Great Barrington                   Stockbridge                 West Stockbridge


Regular Meeting

Monument Valley Regional Middle School –Student Center

March 8, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.



School Committee:                S. Bannon, A. Potter, J. St. Peter, D. Singer, A. Hutchinson, R. Dohoney,

D.Weston, B. Fields, S. Stephen, K. Piesecki

Administration:                      S. Harrison, P. Dillon

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


List of Documents Distributed:

RECORDER NOTE:  Meeting attended by recorder and minutes transcribed during the meeting and after the fact from live recording provided by CTSB.  Length of meeting:   hr, 42 minutes.


Chairman Steve Bannon called the meeting to order immediately at 7pm.


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, once approved.




  • Good News Items(s) – P. Dillon – The morning of this giant snowstorm, I would like to thank our maintenance and custodial folks for cleaning things up and Steve for supervising them so well. It is really unusual that we get 16” of snow and are able to turn around and have school that morning.  That was quite remarkable.  The road crews in Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge did a nice job and they are the envy of all our surrounding neighbors.  A big thanks to them.
  • Continued Discussion – FY19 Budget – S. Bannon – unless somebody wants to bring something up, the usual way we do it is to start with a motion and then we can amend the motion. MOTION TO MOVE APPROVE A FISCAL YEAR 19 GROSS OPERATING BUDGET OF $27,526,117 WHICH RESULTS IN A NET OPERATING BUDGET OF $25,153,696 AFTER USE OF SCHOOL CHOICE TUITION FUNDS WITH A TOTAL NET ASSESSMENT TO THE MEMBER TOWNS OF $21,088, 960 – R. Dohoney                Seconded – D. Weston                    Accepted:  Unanimous
  • Discussion on the Amendment to the Motion – R. Dohoney – I don’t disagree with it but what we discussed prior was what we thought were some capital improvements in terms of the removing all the lab benches. What was finally presented to us was clearly just an equipment line item.  I am assuming your motion is to get back to that plan.  Fields – Steve is here and can say the $40,000 would more than cover the cost of what I asked for and raised last week in regards to this.  We now have $34,000.  We have $19,000 in the line item plus $15,000 added, what was what you wanted Rich for science equipment.  What I would like is to have the science lab be equipment with mobile learning stations and talking to Steve, that can be done for that price.  A. Potter – Point of Information – Sharon, where are we at with E&D?  S. Harrison – we have $1.3 million and then we would be using the $495,018 if we did that.  S. Soule – (inaudible – not at microphone); typically would carry year to year to provide some supplies and chemicals, etc.  Six of it is for textbooks. (inaudible)  an additional $15,000 would go to some of the equipment and supplies that when Amy and I met with the science department and created a list of things they would like in order to what we are trying to accomplish.  Somewhere between 50-60%  (inaudible)…I didn’t price out the mobile benches but my guess is for one classroom that will be done between $5-8,000.  I did price out what we originally talked about redoing one room entirely and in order to do ceiling tiles and lighting, fixtures in one classroom, it is right around $8,000.  Another $5-8,000 for the benches and there would have to be a fair amount done (inaudible).  That is kind of where we are for doing one class.  However, I don’t want to mislead you on the equipment.  When I say it is 50% of what we asked for that would be the cost for the department.  That is not just one lab.  R. Dohoney – so for one lab, what is the all-in number?  S. Soule – $40-50,000 range for one lab.  That is a lot of in-house work.  A. Hutchinson – does that include the hoods and the drains for the emergency showers?  S. Soule – there are four drains (inaudible) I am pretty sure there are four drains there.  We do test the shower and the shower runs fine.  We also test the hoods.  The hoods are functional.  I am not overly eager to jump into ripping a hood out.  A. Hutchinson – well, if they work, that is good.  R. Dohoney – I agree with the sentiment Bill.  Are you married to A) making it a line item and B) pulling it from E&D?  There was some earlier discussion to do a borrowing.  B. Fields – anyway we can achieve what needs to be achieved for the science lab going forward.  I just came up with the E&D.  If there can be another way to do that work with the money, I am open to anything.  Borrowing; if E&D, I know Sharon loves to protect it but I thought that would be the easiest way to do it is to transfer it back into the science budget.  S. Bannon – Sharon, do you have any comments on that?  S. Harrison – I am concerned about making a decision on borrowing right at the budget level.  I don’t have a recommendation.  I guess I would ask Amy and Steve, if that is something that can happen right away or is there additional work that needs to be done in the labs, clean-up, that might make sense to do through the next year plus inventorying what equipment we have now, doing all of that work, setting it up for the FY20.  S. Soule – there is certainly a lot of in-house work that will need to be done before we really get into this.  I have a fair amount myself to do between now and June.  As soon as school is out I would want to start.  (inaudible); S. Harrison – are there things that can be done within your budget, like the exhaust and the drains.  S. Soule – there is a certain amount of work that, when I met with the staff (inaudible); I learned about a lot of things that are not working that I was not aware of.  There is a lot that needs taking care of that comes out of my normal operating budget which I intend to take care of between now and the end of the school year out of this current fiscal year operating budget.  R. Dohoney – then it sounds like a bit of a communication problem because the tour that we took on our own initiative a few weeks ago, shaped a lot of people’s opinions about this and it wasn’t from information that was coming to us from any other source.  The administration is not hearing from the teachers as to what is wrong and we are not hearing from the administration what is wrong and we end up with the situation we have now.  S. Bannon – I also saw a lot of cosmetic problems there that we just clean up the cosmetic some of the old equipment, get a dumpster and whatever you need and clean up, you would probably have a different take on the lab.  It is still not an updated lab but I would like to see that done first personally.  