Right now, the good news is for the tensions that existed in the past couple of weeks, because we are doing next year, what we are doing this year. We are doing some minor adjustments. The 5th and 6th grades are able to work within the schedule and create some larger blocks for instruction; they are able to build in some advisory time by pulling out some instructional time so there are a few things we are able to move ahead with and there are lots of things we have been doing all of this year that we are going to continue with. I am very excited about it and the faculty is excited as well. I do want to talk about a few things of the why – why would we create a situation that creates so much tension and so much concertation among a lot of our families and for some of our students. The memo pretty much summarizes this but I think it is important to go through some of the pieces and some of the impetus behind shifting the schedule. The big shift I think that causes a lot of the concern was shifting the performance music program into the extended day. Right now, the performance music program runs that last two periods of the school day; it is the 5th and 6th grade ensemble and a 7th and 8th grade ensemble as well. In the past we have had different schedules where we had a single period of performance music with 5th through 8th grade ensembles and many years ago we shifted that and it was two periods so we could actually create this opportunity for all of 5th and 6th graders along with all the 3rd and 4th graders to take performance music. We also recognized the ensembles in the high school were not growing in the way we wanted to as a district. This was a way to invest in kids earlier in the ensembles and actually grow the whole program which is quite exciting and also make it more equitable for more students to participate. 7th and 8th grade continued to be an elective and then moving on to the high school where they do elective larger ensembles during the day and select ensembles during the extended day program. The idea was to move it out so we could do a few things. We wanted to do restoring a full offering of visual and musical arts to the exploratory program. Right now we don’t offer music or design to 6th graders and for students who choose to do the electives in 7th and 8th grade, if they take one ensemble, they can’t take one of art, music or design. If they take two ensembles, they can’t take two of the art, music or design offerings. There is already a limitation in the exploratory arts program. Also it restores an equitable enrollments to 7th and 8th grade exploratory classes. Right now, because of how students choose the ensembles depending on enrollments and the different ensembles, it can create imbalanced enrollments. We have some exploratory classes that are sized at eight and some that are 26 as opposed to having ones in the 22 range or 16 range. It creates imbalances in the types of students that are in there. The other part was to expand the advisory of social/emotional learning program by making a more flexible schedule. 5th and 6th grade want to expand it ito five days a week and 7th and 8th grade exploratory teachers participate as advisors but we don’t have time in the day when a team of teachers can meet as advisors. That wasn’t that important several years ago because we had core teachers as the homeroom teachers and they worked with all the students when the exploratory team met. Over the past three years, we have had exploratory teachers as full advisors, sharing in that experience of shepherding kids through the year and taking on the circle time and community building and also the academic support. Not having a regular time for them to meet really keeps them out of the loop of talking about kids and collaborating on community activities and the flexibility in the schedule would create the ability for them to meet regularly. Invest in the extended day program – the idea is we were going to be running a late bus at 3:30 which allows us academic support; it allows us to expand our offerings and it allowed us to have performance music there because we could still have kids take the bus home. We weren’t limited by kids not being able to participate because they didn’t have a ride which is pretty much where we are right now with many of our kids and our Farmington River kids who can’t participate in most of our extended day activities because there is no bus. Also, collaborate an interschool program development which would have opened up by adding and creating the flexibility in the full programming in the exploratory program. One of the first things we have done is got a Project Lead the Way grant which is the 21st Century STEM program which is going to be implemented in the high school and middle school components. We are going to push that into the design program in the 6th grade. We are going to continue with it but we are now going to have to cut a chunk of our design program to participate which is great for Project Lead the Way and our students but not great to have to limit some of the programs we have already developed and are quite successful. The current plan is to continue as we are this year and make some adjustments to support interdisciplinary curriculum and scheduling for the 5th and 6th grades along with some creative scheduling for advisory for them. We are not really able to address the issues in the 7th and 8th grade which is arguably some of the most important to do advisory. I also hope that in the upcoming year, we are able to collaborate as a faculty and administration and solve some of the barriers developing. The middle school program mostly, through the alignment of schedules or possibly the not sharing of staff across schools but I am not sure if that is a possibility but it would create the flexibility within the program that we would be able to solve all of these things and create a robust program that is equitable within the school day and also have a lot of this flexibility. We need to find a way to balance the academic exploratory performance music programs in the middle school. It is something I have been working on aggressively for five years now but it has been an issue in our middle school and our district for 20 or 30 years. I am trying really hard to figure out a way to support academics and exploratory support performance music. I am well aware that this proposal would have compromised the performance music program. The