It looks like maybe it’s been since I was in school that there was a major clean up.  S. Soule – we did go through several years or so ago  cleaned out a lot of chemicals….S. Bannon – I didn’t see chemicals, but there were scales all piled up and clearly not working.  They need to be refurbished or my guess is they are probably too old and they just need to be tossed.  R. Dohoney – I would characterized our review of the science lab as strikingly unsatisfactory.  I think the question is how do we remedy that?  We have had three budget hearings where we have talked about it where basically everyone has expressed a desire to do it.  My only question on your motion right now Bill is if we have a clear enough picture.  I don’t know how I am going to vote right now.  The only reason I would vote no is I don’t feel we have a clear picture in the plan.  We asked for one.  We don’t have one.  I don’t know.  I am very torn.  We need to accomplish this goal.  I am torn about your motion.  S. Soule – I think the conversation I had with Amy this morning.  She does have a plan in regard to taking care of the pile of scales, beakers, etc.  S. Bannon – I am with Rich, I am not sure how I would  vote but at this point, I would love to go in there in six months and see it all cleaned up and get a better idea of what it really looks like as opposed to what we saw which was strikingly bad.  S. Steven – so $40,000 – what are you going to be able to do to all those science labs?  S. Soule – I could only do one of them and make it a pretty new lab and the rest would have some new equipment in the current exact footprint, exact paint, cabinets, tiles.  P. Dillon – so does that one lab then become a model or a pilot for other things potentially?  S. Soule – yeah.  (inaudible)  B. Fields – it certainly is a start from my view.  We have to start somewhere.  The account was called extraordinary maintenance.  Certainly this is extraordinary.  If the committee remembers the blueprint that we were asked to formulate two or three years ago, each year, there is a lab.  Therefore, this is a start.  I don’t know Rich, I am not a financial expert on this, I think we have to do something this year with that lab that we saw.  That will be the first one, it is basically a Chem lab, Lisa’s room. The finances, we originally started with $116,000 so that has been cut.  I would like to return money to be able to redo the lab besides just the equipment.  I don’t know the finances behind it.  I thought that we could take the money from E&D in light of the amount of money in E&D, I don’t think $40,000 is a huge amount.  P. Dillon – Sharon, as a clarifying question, if the committee were to approve Bill’s motion, it doesn’t impact Rich’s motion and those numbers.  It would just be pulling the money out of E&D.  S. Harrison – correct.  P. Dillon – then the conventional thinking around E&D is, we like to have a decent amount of money in E&D for a rainy day or to have a higher bond rating and if we take too much out, the money is not going to come back necessarily, but it might.  It is better to use it on one-time expenses as opposed to recurring expenses so we don’t fall off a financial cliff.  S. Harrison – exactly.  P. Dillon – so Bill’s proposal would fit within that standard.  S. Harrison – correct, it would add the 40 and offset it by 40 from E&D.  It is a one-time expense although we don’t want to do this again.  It is a capital one-time expense which makes sense and it does not change the bottom line to the towns; the net assessment.  R. Dohoney – I can’t believe I’m asking this.  Are we appropriating any of the stabilization this year or not?  S. Harrison – it is still in the capital budget yes. R. Dohoney – how much?  S. Harrison – One hundred.  R. Dohoney – why don’t we reduce the contribution to the stabilization fund to $60,000 and put $40,000 in for the labs?  S. Harrison – my recommendation would be to keep the $100,000 and use the $40,000.  We need to be building that stabilization.  R. Dohoney – is that the administration’s position?  P. Dillon – yes.  R. Dohoney – then I will respect it.  S. Bannon – so Sharon, again, Andy asked the question and I just want to make sure I heard it correct.  If we took the 40 out of E&D, and I realize it is a little tough, what would our E&D be if Rich’s motion and the amendment passes?  S. Harrison – we have 1.3 million – I want to do the math correctly.  S. Bannon – I’m not trying to put you on the spot.  S. Harrison – It is going to be eight something.  About $805,000.  S. Bannon – refresh my memory, if you remember, what was last years certified E&D?  S. Harrison – 16 or 17?  16 – The last certified as 1.3 million.  S. Bannon – what was 17?  17 – is 1.3; 16 $982,801.  So we will go below 16.  S. Bannon – other discussion?  So we are voting on the amendment which is to take $40,000 from E&D and to apply it to the science labs at the high school.  (see motion above)  S. Harrison – So that will bring the high school repair line up to $80,000.
  • Vote – FY19 Budget
  • Dohoney – Bill asked a question last week about what Great Barrington’s assessment would be. S. Bannon – that was me.  R. Dohoney – I would like to hear the answer to that question.  R. Dohoney – I think the question was if Great Barrington didn’t have the changes to local contribution that he had, or if it had the same local contribution as it did last year, so if the state didn’t change what Great Barrington had to pay, what the increase in their assessment would be.  S. Harrison – the minimum local contribution just to remind people is based on the number of enrolled students and the relative wealth of a community, property values and personal income as recorded by the Department of Revenue.  Had none of the town had their minimum local contribution changed, the increase to Great Barrington for FY19 would be 3.91%, Stockbridge would be a decrease of 1.22% and West Stockbridge would increase to 3.86%.   R. Dohoney – and the actual for Great Barrington is going to be 5.39% under the current?  S. Harrison – correct.  S. Bannon – just for the record the increase in the budget is 3.16%.  S. Harrison – the increase in the gross operating budget is 2.99%.  The net operating budget is 2.95% and the increase for assessment if 3.16%.  R. Dohoney – just to be clear, the increase to the net assessment is 2.95%.  I’m sorry for the operating budget.  S. Harrison – yes, correct.  R. Dohoney – which in my mind is the only number that we actually control for this whole process and that represents a very dramatic decrease over the last five years.  For FY14-15 it was 5.53%.  The next year it went down to 5.52%.  The next year down to 5.45%.  Next year down to 4.35% and now today for this budget 2.95%.  We are dramatically decreasing the rate at which our budget is going up; despite the cost of education on the municipal end is dramatically going up.  This is an amazing achievement as far as I am concerned.  Tremendous.
  • MOTION TO APPROVE THE FISCAL YEAR 19 CAPITAL BUDGET OF $2,113,750 WITH A TOTAL NET ASSESSMENT TO THE TOWNS OF $852,816. R – Dohoney                        Seconded:  Potter                    Accepted:  Unanimous
  • Dillon – Thank you all for your work on that. We will do a big debriefing on our budget at our future Meet & Confer.  That will be March 29th at 7pm in Stockbridge.  That will be the time to reflect on the budget process, what happened and what we did well and what we can do better and how we might amend it.  I would like to thank the whole committee but particularly the finance committee.  They did a lot of work; and Sharon and the principals and other administrators.  We got this process going in May of last year and then after the summer in August.  While not everybody may be satisfied with the numbers we landed at, from a transparency standpoint and from a budget book standpoint, it is a model process.  I hope Sharon, every once in a while there is an opportunity to submit a budget book as a model and I hope Sharon submits this one.  It is thorough and very good.  D. Weston – I wanted to make a similar comment.  The clarity of how the documents were presents to us, allowed us to get things done sooner.  I was remiss in not mentioning that at last week’s meeting.  S. Bannon – agreed.  P. Dillon – we will talk more about the budget process and how we can approve it at our next meeting.
  • Vote to Approve Tuition Agreements -You all approved a five-year agreement with Farmington. Richmond did a similar agreement for three years.  Those were both at 4%.  Separately we had to do special education tuition rates agreements with both communities and in the case of Farmington River, we are phasing that in over five years to be consistent with the general ed agreement which was over five years and that goes from $21,500 for students in the middle or high school for substantially-separate programs to in the year 2022-2023, $25,000 per students in substantially separate classrooms.  This is significantly more than the typical tuition rate because students in the category are high needs and need much more support.  If a student isn’t separate but is half included and half separate, the individual rates get prorated depending on how much they are in a typical classroom and how much they are getting extra services.  The one for Shaker Mountain which is primarily Richmond but it could be folks from the south end of Hancock, is set up to get to the same amount but instead of doing it in five years, it does it in three years.  We land at the same place.  Kate spent a bunch of time talking to Mike Saporito in Farmington River and Jenevra who is the Shaker Mountain person is aware of this too.  My recommendation is that you approve both of these.  Bannon – these two, for cleanup, we need to approve the Shaker Mountain general tuition agreement too.  P. Dillon – in order of simplicity, the Shaker Mountain Agreement is an increase of 4% per year for three years.  Do you want separate motions for all of these?  R. Dohoney – we already voted on Farmington River.  What don’t we vote on Farmington River Special Education then the other two.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE SPECIAL EDUCATION TUITION RATE AGREEMENT OF FARMINGTON RIVER AS PRESENTED BY THE ADMINISTRATION – R. Dohoney                  Seconded:  S. Stephen            Accepted:  Unanimous   – J. St. Peter – so there is no increase at all for 2021 to 2022 because that 25 was the end point after  five years.  Is that the reason?  S. Harrison – that was our goal was 25 so we were able to get there in four years.   MOTION TO APPROVE THE TUITION RATE AGREEMENT WITH SHAKER MOUNTAIN SCHOOL UNION #70 FOR A TERM OF THREE YEARS WITH ANNUAL INCREASES OF 4% – R. Dohoney                 Seconded:  A. Potter                 Accepted:  Unanimous  – MOTION TO APPROVE THE SPECIAL EDUCATION TUITION RATES AGREEMENT WITH SHAKER MOUNTAIN UNION #70 AS PRESENTED BY THE ADMINISTRATION – R. Dohoney                 Seconded:  A. Potter                Accepted:  Unanimous
  • Updates:
    • Security & Safety – P. Dillon – just a couple of updates.  On Monday in this space at 7pm there will be a community forum on safety.  We will be joined by a number of local people; an officer from the Great Barrington Police Department, a local psychologist from Austin Riggs, our very own Steve Soule, and likely a student respondent.  We will run the meeting like we used to run the Dowmel Series.  Each of those people will speak for a couple of minutes at the same point, we will have index cards for the audience.  People will write questions.  I will field the questions and try to put them in some coherent order and then address those questions to members of the panel.  What I am hoping this does is this continues the long conversation we have on safety and then becomes a jumping off point for additional conversations within each individual school building.  This past week, Steve and I also attended a really positive meeting with several members of the Great Barrington Police Department, several state troopers, the head of the ambulance service, the director of the Head Start program and members of the Stockbridge Police to talk broadly and in fine detail about safety and security.  Those meeting will continue.  The last thing is on Wednesday, there is going to be two student-led protests.  One at the high and one at the middle school.  We are working to support students that want to me involved but also quite actively support students who don’t.  It is a national thing.  17 minutes of recognition of the 17 students who died in Florida.  That will happen on Wednesday.  If people have questions on that, I am happy to respond.  There are several things outside of school that may be happening.  Local marches and protests, trips to Washington; we are not, to my knowledge, leading any of those, just aware of them.  We will come back to you with more detail, but I want to update the whole committee and the public at large what we are doing, but I don’t want to update you so much that it makes us vulnerable.  We are looking at our drills in terms of what we can do to be more effective.  We are looking at our physical spaces and what we can do around that.  We are looking at our relationships with local law enforcement and how we can work with them.  We have mapped out a whole range of scenarios that we will continue to work through.  The upside of a tragedy is that it does bring people together and encourage them to revisit all their practices.  We are trying to do that.


Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Policy Sub Committee: N/A
  • Building and Grounds Subcommittee: N/A
  • Superintendent’s Evaluation Subcommittee: Meeting next Thursday the 15th at Richmond at 6pm.
  • Technology Subcommittee: Meeting Monday at 4pm in Stockbridge
  • Finance Subcommittee: N/A
  • District Consolidation & Sharing Subcommittee: Bannon  – was a positive meeting.  I think we have a framework together and have decided that there is nothing off the table at this point which is important.  I think the other important thing is the knowledge that we all want to get this done in a fast manner.  Either get it done or stop.  I think it was a positive meeting.  Hopefully we will start to bring back some ideas.  S. Stephen – I think everybody is pushing in the right direction.  Can we generate that energy into one area and get where we want to go.  S. Bannon – next meeting is March 26th at 4:30 in Lenox.  S. Bannon – there is a  spreadsheet that we are going to have to rate and do as a  subcommittee at some point.  We don’t have another meeting as a whole group.  We will have to talk to Peter about that.  R. Dohoney – maybe do it after the meeting in Richmond.


Personnel Report:   P. Dillon – this is the time of year when things start to happen.  We have another retirement – Debra Ramsey.  I would like to recognize her for her many years of service.  She has taught most all of our kids including three of mine.  We congratulate her and will celebrate her and some other folks that are retiring later.