academic program used to be compromised. I wouldn’t accept that. That was the most important part of our program in terms of it wasn’t meeting state standards when I arrived, so we were able to fix that. Then I moved it to collaborate with the exploratory program and it has created a lot of imbalance and loss of programming. There are no winners here. There is only this opportunity for us to do better. I was hoping this was a way to create a little more balance amongst the pieces and I am aware the community wouldn’t accept that and really spoke up. I was directed to step back and I am looking forward to a year where we can really collaborate and operate and have a dialogue to nail it and have a solution for the following fall. J. St. Peter – the exploratory classes, can you define what those are that are getting the short end of the stick with the current schedule? B. Doren – right now the students take 90 days of physical education. We are large enrollments before so the 7th and 8th grades weren’t able to offer some explatories classes for kids that met for 45 days which is the standard. Kids, take art, health, design, general music. In addition, 6th graders take a French and Spanish exploratory; 5th graders we try to give library to. Obviously the performance music program is important and 5th and 6th graders take it every other day and 7th and 8th graders have an opportunity to take it either every other day with the general ensemble or they can take it every day if they are in a general and a select ensemble. Pretty much we have focused on some state expectations for physical education and health education so all students do get a full experience for physical and health education 5th through 8th grade which is really essential but because of the way performance music works with the French and Spanish, all the expectations we have to offer a lot of diversity in programming, we have students who are not getting general music and design in 6th grade, and we have students in the 7th and 8th grades because of the performance music enrollments, that were not taking one of two of the general, art or design classes. It also creates another pressure because about 10-15% of the students who either are not in performance music or are able in their schedule able to take the full roster, but also have no place to be in the other pieces, so we have to create activity which some it is wonderful and creative and some kids go down to Muddy Brook to work in elementary classrooms; we have some kids that are helpers in their classrooms and we have lots of kids in study hall, etc. We also have a large enrollment in our Maker Space class which is a great idea. It is a collaboration with the guidance counselor and our design teacher which is around kids going in and working on academics or exploratory work and if they are done, they get to do woodshop or metal shop or design work. It is about 50 of our students who have already taken a full roster of explatories and it still doesn’t create the ideal. It is something we want to expand but haven’t been able to. D. Weston – is this a problem we created for ourselves when we cut half a music position a few years ago? P. Dillon – I think it more about scheduling. There are a number of things that happened. We had a middle school teacher teaching a class in the elementary so that person was pulled in multiple places. Going forward, we are not doing that anymore. We had several teachers teaching more than a typical load and that is problematic and then we had one teacher who was relatively under scheduled. We redistributed how that was and I think that was better. The part of the position…does it hurt? Yes. In every other department over the years, we have realized more significant cuts. Probably what we are trying to do in music is more complicated than what we are trying to do in those departments. A year from now or four months from now when the finance subcommittee is meeting, we might have a discussion about recommending that we reinstate part of that. There is also an opportunity this year around hiring in a program that is highly specialized and dependent on particular teachers’ backgrounds and depending on who is in the candidate pool for the two soon to be vacant positions…there are a lot of moving pieces. B. Doren – also we went from 5 FTEs to 4.6 FTEs but we went the middle school and made that shift from 1.5 FTEs to 1.8; we actually expanded performance music programming in the middle school and cut in the high school and elementary school. D. Weston – a few years back, we were pushing everybody into music which no choice and now we are making it more optional. B. Doren – yes. D. Weston – I have a couple of thoughts. The first is, at the end of the memo, you talk about working with teachers and administrators. I think there are more stakeholders who should be involved in this process. I would also include our tuitioned-in districts because on the one hand they don’t have the opportunity to participate in Project Connection but they are also not going to run a late bus for music programs for Farmington River. B. Doren – or other extended offerings …even for our in-day programming, kids from Farmington River don’t opt for our in-day programming because they can’t make the commitments for concerts and the like so there is an imbalance for our Farmington River students. D. Weston – I wouldn’t want to increase the barriers. I would want to decrease them. B Doren – great. R. Dohoney – we are comfortable with teachers in the music program teaching in multiple schools or are we trying to move them? What is our position on that? P. Dillon – it’s mixed. We had a middle school teacher teaching at the elementary school and going forward we are moving away from that. We have our strings teacher teach across all three buildings and next year our band teacher is going to teach across all three buildings. They elementary school teacher next year will have a typical or normal load and she will be entirely in the elementary school. R. Dohoney – but that is how it is right now? P. Dillon – it is but she is doing too much. The middle school music teacher will have a typical or normal load and will be self-contained in the middle school. The band teacher next year will work across all three buildings which is challenging and the strings teacher will work across all three buildings. The .6 chorus teacher is unique to the high school. A. Potter – so for clarity sake Peter, what is administration asking from us at this meeting? P. Dillon – by Mass General Laws you guys don’t really weigh in on educational plans. You weigh in on the budget which lets us do the educational plans and you create policy and then you hire, fire and evaluate, Sharon and me. I think we are talking about this because it goes to the next point. Ben had the proposal that he was sharing with his middle school faculty. He shared it with them on a Thursday. The proposal became very public almost immediately. Before Sunday had ended, I had received 150 emails or so and a bunch of phone calls. People got agitated largely driven by social media and other things. I called Ben and said this part of the proposal is dead on arrival and we need to do better. What makes me sad about that is … different people can interpret it in various ways. Was it a good proposal or a bad proposal. Were parts good and parts bad but we missed an opportunity to first at the building level have a dialogue about it and over the last three or four weeks, people have been screaming at each other about it. So what I am concerned about going forward is that we start this conversation over the summer and early fall as we get into the cycle of the budget season with planning which wide participation. I take Dan’s think about parents of tuition kids and the broader community come back sometime early in the spring or in February or March with a more comprehensive way to balance multiple competing priorities. I think we can do it. I think we just didn’t quite do it with this latest direction. D. Weston – how many people did we have on the last elementary principal search committee? P. Dillon -that was the other thing I was going to say. 30+. So why don’t we do that? D. Weston – what this made me think was maybe the middle school day should be longer. Period. R. Dohoney – you and every educational expert in the country have come to that conclusion. D. Weston – we are talking about a staggered schedule for the music teachers. I assume they were coming in late and leaving late. Maybe we are looking at a staggered schedule for all the middle school teachers. Maybe we are looking at bussing in a whole different way. There are lots of issues that this could feed into. Maybe this went too far but it wasn’t far enough. A. Potter – well it got beyond policy and budget. It was a curriculum overhaul basically but it went beyond policy and budget which is within the purview of this committee. P. Dillon – the other thing that came up that makes a lot of sense it there are two moves we can make relatively easily that would be better from a process perspective. We have standing committees in finance, policy, buildings and grounds and evaluation and advisory and technology. There is nothing that keeps us from having us doing a short-term Ad Hoc committee to dig into something. It might make sense to do that in this area. The other thing that connects not just this work but I was talking to people today connected to the Mass Ideas Grant and other things, for years we have been trying to build very strong connections across the buildings that things make sense and there is continuity. One of the ways we need to do this is look at how we allocate our time with teacher in particular and make time for people to talk across buildings. We have four whole days around professional development, we have six half days, there is building-based collaborative time and a lot of that work has to revolve around math or literacy or people’s professional growth or social/emotional learning, nut allergies, safety drills, a whole host of things, but we could decide…having this make sense as a district is something we prioritize then in turn we have to prioritize our time around that. I think that is what we will be talking over the summer as an administrative team even though we will come back to the school committee then go to the instruction leads and the whole faculty and talk to our colleagues at the BHEA and try to map that out in a more coherent way. As frustrating as this is, I would like to look more forward around what we can do rather than rehash the frustration. A. Potter – I think your first point Peter of an Ad Hoc committee, I might suggest even going a step further and have a standing committee on instructional program within the district. So an Instructional Program subcommittee so we can have these discussions the same way we have with the finance subcommittee to have budget discussions as the year goes on we can build out ideas and maybe coordinate policy, etc. That is a direction I would be interested in going. R. Dohoney – I don’t disagree with you. First of all, I am a big fan of the short-term Ad Hoc committees for individual issues. I agree somewhat with what you are saying Andy. Technically these decisions are not in our authority so should be have a committee on them? I could see maybe expanding the purview of the policy committee to maybe a vehicle to do that. The scheduling is always difficult for us anyway. I am on the fence. B. Fields – some of these changes would affect us financially; extended school day, bussing, teachers’ contracts might be affected, right? R. Dohoney – everyone remembers my motion a few years ago about after school bussing that you all voted against, right? A. Potter – yes, I remember. The Ad Hoc idea for me is fine. I see as a more holistic view across the buildings and have a marker down that we are a stakeholder in this kind of policy development. P. Dillon – so the ask of this group is we start to engage you in more of these conversations and the form of that is to be determined but relatively quickly like in the next meeting or two. R. Dohoney – it is a bigger problem than just this little blow up. There is a huge balance between people. Is this something a consultant should look at or other models we can look. Every school in the country has this problem, right? Is there something that administration needs from us financially to access outside resources that can help? P. Dillon – different times we have worked with consultants around scheduling. We have Dan from the Great School Partnership who is working with the administrators at a retreat this summer or some days with us or some days with teachers. One of the rare times that I am not going to ask for more resources right now but I will keep a raincheck. B. Doren – I think there are lots of ways to solve this. One would be financial but another way is also Dan did work with us in the early fall around values discussion around scheduling and it kind of fell off. What I would like to do is to recommit to that conversation and take it fully through. I think with the three principals we have now, we can have a robust conversation and probably solve it from values and resource shifting. B. Fields – from what I understand where you said they will shift to a schedule in 6th grade that will increase instructional time by 20% in each subject. That isn’t going to happen. B. Doren – no that will. The 5th and 6th grade instructional shift will still be able to happen. The 6th grade just started a few years ago during the reimagination process, really invested in some pilots around instruction so we are basically going from five instructional groups to four and expanding instructional time. Fifth grade also with the mini teams so we are really investing in long blocks of instructions. What we will have to do though is carve out instructional time to do the five days of advisory and they will see a big payoff with that but again with a different kind of schedule and a different approach we can do both rather than either/or. J. St. Peter – I want to thank you Ben for looking out for the kids for maybe whose parents are political savvy enough to put the screws to the administration or school committee who aren’t interested in wood shop, maker’s space, etc. From a school committee standpoint, is there any more funding help regarding those kids who are being left out in this current system? Would that have more tangible benefits or is it just the schedule and no matter how much money we throw at it, it won’t be solved? B. Doren – more funding is always great. I think if we don’t solve the other issues that are about scheduling which I think is probably more important and a better way to go about it, obviously more faculty would help then we could split some of these larger groupings down and really address some of the needs. It still doesn’t really create the kinds of balances and flexibilities that we need. A lot of really successful middle schools are breaking down the barriers in disciplines, disciplinary work and it just requires a lot of collaboration and planning having the static schedule doesn’t really allow for that. I think we are well resourced. I always want more resources but I think we have the resources to continue with excellent for all kids. I think we need some flexibility and balance. A part of it also is we have more FTEs in performance music in middle school than in any other middle school in the county which is actually a hallmark of Berkshire Hills and why a lot of families choose Berkshire Hills. That may not be a bad choice but it then creates pressures on other programs and flexibility. I really think this is about care, creative, smart people getting together and having open dialogue and working it out together and I think we have done a great job. Also, a big shout out to Kristi and her role as Director of Learning and Teaching. We have been adding resources over the years and not through the tax base and not through property taxes but through grants. I am really excited about some of these opportunities but again some of these opportunities push us to work creatively and flexibility and if we don’t have a flexible schedule that is dynamic we can’t actually put together these pieces for all kids. I do appreciate your acknowledgement.
- Request for new position:
- ESL Teacher – Middle School (cost neutral) – P. Dillon – we have two teachers who are English Language Learners. One is dedicated to the elementary school and one is spread across the middle and high school. I would like to propose and get your approval to reallocate existing resources and add another ESL teacher in the middle school. Our English Language Learners are our neediest populations. When I got here ten years ago, we had about 22 district wide and as of last count, it literally changes day by day, we had 50+ and it is highly likely by tomorrow it will be more. What I am proposing we do is not fill vacant positions in each of the buildings and use those resources to hire a full time middle school ESL teacher. The way kids are supposed to get service is based on their level, beginner to advanced; they get X number of minutes and this will better let us meet the needs of our English Language Learner population. Weston – what positions are we not filling? P. Dillon – two para positions at the elementary and high school and some supplies likely but possibly a para position at the middle school as well. J. St. Peter – so two paras at the elementary and two more at the high school? P. Dillon – no, the equivalent of three. One para from each school. J. St. Peter – and what were those paras job descriptions before? Were they a general para or one on ones? P. Dillon – in one case, it was a one on one and the student left so we don’t have an obligation to fill it and in another case, it is a general. R. Dohoney – I am fine with it if the need is there. I support adding this teacher. Are we doing it cost neutral because we are beyond the budget cycle? P. Dillon – yes. Since the budget cycle, we have probably had eight new English Language Learners. Why didn’t I anticipate this? I don’t know. I could have anticipated two students. I think it is explosive growth. Sharon just went to an ESL class for administrators so she is super up on all the lingo but there is a group of students called SLFE, Students with Limited Formal Education so they are the double whammy group because they are likely not literate in their native language. They didn’t typically go to school where they were raised then they come here having no formal education. Imagine trying to learn how to read the first time in another language. It is hard enough to learn another language but trying to develop literacy in another language. It is really rough. They need more. We go up and down with our number of paras. There are times we have been very lean with paras and times we have had an abundance of paras. Ben will argue that we need the ESL teacher and the para. We are working with limited resources and at this moment in time, I think the investment in the ESL teacher will ripple through. It is our moral obligation to meet the kids’ needs and it is really a smart investment because if we invest in these kids, they will grow tremendously and often quickly. R. Dohoney – I would like to look at what is the best way to do that? If you are telling me you are going to cut a para and then try to add the para back in during the next budget session, that seems very counterproductive to me and unnecessarily disruptive. P. Dillon – if I am not filling a vacancy, the intentionality around it is not filling a vacant position. So I am not riffing a para, I am just not bringing one on. R. Dohoney – I know but just because somebody retires, doesn’t mean their need goes away. P. Dillon – I don’t know what the alternative is. You could pull it out of school choice but we don’t like to do that. It’s not a great idea. R. Dohoney – yeah, I agree but if we got caught in a situation of an out-of-budget cycle need, which seems to be the case, then I think that that might be the way to do it in this case and we can work it into the budget cycle next time. P. Dillon – I am not going to argue against it. Sharon would. D. Weston – maybe what we are talking about is partial …clearly the para that was working with a student as a one on one and we don’t have that student here, we don’t need that position unless we had a need to shift it someplace else; to some other student. That money is clearly available. Maybe it can be a combination of the two monies. P. Dillon – if you let me reallocate the resources, I don’t need the vote. If you want to cost share and have part come out of choice, then I need a vote for the dollar amount. R. Dohoney – do you need that vote now or for FY20? P. Dillon – what I would do with the committee’s permission is I would post the position as contingent upon budget availability so I could find a qualified, wonderful ESL teacher. I could start the search and by the time we did the interviews and had somebody lined up, we could do a vote at that time. R. Dohoney – so if none of this had come up, you would be reposting one of the para positions because someone has left? P. Dillon – another conversation for another time with the school committee, finance subcommittee, the negotiating team, we have had several para vacancies all year because the minimum wage is creeping up and we are not paying a whole lot more than McDonalds is and arguably the work we are doing, while much more meaningful, is also more challenging. But that is for another day. Almost certainly what will happen, is someone will turn up on our door, with some needs or have an existing student who didn’t have needs yesterday who will be assessed and have needs a month or two from now. B. Fields – Peter, will it hurt you in hiring if there is a question mark budgetarily? P. Dillon – in my experience, no. Maybe a little. If somebody is applying for a job in Lenox and here, and Lenox is known as the Millionaires and we are contingent upon budget availability, someone may think twice. I would talk to them in the context of the interview and say it is highly likely the wonderful school committee will support this. Don’t worry about it then they will be okay. So I guess we don’t take any action on it now and we come back to you. R. Dohoney – do you want an advisory vote to go ahead on hiring the ESL teacher with the caveat that you will come back to us in FY20 at some point to review any resulting staffing or budgetary changes? P. Dillon – I would love that. MOTION TO ALLOW SUPERINTENDENT TO PROCEED WITH HIRING OF ESL TEACHER BUT TO RETURN TO COMMITTEE IN FY2020 TO REVIEW ANY RESULTING STAFFING OR BUDGETARY CHANGES R. DOHONEY B FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Propose a Revised Master Calendar and Process for All Events/Meetings – P. Dillon – we are a little dysfunctional with our school calendar and despite my best efforts, twice a year we inadvertently schedule things that only impact one member of the school committee and his family. I am going to do my darndest to fix that. Weston – it is like nine years in a row. P. Dillon – I know. It is terrible and as bad as it must feel for you, it is even worse to get your phone call that I have done it again. I think every guidance counselor hates me because I can’t be in two places at once. P. Dillon – having had kids across all three schools for many years, I get it. Thankfully, I only have one left here. I wanted to mention it and mostly apologize. We will work on it and come back with some refined vision and doubly, tripley commit to not scheduling things in an overlapping way. D. Weston – I don’t think that those of us down in Southern Berkshire are scheduling geniuses. We just have a single calendar with a single control person. I could go on right now and click in and say I want to have a family night on Thursday, June 24th. It goes to that control person we gets the request, looks at the calendar and either puts it in or doesn’t. When I go to put in the calendar, I can see everything that is happening. If I’m in the high school and trying to schedule backgammon and see that the elementary already has checkers night, I can avoid that. Whatever piece of software they have, I am sure they are multiple varieties out there that work. We have been doing it for years. P. Dillon – after the next item, I will give them a call.
- Proposed Motion to Consolidate with Southern Berkshire Regional School District – (D. Weston declares a conflict of interest and leaves the table) Dillon – clarifying question, with summer schedules, July 31st give them enough time to respond? Is there any reason to extend that a little? Should we entertain August 31st rather than July 31st? I comprised this motion because in my opinion the foreman should take. I didn’t put the entry on the agenda. It comes up all the time. Steve Bannon made some comments at the last presentation about the new high school which I think prompted a new discussion. I just thought if this issue is going to be continued to be discussed, it should be done in the formal that is done in the state legislature. I think everybody if you are for it or against it or like me has ideas on both sides, I think we are all better served by going through the actual process. Basically the statute says if anybody had in interest or thought, towns can form committees to look at individual committees, then multiple towns for a board. There is at least one person from the school committee, one person from each of the towns and they get together and beyond that there is no legal requirements or charge. It is not like a ZBA or school committee. It is to just start discussing it or not. It is really low key advisory. I say it is no harm, no foul. I think it is a good exercise to go through. What I tell people all the time is, it is the number one thing that people approach me about as a school committee member. I get as many inquiries from people that are residents of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District about why we aren’t merging with them as I get from my own constituents. It is a conversation worth having. MOTION THAT THE BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMITTEE BY AND THROUGH ITS CHAIRMAN SHALL ISSUE A WRITTEN REQUEST TO EACH OF ITS MEMBER TOWNS, THE SOUTHERN BERKSHIRE REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND EACH OF ITS MEMBER TOWNS, TO FORM A REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT PLANNING BOARD PURSUANT TO MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL LAWS CHAPTER 71, SECTION 14 FOR THE PURPOSES OF EITHER FORMING OR CONSOLIDATING INTO A REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT TO SERVE GRADES 9 THROUGH 12. THE CORRESPONDENCE SHALL RESPECTFULLY REQUEST A WRITTEN RESPONSE BY JULY 30, 2019. R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
MOTION TO AMEND RESPONSE DATE TO AUGUST 31, 2019. R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
MOTION THAT THE BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMITTEE BY AND THROUGH ITS CHAIRMAN SHALL ISSUE A WRITTEN REQUEST TO EACH OF ITS MEMBER TOWNS, THE SOUTHERN BERKSHIRE REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND EACH OF ITS MEMBER TOWNS, TO FORM A REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT PLANNING BOARD PURSUANT TO MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL LAWS CHAPTER 71, SECTION 14 FOR THE PURPOSES OF EITHER FORMING OR CONSOLIDATING INTO A REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT TO SERVE GRADES 9 THROUGH 12. THE CORRESPONDENCE SHALL RESPECTFULLY REQUEST A WRITTEN RESPONSE BY AUGUST 31, 2019. R. DOHONEY SECONDED: B. FIELDS MOTION FAILS
- Staff Feedback Results – I did a pretty giant survey. A 15 question survey on the basic scale and five open ended questions. I sent it to staff in all the communities where I am superintendent so Berkshire Hills, Hancock, Richmond. I didn’t do it in New Ashford. I got a pretty high response rate so about 50%. It was teachers, paras, secretaries, administrators, food service, psychologists, custodians, etc. I had people indicate two things – the building they worked in and their roll. After the fact, I realized I messed up a little bit and in some cases if I know somebody works in Muddy Brook and there are only two secretaries, that I can pretty easily figure out who it was. I went back to all the places where there were very few people, like two or one and I said it is more important for me to know the building than it is your roll so just check other or leave it blank and later several people checked other. From a data set, it was pretty good in terms of who responded. There were some folks mostly articulated my strengths and I am shy to share them but I will talk about my growth areas to so they will balance each other out. Listening, communication, team building, being an effective spokesperson, trying to manage politics, being personable and intelligent leadership, managing time and several people noted that it was brave to open myself up to this kind of feedback. There were a couple of people that really went after me. That is hard to read. In terms of growth areas there was universal support for desire for me to be in classrooms more. It is interesting because it is something I am willing to do. Interestingly it is not defined as part of my roles and responsibilities but clearly it is important. Folks want me to be present, build stronger connection to teachers and students and be more accessible. Someday I would like someone to shadow me in Price Chopper and you will see how accessible I am. It looks like I am missing page 4. I am so sorry. Let me pull it up. I detailed two areas. Implications for my work and potential implications for the district. Some people took the opportunity to give me feedback – me spending more time in classes and schools, working more on enhanced communication with staff and the community and a real interesting time came up around supporting new teachers. So we run a mentoring program and I check in with new teachers at the beginning of the year but I don’t necessarily develop an on-going relationship with them over the course of the year, so I might make sense for me to spend, and they meet monthly going forward, to spend a chunk of time with that cohort of new folks, to continue to build teacher leaders and additional differentiation in professional development and to support more district cohesion. From a district perspective, several folks want to reevaluate the whole notion of sharing the superintendent and other staff. There are some wins. We get some money from it but there is a down side and we are in the process of revisiting that. People who participated in this survey very much want to renovate the high school which is good. Continue to expand CVTE opportunities; more equity in reallocating resources, more equity in opportunities, expanding diversity, working on improving teacher attendance and fixing the substitute situation. We go through a ton of substitutes on any given day and over the course of the year and I will be coming back to you later both addressing the compensation side of the equation and the need side. That will be a good summer meeting. In enrichment, they want to continue their instructional approach and in Hancock they want to update their building which is a ski lodge from maybe the 50s. I am continuing to look at this data set. It is one of those things that keeps you up at night. I can analyze it in aggregate and I will send it around to all the staff tomorrow or Monday. I can do aggregate, individually, by building, etc. I gave you 40ish pages and stopped there. The Richmond feedback is slightly more positive because maybe I was their principal for six weeks. It is interesting. From a learning perspective it was really good. I deliberately chose to share it in its entirety. I know Bill read it cover to cover and comments on specific ones. I will be thinking about it some more and talking about it. I think it will be interesting to share with the faculty and all staff and get their feedback on the feedback and to move forward. Next year we will move to a place where other people in the district are doing this too at some point principals and teachers, etc. My analysis of it was I tried to do it objectively and methodically but it is very hard to analyse data about yourself and be objective. Fields – I liked question 13 that had I like coming to work on most days and it was over 84%. That is outstanding considering the stresses and stains on teachers and staff members with the increasing pressures from parents and the state with forcing mandates on the standardized testing. I am glad people are glad to be here in all the schools. You have the people that bitch and the people that praise and it is somewhere in the middle. R. Dohoney – what extent if any should this be utilized by the Superintendent Evaluation Committee? P. Dillon – Lots of possibilities there. It was a tool to give me feedback so I can do a better job at my job. If we are going to use it to be tied to my evaluation, the instrument should be exactly aligned to the rubric on how I am evaluated. It wasn’t. R. Dohoney – I’m not saying it should be. P. Dillon – if we want to do something that is tied to my evaluation and very few superintendents would be willing to do that because it could set you up to do a popularity thing but if I were to do it, I should get feedback around what I am evaluated on. This is more about me better meeting the needs of the people in my buildings. I did this with a real sense of parallelism. You are the leaders of the organization but I am put in the leadership role. I shouldn’t model what other people should do. A. Potter – what this does and just the act of gathering this data, then boils up into another broader category of the Superintendent’s Evaluation. B. Fields – This was a survey that not only dealt with Peter’s role but also the climate. You had a good sense of climate. D. Weston – do you think the state would recognize what climate was? They don’t. B. Fields – Do you have to follow the state’s thing do can you create your own? D. Weston – You can go beyond what the state has but you cannot go below it. B. Fields – I thought a lot of the responses dealt with the climate in regards to all three buildings and Richmond and Hancock. J. St. Peter – the most important thing is the anonymity of it to get real results. Although Hancock and Richmond are interesting, they are not my concern. My concern is how the three buildings here are. P. Dillon – I can run the report anyway you want. I can cut buildings and run it again. Probably the most important thing is not to look at just one data point or set of points in isolation but to do year over year so you see trends. If they go up or down over time, that tells more.
- Policy Sub Committee – N/A
- Buildings 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
- Short-Term Borrowing for FY20 -S. Harrison – we haven’t had to borrow since we changed the regional agreement and we are just doing this as precautionary, just in case. Weston – just to clarify for the audience, this is just short-term borrowing. This is not until revenues come in for that fiscal year. S. Harrison – it is a cash flow issue. R. Dohoney – it is to offset until the towns give us their money. MOTION THAT THE DISTRICT TREASURER BE AUTHORIZED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF GENERAL LAWS CHAPTER 71, SECTION 16G, AS AMENDED BY CHAPTER 134 OF THE ACT OF 1972 TO BORROW MONEY FROM TIME TO TIME IN ANTICIPATION OF REVENUE AND ISSUE A NOTE OR NOTES EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2019 THROUGH JUNE 30, 2020 – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: D. WESTON ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Transfer Remaining Funds from FY18 FSA Fund to TPA/FSA Services and Fees Fund – S. Harrison – we have the FSA, Flexible Spending Account for medical and dependent care. At the end of the year, if there is money unspent, unfortunately by IRS regulations we cannot return that to the individuals. It comes to the district. What we have done in the past and what I recommend again, is anything that is remaining gets transferred to the TPA, FSA fee fund that we have. Even though we cannot return the money, we can make it so that people don’t have to pay fees on their FSA or 403B. St. Peter – so the funds left over are from, is it fairly equitable from everybody? Is it specific and the ones we are transferring it to, the service fees funds, are those going to affect everyone equally? My concern is it should go back to the people who paid it but what is the most equitable way to do it? Is this the only way you see possible? S. Harrison – it cannot go back to the people. J. St. Peter – no, not directly. S. Harrison – it doesn’t ever have to. A lot of people just take it. J. St. Peter – I am talking indirectly though in reducing the service fee fund. Is this the only option for us? S. Harrison – the only other option would be to either leave it in that fund so it keeps building up or to drop it to the general fund so it drops to E&D. P. Dillon – the hard thing is if you have one of these accounts it is really incumbent upon you to mind your accounting and spend it all. R. Dohoney – we have a number of employees though, I’m sure it’s not spread equally, but…think of all the employees and I don’t know the percentage that accesses the FSA, are there any individuals over $100? S. Harrison – last year I was over $400 because I just didn’t pay attention. That’s because I am spending more time on the district. In any one year, it can be any individual. There are people who may have gotten to the point where at the last minute this month they have to buy more contacts because they haven’t spent their money. What we try to do is as we get closer we get these reports monthly and as we get closer we do let people know you still have say $100 and here is how you can spend that. Sometimes people just don’t do it. MOTION THAT 1,882.41 BE TRANSFERRED FROM THE FY18 FSA FUND TO TPA FSA SERVICED AND FEES FUND – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: D. WESTON ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- FSA Fund – S. Harrison – this really isn’t for the FSA Fund. We have to do an adopting resolution for the amended cafeteria plan. We had the plan run from January 1 to December 31st and we are not looking to do it from July 1 to June 30. Two reasons – one that follows the health plan better but also if we ever do offer the health savings account plan, people cannot have an HSA and a full FSA at the same time so this would give people the opportunity when the sign up for Open Enrollment and have the new plan in July to switch from an FSA to an HSA. We just need to do a motion. MOTION THAT THE AMENDED CAFETERIA PLAN INCLUDING A HEALTH FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNT AND DEPENDENT CARE FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNT EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2019 PRESENTED TO THIS MEETING HEREBY BE APPROVED AND ADOPTED AND THAT AN AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE OF THE EMPLOYER BE AUTHORIZED AND DIRECTED TO EXECUTE AND DELIVER TO THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE PLAN ONE OR MORE COUNTERPARTS OF THE PLAN – R. DOHONEY SECONDED: POTTER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
Old Business: B. Fields – I am to co-chair of the Next Steps Committee and I talked to Peter and Steve about this. The Next Steps Committee in regards to a presentation we did before this committee basically ended our role as a school committee subcommittee. I would like your permission to continue our committee and to be able to take our presentation to the three district town’s selectboards and finance committees. I feel the attendance at the one last week was very weak in regards to those three sectors of town government. Some members of the committee suggested some revisions to our presentation. Josh Shapiro especially suggested that we include many more students. I would like to reach out for that. I would just like your permission and approval to continue what we were doing. I thought we didn’t need it but Steve thought it would be better so the public sees that it is still coming from the authorization of this body. A. Potter – was there a termination specified? B. Fields – I don’t know. Rich is the lawyer. Once it was handed in, I thought that was it. Our duty was met. R. Dohoney – this is a good example of a great high-functional Ad Hoc committee that served the purpose. I think it is fine. MOTION THAT THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE APPROVE THE NEXT STEPS COMMITTEE EXPANDING ITS PRESENTATION FROM BEYOND THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE TO THE THREE DISTRICT TOWNS INCLUDING SELECTBOARDS AND FINANCE COMMITTEES – B. FIELDS SECONDED: R. DOHONEY ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
- Public Comment – C. Sprague, Stockbridge – I have four children that have as of next Thursday will have come through the middle school, which is nine consecutive years. Ben, I completely appreciate the scheduling. I feel like every year it was a new attempt and I understand that it was all coming from a great place. I came here tonight to hear the why of what happened because hearing it the way I heard it, it was jarring news. I just didn’t understand where it was coming from or how it would benefit. I just also want to thank the music teachers for informing the parents that it was going on. It was a brave move and maybe not so favorable move but it was certainly appreciated by the parent population. I know we are not going to make any decisions today. Andy asked what the school committee’s role is in this going forward and to pose if there is any role for parents in this, I felt kind of left out and taken aback in such a big sweeping change that would have such a broad and long-lasting impact and future impact on the high school level. I don’t know if there is any role for us or if there can be and what that might look like going forward. In talking about the fact that this scheduling is a big gorilla that we are trying to solve here, I love the idea of trying to be bold. I am a huge interdisciplinary fan; Ben knows that. Not quite huge, but being that we do have these two open positions, if there is a way to think more creatively about who we are hiring and the skills set, how those jobs get potentially chunked up differently, if it would allow more flexibility in this scheduling. Juraye Moran – I have been teaching since 1978 so that is a little over 40 years. I have been in this district since September of 1990. I remember the first few days that I started teaching music here. I thought what a district. They value music. They value the arts, not just music but the arts, theatre, dance. I have never been happier than to come to this district. I was born and brought up in Pittsfield. It started teaching in Pittsfield and coming here was like a breath of fresh air. Although these last few weeks have been difficult for everyone, especially the music department, I feel a little renewed enthusiasm that music is indeed as important now, 40 years later, that was when I first started. These are difficult decisions. Although I am sorry that some of our moves caused such dissention, I am not sorry that we did it because I think it had to get out there. I really believe if nothing had come out, if the school committee didn’t know as far as I knew this was a schedule that was already set and we were just going to talk about how it was going to work. I think better communication needs to happen. I think the idea of having a committee with all staff, not just 5th grade or 6th grade but advisory, exploratory, parents, maybe even school committee, I think is a great idea and I welcome that. Sunwah Reiner, choral and general music teacher at MVM – I just have a question. From what I understand in working in these three years here and from many conversations with Ben Doren and even hearing his explanation here tonight, I have heard him express at least three or four times, a solution that a lot of the tensions we feel in the schedule comes from the misalignment of the schedules from the high school, middle school and elementary school. I am just curious why if Ben really has been fighting and really discussion for years, why that hasn’t moved forward yet. If have discussed it then what is stopping us from moving toward that. What seems to be a solution that does not have to sacrifice something so major as the music program.
- Written Comment
MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER SECONDED: J. ST. PETER ACCEPTED: UNANIMOUS
The next school committee meeting will be held on June 20, 2019 – Meet & Confer, District Office, Stockbridge, 7pm
Meeting Adjourned at 9:03pm
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
Christine M. Kelly, Recorder
School Committee Secretary