Long-Term Substitute(s): 

Filipini, ThomasLTS – Horticulture Teacher – MMRHS 1/24/18 until the current teacher returns @ per diem of BA Step 1 – days 1-10; day 11 forward @ per diem of MA Step 5

(Replaces William Florek)

Girdler, RichardLTS – Social Studies Teacher – MV Effective on or about 3/21/18 thru aprx. 4/13/18 @ per diem of

BA Step 1

(Replaces Matt Naventi)

Ramsay, DebraTeacher – MV Effective September 13, 2018
Mercier, ElyceTeacher – MMRHS Effective the end of school year, June 2018.

Business Operation:

Education News:

Old Business:

New Business:

  • MOTION TO AUTHORIZE THE CHAIR TO CHANGE THE LAST MEETING IN MARCH TO A REGULAR MEETING, RATHER THAN A MEET & CONFER IN THE EVENT A SUFFICIENT NUMBER OF AGENDA ITEMS ARISE BETWEEN NOW AND THEN. – R. Dohoney                      Seconded – A. Potter                    Accepted:  Unanimous  – The reason being, we have jammed a lot of stuff into meet and confers and not let them be real meet and confers.  I fear we might be setting ourselves up for that again.  We don’t meet again before then.  You set the agenda so if things get out of control, maybe do meet and confer another time and do more of a business meeting then.  Bannon – we might end up doing a combination so if we approve it now, it would make sense.
  • Public Comment
  • Written Communication 

The next school committee meeting will be held on March 29, 2018 – Meet & Confer – District Office, Stockbridge, 7pm

Meeting Adjourned at 7:42pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder