BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING

Regular Meeting

Monument Mountain Regional High School  – Auditorium

May 23, 2019 – 7pm

Present:

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

Administration:                       P. Dillon, S. Harrison

Staff/Public:                             T. Lee,  K. Farina, B. Doren, D. Wine, K. Burdsall

Absent:                                     D. Weston

List of Documents Distributed:
School Committee Minutes of Meeting dated May 2, 2019

RECORDER NOTE:  Meeting attended by recorder and minutes transcribed during the meeting and after the fact from live recording provided by CTSB.  Length of meeting:  1 hour, 41 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.
MINUTES:
School Committee Minutes of Meeting dated May 2, 2019

MOTION TO ACCEPT SCHOOL COMMITTEE MINUTES OF MEETING DATED MAY 2, 2019 – J. DOHONEY                SECONDED:  A. POTTER                      ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

TREASURER’S REPORT:

  • SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT: Dillon – We have a lot on our agenda tonight so I am going to forgo the good news on the building level.  We are excited about our seniors finishing up and there are a million and one performances going on.  I have a couple of small things for approvals then we are going to have two presentations.  The first one will be by a group of students around substance abuse and pupil needs assessment data.  The second one, the much longer one, will be a presentation by the Next Steps Committee to the school committee as a whole.  Presumably after that, the school committee might have questions and the public as well.
  • Grant Approval
    • Approve Grant Money Received – Elementary School Green Team from Greylock Federal Credit Union – MOTION TO APPROVE GRANT MONEY RECEIVED FROM GREYLOCK FEDERAL CREDIT UNION IN THE AMOUNT OF $200 ST. PETER                SECONDED:  B. FIELDS             ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Job Description – Site Coordinator – 21st Century Grant – Summer Months – MOTION TO APPROVE JOB DESCRIPTION FOR SITE COORDINATOR FOR 21ST CENTURY GRANT SUMMER MONTHS ST. PETER             SECONDED:  A. POTTER                 ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Presentations
    • MMRHS Students – Rethinking the Way We Look at Youth Substance Abuse – P. Dillon – this is a study that happens every two years in 8th, 10th and 12th grades. Mae and Sarah are going to talk about some specific parts of this, but as a whole committee I think we will revisit this again at our next meeting and go into even more detail.  Mae Whaley and Sarah Rosson – we are here to talk about MMHRS and BHRSD’s problems with substance use and also some ways we could fix that.  (PowerPoint presentation given; attached)
    • MMRHS Next Steps – P. Dillon – Where we are in terms of the high school and what we are doing with the building process, is we submitted an SOI (Statement of Interest) to the Massachusetts Building Authority. We are waiting to hear back from them; likely in December or January about how we want to proceed.  The group now is going to talk about where we are now in that process.  There are five or six presenters that are going to use some slides, and then we will respond to questions.  (PowerPoint presentation given; attached)  Fields – hello, I am co-chair of the Next Steps Committee.  We are going to deliver what we feel is a very conclusive report in regards to our almost year long study of this building.  There are going to be a number of us who are going to be doing various areas of the presentation.  P. Gibbons – I along with Bill, co-chair the Next Steps Committee.  I think as you walk into the building, it is pretty easy to see that obviously there has to be some next steps taken.  After listening to the two young ladies that just spoke, I think you all have to agree that despite the shortcomings of the physical facility of this building, education is certainly taking place within these walls.  With respect to our committee, our charge was to study the problem of the building and what we need to go forward.  It is probably a lot easier to tell you what we did not do, because the speakers that follow me will tell you what we did do.  One of our charges was not to engage ourselves too much in the financial aspect of the next steps.  We are unable to do that within any degree of accuracy simply because we just don’t know at this place and time.  It will depend on a lot of factors, one of which will be what direction the school committee takes and also what direction the Commonwealth takes with respect to this building.  The other aspects that we did study are full explained in the report and will also be explained by the speakers here.  It was a long process.  It has taken approximately ten months to get to this point.  We hope that the fruits of our study will be educational to everyone in this room, particularly the school committee.  Roger Cavanaugh – I am from West Stockbridge.  I am going to talk to you about the process, who we are and what we did over the last ten months; who we met with, who we learned from and other speakers will take you through the conclusions.  The Next Step Committee is a diverse group, a broad range of opinion and experience.  We are representatives of all three communities.  We came together with a high level of interest and enthusiasm for the task that was laid out for us.  We wanted to understand the issues and the challenges, the options of moving ahead and our interest and enthusiasm didn’t wan for the ten months that we have been at this.  We are members of the community.  You can see what our different daytime roles are.  We are not trying to solve the problems of the world.  We are retired teachers, staff from the district, alumni, parents, grandparents, etc.  I think it is fair to say we all came to this task equally committed to do a good job and give a report that people can move forward with.  This was the charter we were given.  In order to accomplish this, we needed knowledge that none of us really came to the table with ten months ago.  We talked to people who had the knowledge.  We learned about the MSBA process; we learned about the differences and similarities of a repair only or build new options and these are the people who provided us with the knowledge we needed.  We learned about the state of the building; educational needs and opportunities, enrollment scenarios and projections.  We learned in a fair amount of detail what constitutes new, reno ad and repair only.  We heard about financing and different incentives that are available for schools looking to engage the MSBA and we learned about potential opportunities for students who have interest in the areas of agriculture, technology and innovation.  In addition to the knowledge we gained through the resources, we also took a look at the outcome of the last proposal and some of the factors that contributed to that outcome.  As a committee we identified two opportunities for improvement in the next proposal as it is being developed and communicated.  First, was community engagement.  I think my fellow team members would agree, the Next Committee is a fine example of community engagement.  Second, we understood and thinks it is important for the school committee to understand articulating a future education vision and the direct relationship between that vision and the physical building toward the success of that vision.  We also discussed political challenges surrounding the last vote and recognized these issues while important were beyond the scope of our process.  We should not engage in that because it did not help us with the task at hand.  There have been a number of factors that have changed since the last vote.  While challenges remain, some of these positive changes should mitigate some of the challenges.  Great Barrington voters are the next proposal will bear less of the burden of the next proposal because of the changes made to the regional agreement.  Finally, the new project will potentially align with the retiring debt from the middle and elementary schools  thereby decreasing the incremental impact of financing the Monument Mountain project.  Rebecca Gold – I am a parent with three children in the district and I live in Great Barrington.  I am here to talk about the findings.  What did we learn from hearing from all these people, hearing their insights and ideas…first and foremost, what we realized was a sound plan for the high school needs a really strong vision and that vision needs to address three things: education needs, community benefits and physical needs.  When we are talking about educational needs, we are referring to ways in which the building can provide opportunities for teaching and learning.  Here are some of the things we identified, larger and more flexible classrooms that allow for project-based learning, improved CVTE spaces, modernized science labs, modern library again with spaces for groups to work in, a music room that can comfortably fit all of our music students and updated technology throughout the building.  Dan Bailly – I am a Great Barrington resident and an alumni MMRHS.  One of the things we also looked at was community benefits because we realized the school isn’t really just a high school.  It has opportunities that can provide needs for the community at large such as a safe and reliable emergency shelter, annual town meeting, speakers, etc., opportunities for further adult education with the idea that this just isn’t a school for 9-12th graders; this is a community school that is here to provide for all sorts of generations to further their learning as well as getting those students that are here ready to enter the real world.  The last thing we looked at was the building’s physical needs.  A lot of you are aware of the issues that the school has.  It is a building that is 50 plus years old, has a lot of infrastructure issues.  When we talk about building envelope, we are talking about the fact that there are single pane windows in the building that are incredibly energy inefficient.  The mechanical systems are still the original 50 year old systems.  There is no air conditioning anywhere except the auditorium.  Many teachers will tell you if they are teaching in a classroom that gets sun on a hot day…and students understand that it really needs to have an updated system.  Improved safety and security as well.  Windows and doors are a huge thing.  I forget the exact number of doors but it is staggering the number of entry points into this building and how easily it could be for somebody to get into this building if they wanted to.  These are some of the things we really need to look at as we move forward.  Increased natural lighting – if anybody has ever been in some of those center rooms, it is pretty depressing.  I believe it was Lucy Doren that pointed out the fact in her freshman year, she didn’t see daylight because she was in these middle rooms and didn’t know it was sunny out until the end of the day.  Natural light bring so many benefits to not just learning but to people’s physical moods in general.  Traffic flow is another thing.  You could do circles in this building and never find someone.  There are so many ins and outs and corridors which also leads to another safety issue.  A building that was built before 1978, you are starting to talk about some hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead paint, lead around the windows, etc.  Any kind of renovation or new project that would happen here would remediate that and create a much safer building for everybody.  The ADA standards is key.  State building codes have changed drastically in the last 50 years and in the last five years.  It has to be brought up to code even just to get the basic things done.  The fire safety and fire suppression is another thing we looked at and have to address as we move forward.  Bill Fields – I am the co-chair and a former teacher of 40 years here in this building.  Let’s look at the first of our options.  Repair only is not an option.  In the last vote, there was a belief that this was an option.  It was an erroneous belief but it was still out there.  It is not an option.  The state is not going to repair this building.  That is the way it is.  It cannot be repaired and yet have the educational vision that the district is moving toward and now embraces with a repair only plan. As Dan has just said, all of those things you saw on the previous slide will kick in state-mandated upgrades that will have to be done after a certain fiscal threshold is reached.  Basically we feel that the taxpayers would pay more and in the end get less.  Paul Gibbons – one of the things that we have to now consider because we have eliminated the repair only option are the other two remaining options which is to either expand the current building; use the term renovate, reconstruct, whatever you want to use, but it would be an expansion of this building with perhaps and addition of another section or to completely build a new school.  Those are the two remaining options that we have.  Without financial figures in front of us, we can’t really say with any certainty which would be the least expensive.  On the one hand, yes, you are going to reuse the building which is attractive to a lot of people and that would be less expensive for a number of years.  On the other hand, if you build new you have a brand new facility which is certainly going to land us longer; it may cost more but once again, doing the math it could end up being less expensive.  That is a consideration that has to be taken into account.  If we were to expand or renovate the current building, there is going to be some discussion as to the educational process.  No matter what kind of deadlines you set, you are always going to have delays.  There are very few projects that are ever started that ever really come in on time.  That is a consideration.  If we have a new building, the students would stay in the building that we presently have until the new on is constructed.  That is another factor that should be considered if we are going to expand or build new.  Clinically, there is politics in this whole  process.  It is a democracy after all.  We have to consider which would be more palatable to the public.  They are the ones that are going to have to pay but on the other hand you also consider what education is all about.  It is about the students so yes, there are politics involved but it comes down to a decision on what you are going to do.  Finally, there are people that are attached to this building.  I should be attached to the building.  I have been here for 50 years when the building was constructed.  I not sure how many people would be able to say that. No matter whether you have a new building or you renovate the building we are certainly going to have more enhanced safety and security processes.  It will certainly be a part of the overall consideration by the school committee.  Bill Fields – this is what we agreed on.  This was unanimous.  It was not just consensus.  It was unanimous amongst all 14 members.  We agreed that issues and concerns needed to be addressed no matter the previous two options.  A major overhaul is needed no matter whether renovate, add or build new.  Repairs only is not an option.  We must continue the academic standards that MMRHS is known for.  While moving toward more student-based and project-based learning and also improving our CVTE in order to improve the educational opportunities for each student.  The current building design does not allow this.  The students pointed out that the current design of this building does not allow individual student’s success for each student.  We need to include the community in the vision.  We have done that on this committee; we have involved the Great Barrington agricultural committee who spent quite a lot of time developing a presentation to us and how adaptable a new design would be to encourage the use of agriculture and the land that surrounds this building currently.  We also heard from the sustainable land committee that is in Great Barrington and they are onboard with a need to redesign.  We did not as has been stated earlier have the agricultural, financial or engineering expertise to be experts.  We were not that.  That was not our charge but the school committee should certainly explore the options and consult with those professionals who can determine which will be the best way we can serve the community.  Paul Gibbons – in conclusion, the Next Steps Committee has determined that MMHRS needs significant improvements in order to meet the physical and educational and community needs a high school must provide.  We recommend that the school committee proceed with the MSBA to enter into feasibility and schematic design to determine whether building new or renovating, adding are the most cost effective way to ensure that the new space provides a continued high-level of academics and appropriate CVTE spaces to accommodate new programs.  It must also include upgraded current standards of safety and state of the art security systems and procedures.  It must include an upgrade to all the building systems.  It must also include improvement to all educational spaces especially in the lavatory facilities.  Increase natural lighting and improve traffic flow that may seem to be not very important but it certainly is to the students who spend a great portion of their days in these four walls.  Finally, improvements to spaces that will allow students, staff and the population at large, to pursue rigorous learning and community engagement.  Bill Fields – I personally want to thank the 13 other members of this committee for their outstanding work and support.  One of the members of the committee said that this is the best subcommittee he has ever served on and I will also agree with that.  We came in with enthusiasm and that never waned throughout the ten months.  We were always on the same page, we did not have huge differences, we got together well, we listened to each other, we were respectful to each other, we did not interrupt, there were no tyraids, there were no walkouts, nobody slammed their fist on the table.  This was a great committee.  I just think that is really important that the people on it are recognized for the way we conducted our business.  I will end this meeting with a paraphrase from Winston Churchill because this is just the beginning of a  very long process.  He said “now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.”
  • Bannon – I want to thank the Next Steps Committee. I was fortunate enough to go to most of their meetings as an observer and they were a hard working group and that is what this report shows.  This is the first time the school committee has seen their presentation so I would be glad at the point to take questions or comments from the audience.  We are not starting a debate about what we are going to do.  It is too early.  It anyone has any questions or comment on their presentation, feel free to go to the microphone and state your name.  Bob Redpath – I have a daughter that graduated a year ago and two current students.  I wonder if the committee respond or tell what is the approach for the substance use that was given.  It was sort of odd to me that the students gave a very good presentation about 40% of the students here presumably are either showing depression symptoms or substance use.  I have three kids, if one of them was depressed or on substances, I would be a little more concerned.  This committee doesn’t necessarily set the academic curriculum and there may be a disconnect but I would like to hear the committee’s response to this presentation.  It is not new.  These are statistics that are increasing every year.  I don’t see any concrete steps of things that are going done to address that.  P. Dillon – I really appreciate the presentation and the two students shared some information we have been wrestling with for a long time.  I think at our next meeting on June 6th we will go into more detail on the whole report.  To my knowledge it has not been publicly released yet in a more formal way.  While I am concerned about a number of the things like the depression symptoms and the increase in e-cigarettes, the date over time, many of the negative things are getting better and many of the places where the school is provided support are also getting better.  If you look at a particular cohort of kids over the length of their time with us in 8th, 10th and 12th grade or you look at 12th graders over the last several years, there has been some positive shifts and there are also more areas for growth.  One of the things that is hard is when we start our budget process and when is the best time to make an appeal for some sort of  change.  As you know, our budget was approved just earlier in the week, the finance subcommittee met tonight around starting a calendar for next year and the recommendation to add a health teacher is something we looked at a lot and weigh it again all our other things.  Mae reached a conclusion that I might not agree with which is phy ed teachers can’t teach health.  I think in this case both of our phy ed teachers, I need to check this, are also certified as health teachers and there may be something things we can do going into September or a year from September to change some of that.  Occasionally, there are students that have such a course load, the don’t have an option for phys ed and they are excluded.  The nurse in Richmond teaches a series of health classes.  We will keep talking more about it and on the 6th we will go into some more detail on the survey and then some next steps around that.  B. Redpath – I appreciate that.  What I think I hear you say is there was a lot of process and budgetary things but I think some of the statistics you mentioned would contradict the presentation so there probably needs to be some alignment on what the actual facts are.  Given that we are on track for five principals in five years, there just seems to be ….there needs to be some specifics as to what this board is doing, I am sure there is process, etc. but I just don’t really hear, the buck stops here, this is what we are doing and we recognize that it is a problem and we are dealing to address it.  I just didn’t hear that in your response so we can confer at the next meeting.  That would be what I would hope would happen if 40% of the students are at risk.  Thank you.  P. Dillon – just to clarify and correct one thing, several people have said five principals in five year, I want to be careful.  We had Marianne Young here for 16 years, we had a principal from Vermont, Amy Rex for one year and Doug Wine for one year and Kristi is stepping in as an interim so I don’t get to five.
  • Vivienne – I want to express my appreciation to the Next Steps Committee for their willingness to consider the views of the agricultural commission and we hope that that cooperation will continue with the school committee. My question is for both commissions from various towns in the district, Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge, and for the general public, what procedure, what process does the school committee plan for further input?  I saw on the slides for the school committee, I think the term was the school committee will meet with professionals.  What about the public and what about those of use who serve on these commissions in towns that have relevant to bring up with the school committee?  Bannon – we are about three steps ahead but I can assure you that when the building committee meets, one of their charges will be to meet with the community at large as well as professionals so that will happen.  Vivienne – how will that work?  R. Dohoney – maybe someone should explain the MSBA process.  S. Bannon – the reason I said you are probably about three steps ahead…we first have to be accepted into the MSBA process which there is no guarantee we are going to be accepted this year.  Let’s assume we are accepted this year, then there is a set of strict guidelines we follow.  That first one will be forming a building committee and working with the MSBA.  When that building committee is formed, they will be an autonomous group separate from the school committee.  It will have school committee members on it, professionals on it, teachers, etc. and that that point, they will outline a process going forward in conjunction with the MSBA.  Vivienne – so in terms of a timeline between now and the MSBA response would you expect much later this year, is that correct?  S. Bannon – it will be later in the year.  We are only hold until we get the MSBA response.  P. Dillon – we are on hold from a space perspective until we get the MSBA response but the work around articulating and refining our educational provision will continue.  It is part of our ongoing work and as a school district and also part of this group’s work.  What does CVTE look like going forward?  How do we as a school and a district interact and take advantage of community resources?  How do we listen to various stakeholders in the community?  There is a lot we can do while we are waiting to hear back from the MSBA.  Vivienne – I agree.  I think that is great but this is going to be on community television and in the press and I think it will be helpful to articulate for the public whether they are invited and how they would be invited to have their views considered in the meantime.  S. Bannon – I said to you that they will be invited.  We do not have a process set going forward.  The educational process is going to go on if we have a building project or not.  Education is fluid.  It isn’t something that you have a book and say this is the way we are going to do it over the next ten years.  That is going to go on no matter what.  The public will be invited and will be part of this process.  R. Dohoney – the school committee meets twice a month with open comment.  We discussion our education vision at each one of those meeting.  Suzie Fowle – I live in Housatonic and I have two kids in the district.  Thank you to the committee for launching this effort.  I can see a lot of work went into it.  I appreciate that.  One thing I expected to see and I wonder why I didn’t was something about sustainability, sustainable design or the renovation or the new building and also the educational opportunities that provides whether it is through CVTE or a sustainable building is really a laboratory in and of itself.  I am curious why that wasn’t part of the presentation.  B. Fields – That wasn’t our purview.  That is down the road.  As Steve said, this is a very tiny step and what we were charged to do is give to the school committee what we feel were the options.  It wasn’t up to us to look at design because that is down the road.  We also didn’t have the architectural expertise to look at a design.  We know though the building and the tours that took place tonight that this design and as I said in one of the slides, this does not, the design prevents students’ success in all areas.  We know that there is no natural light.  We know that as Lucy said, spending a year in darkness is not really educationally feasible or adequate.  What we looked at was just a general charge.  The school committee will take it from there and the MSBA, if we get in, there was a schematic that wasn’t part of our study, but we were made aware of it earlier in the process, is very long.  We are at the railroad station waiting for the train to come in and some of what you’re saying and Vivienne is saying, you are on the space shuttle.  We are at the station.  That doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to listen because one of the things that changed from the last, and everybody on our committee was unanimous on this, is community input, and I  can guarantee you right now, as Steve has, that is going to be paramount in whatever happens in the next stage.  As you saw that was one of the problems with the last project.  I am not going to rehash history.  The committee was unanimous that community input is essential in driving the vision and that vision is also going to yield a design that you are very interested in.  We used Form follows function.  We are not there yet but we are evolving toward it.  A. Potter – Lucy has been referenced at least four times in this meeting and I don’t know if everyone here knows what Lucy and the NYU group did in terms of imagineering and possible outcomes of the redesign of this building.  There is some really marvelous work that went into that as a senior project in cooperation with NYU students.  I think where that project went and some of those ideas that floated in with that project, I think that is exactly this potentially could go.  This next step group was not the design process.  Lucy, great work!  P. Dillon – one thing to add on the sustainability piece; it came up in conversation, I think there is a broad awareness about it.  It is obviously our moral obligation but separately as you get farther into the MSBA process, it is something they value and there are all sorts of incentive points for doing different levels of different things and that could be solar panels or different lead ratings, a whole host of things.  That will be discussed a lot more.  Leigh Davis – just to give you some context, I have two students currently in Monument and I have a new freshman coming in next year and I want to thank you to the school for giving a wonderful education.  I am very supportive of the public schools.  Thank you very much to the students and the Next Steps Committee.  To give you some background, I was on the Monument Matters committee way back when and I have learned a lot from your presentation.  My question is addressing the elephant in the room which is consolidation.  How do we look forward to building or renovating a school when we don’t know what the population is going to be?  Whether is consolidation is part of it or looking at the declining population and building to that future and what is your view on how much to we wait until the state steps in and says ok this is going to happen because it needs to because this school district is declining in population and you want to build.  Where are you in that in terms of consolidation elephant in the room.  S. Bannon – it really is not an elephant in the room.  It is a public discussion that we have had many times.  We are in discussion with Shaker Mountain about their future and our future and you are talking that the elephant in the room is Southern Berkshire.  I’ll say it.  It is there and Southern Berkshire … we have made overtures and they are not interested.  We can’t wait forever for that to happen.  This building needs to move ahead.  We owe it to our children and students to move ahead and we will continue to ask the question but we are not holding up a project for a group that is not interested at this point.  P. Dillon – the other piece of it is we are obligated to have enough seats for all the residents of our three towns.  Some of our students or families choose to send them to other communities of options that could be early college or private school or boarding school.  At the end of the day, we need enough seats for all the students in our three towns.  The difference between what our enrollment number is and what we are obligated to have seats for isn’t very much so if we were to building, and a number that gets tossed around a lot which around 550 around the enrollment now.  If we were to build a school that size, that would meet our obligation to meet the needs of all the students.  If a surrounding school became part of our district and we took fewer students at different points, we would be very much in the ballpark of being about to accommodate that number of students.  R. Dohoney – so basically any consolidation with any one of the surrounding three districts that have high schools, those districts are so small at this point that it wouldn’t move the needle enough from a population standpoint to materially affect our design of the high school.  The idea floated in some circles of consolidating all four Berkshire high schools into one would probably be a different story but I don’t think that is a probability.  That is not something we could plan for.  I think the idea that the design of what is being talked about by this committee would not prevent, hinder or be undermined by a consolidation of any one of the three surrounding districts that have high schools.  J. St. Peter – I have been on this committee for five years, and as far as I’m concerned, we have been unanimous in looking to consolidate with any district in the area.  We med with Lee three or four years ago.  We put out overtures.  Again, as Bill likes to say, it takes two to tango and we have not had any reciprocal interest.  It isn’t that we are going to stop looking, but the facts are that even the most dire statistic projections leave us with hundreds of high school kids in the district for the next fifty years.  That is not going to change.  Those kids are going to need a building that provides an above adequate educational experience.  We are going to have these kids in this district and they are going to need a high school no matter whether we consolidate or not and going forward, something needs to be done.  What we have not is unacceptable.  B. Fields – I would like to say something, Leigh.  I see Marc Spraque is in the audience and he and I co-chaired of the Regional Agreement Committee and one of the things he and I agree on is that we only really need two high schools in south Berkshire.  It’s obvious.  You have to get the other districts to see that and right now, from what I am looking at, to the south of us, they are not interested.  They are willing to put $220,000 into a one-room schoolhouse.  Well, fine.  That is their decision.  I’m not sure we should be waiting.  I think, as I said to a voter at the town meeting before, we have to do something with this building no matter what and don’t wait around for another district to subsidize it because that is not going to happen.  L. Davis – I absolutely agree.  I just wonder if that will affect our application with the MSBA when there is that possibility of consolidation if that is going to hurt our chances of getting in.  S. Bannon – that will not hurt our chances.  What it will hurt is incentive points if we form a new district but we can’t wait around for that.  It should not hurt us at all.  R. Dohoney – I do think there is opportunities for strength in our relationship with the two districts we already partner with, Farmington River and Richmond.  K. McTeague – I live here in Great Barrington.  No children of mine have gone to this school.  I am wondering what it costs for one student from Great Barrington to go to school here and one child from Alford to go to school here and all the surrounding towns.  It seems to me that a lot of this burden is on us Great Barrington residents.  I would like to see it disbursed a little more evenly through the towns that use this school.  S. Bannon – I think the second elephant in the room is school choice and that is what you are referring to.  School choice was set back in the 80’s at $5,000 a student and there is very little chance that it will get changed at the state level.  The way this district has looked at it, and Peter’s analogy is the best, whether it is a bus or an airplane, if we have 15 students of our own in a room and we can fit 25 without any extra cost, than we put in those school choice students.  If we do not put in students if it is going to raise the cost, in other words if we are going to need another teacher or if it some other reason that will raise the cost.  What we do is we backfill and do school choice.  It is a never ending discussion with the legislature.  They are not interested in raising the school choice fees.  K. McTeague – I feel like it might push a lot of people out of Great Barrington that have lived here if the taxes keep going up the way they do.  S. Bannon – I understand that.  One of the things that the Next Steps Committee pointed out is that even though the project was turned down a few years ago, maybe one of the positives of that happening is that we are retiring the debt on the other two schools so that this debt could help replace that.  R. Dohoney – a couple of years ago, the regional agreement between Stockbridge, West Stockbridge and Great Barrington was reformed so that if a new renovation or rebuild goes forward, the way that cost will be allocated is much different.  Under the old formula, Great Barrington was bearing about 75% of the cost under the current population and tax levels.  Under the new formula, Great Barrington would bear around 50% of the cost even though we have more than 50% of the students.  That reform is a tremendous change and probably the most important change that has gone on in our relationships.  The fact that the three towns were able to come forward and modernize and equitably allocate our capital costs was a tremendous thing.  Frankly, a tremendous benefit to the Great Barrington taxpayers.  A. Potter – I want to come back to the school choice piece.  A number of years ago, when I first joined this committee, that was quite a concern.  That concern had been put to the committee and if I remember right, it was my first year, school choice was slashed in response to concerns like that.  In the next budget cycle, that showed up on the budget as a loss.  It was like $125,000 – $150,000 right out of the budget that wasn’t there because we had slashed school choice.  That got passed right into the assessment essentially.  School choice is a revenue source.  Fair or not in terms of where the state has placed it and there is a lot of irrational decisions that get made in Boston in terms of school education funding.  There is some light at the end of the tunnel that they might actually do some reform around the minimum local contribution and how the state funds, education in the state and looking at the foundation budget that the state puts toward education but the fact is that that is driven in Boston but for us it is a revenue source.  You can’t get away from it.  If we have kids going out that’s a problem too.  Ellen Boyd – I live in West Stockbridge and my daughter is a freshman here.  I also would like to say thank you to the committee.  It is so refreshing to hear that they had fun and they were able to sit and chat and have conversations and there was not anger and tyraid and debate.  It is very exciting to see steps moving forward.  Thank you very much.  I have a question as I heard very clearly that this is just the beginning so my big question is about the timeline.  I know there are a lot of factors that you can’t determine what that timeline is going to look like with particularly the state but my concern is that I moved here 15 years ago and ever since I moved here I have heard about this building falling apart.  My concern is the safety of our children.  We are inundated with the news of school shootings but I am concerned about the physical building.  I know that you inspected and all of that.  There is that component but I am also concerned about the children’s morale because they have been hearing this building needs to be renovated or whatever you choose to do.  What is that timeline?  Are we talking 10 years, 5 years?  I know that is the million dollar question but I am curious as to your response to that.  P. Dillon – this is highly speculative and making projections are dangerous because you don’t know where things will land.  I am hopeful that we will get a positive response from the MSBA in December or January.  That would then start a process where we bring on people and do some sort of schematic design for a year or so.  Out of that process the building committee and architects and designers would come up with a proposal.  That might take a year or so and after that then that would be set for some sort of vote, public approval, whatever that process is.  Assuming there was support for that then construction would start.  Your son is in 6th grade, he might get two years, maybe two and a half years in a renovated or new high school.  E. Boyd – I also just wanted to comment that one thing I have loved living here is the community spirit and how committed everybody is to make our community so great.  I would really encourage you as you are reaching out to the community to educate them.  Bring in the student voices because they tell use an incredible story and I think that you are going to have people that aren’t necessarily, whether they are retirees or second-home owners or people that live here because they have chosen to go to private schools or boarding schools, if they hear the stories of these incredibly well-spoken passionate children, they are going to listen.  I think it would be very helpful to have them on your speakers board in educating the community.  J. St. Peter – I think you bring up a good point.  Whatever process we choose, it is going to be a multi-year process and I know it was very important, I am on the building and grounds committee along with Molly, Diane and Bill and we provide, with over 100 new student circling through the building that are graduating and we don’t want to lose the fact of them over the next many years.  Last year, we redesigned three of the science rooms, three of the labs here as best we could with the materials here and we plan on aggressively within our budgetary means as well as educationally, pinpointing areas that we can improve the school between now and whenever this new project goes.  That is high on our radar and that we keep first and foremost.  Next month we are going to be starting the new budget season and we what we want to do as far as upgrades for the next current year.  That is always in our thoughts and students are always number one as far as our committee is concerned.  I share your concern for those kids.  Roger Cavanaugh – West Stockbridge – I was on the Next Steps Committee.  One of the things I don’t think has been said out loud so I’m going to say it, the state of this building is old but one of the things we learned in the Next Steps Committee is that it has been really well taken care of for an old building so I would hate for people to leave the room that this place isn’t safe for the students.  I don’t think that is what we came away with as a committee.  Peter has talked to us about this.  The custodians and the staff here have done yeoman’s effort to keep this building as good as it can be and I hope everybody understands that.  S. Bannon – the last project we were getting some incentive points for maintenance at this building and when it was toured by the MSBA, they commented on how well our buildings are maintained.  You are absolutely right that Steve Soule and our custodians and maintenance crew do an amazing job.  Marc Sprague – I have many kids in the school district – question one that I have is how old is this building and how does that compare to the other ages of the high schools in Berkshire County and in Western Massachusetts?  P. Dillon – with the Wahconah project just going through, to my knowledge, we are the only unrenovated high school or one that is not slated to be renovated in Berkshire County.  The last time I met with folks from the MSBA, my mantra was you want a little red flag out west in Berkshire County, we are the place, they have a map of all the projects they are doing, we are the place that let’s them show that they are working statewide.  M. Sprague – we are basically the only high school in all of Berkshire County that hasn’t been built new or renovated?  S. Bannon – yes.  This building was built somewhere around 1968.  M. Sprague – my second question is, would be get an answer hopefully a positive one from MSBA in December/January?  Is that what you said?  S. Bannon – yes.  M. Sprague – so, if there answer is no, then is it a yearly process that reapply to MSBA and is it always the same time of the year?  P. Dillon – it is a yearly process.  It is always the same time of the year.  They identify schools that are high need and they put them in rank order and then based on how much money they have and how much is already committed to other projects, they draw a line in the rank order.  Last time we didn’t make the cut but we were close to making the cut and I hope this time…M. Sprague – so by last time, you mean last year?  P. Dillon – yes, last year.  M. Sprague – so despite the negative votes or the lack of agreement between the three towns, we have been applying for MSBA anyway?  P. Dillon – we did the past year and the argument that I made to the MSBA was despite the lack of support in one of our three towns, since then we did a number of things that would potentially set that up for a positive vote.  One of them is the reworking of the regional agreement around capital costs and you were part of that so that’s probably the biggest deal.  The other one is better articulating our educational vision so we come up with a design that lets us do what we want to do educationally.  The other one is the prospect of retiring the debt on the elementary and middle schools so financially…M. Sprague – and when is that debt retired?  S. Harrison – in four years.  M. Sprague – so with the optimistic timeline, you gave from a yes from MSBA, then it is fair to say to the community of this district that if the answer is yes from MSBA by the time we actually break ground, our debt would be done on the other two schools?  S. Bannon – it isn’t just when we break ground.  By the time we have to make our first payment, the debt will be retired.  The first payment is a year after you are done.  P. Dillon – all those things plus the interesting work that the students did connected to the NYU project, the ongoing work that is happening in the school, I think we can try to make, and I hope it is heard, quite a repelling argument that we are ready to do something.  M. Sprague – the final question I had was that status of this building in terms of concerns for ventilation systems, we have been told in the past, that all the boilers are at risk.  Are we at risk in the next year or couple of years of having a school that is just not up to code with the Board of Health? Are we at risk of having a huge capital expense for this school in the near future.  S. Bannon – I’ll let Steve Soule who is the head of Building & Grounds.  As Jason, who is head of the subcommittee has said, the school committee has continued to put money into this building for instance with boilers because we value our students.  We need to have the basics for this building.  We have continued to put money into it in a judicious manner so that we don’t run into a major capital problem.  S. Soule – I don’t have a ton to add to that.  I would say, in my opinion and in the opinion of all the guys that work on this building, I think we don’t have anything to fear with regard to a safety hazard or that it is not a healthy environment for the student’s to be in.  I think we are free and clear of that.  The boilers are 50 years old.  I have a pretty generous budget to maintain this building and a good chunk of it goes to the boilers to make sure they are ready to operate through the winter.  All the other AC equipment, though most of it original, most of it is 51, 52 years old, getting parts is more and more challenging and finding people that can actually work on them is also challenging.  I do have a list of contractors that still are very familiar with the facility and they are willing to come and keep things working.  R. Dohoney – The school committee has a lot of confidence in Steve and his staff and as Jason said earlier, safety is number one and continuing education experience is number two and we are not making sacrifices for anybody.  The one sacrifice and everyone realizes is esthetics.  Besides people complaining about sports teams, painting the roof is one of the things I hear the most about as a school committee member.  That is one part where we do purposefully lag instead of putting money into the esthetics of the building we try not to do it at the expense of the educational experience of the students.  I think does raise a lot of concern to the community and we understand that.  S. Bannon – thank you coming tonight.  We have a little bit more of a meeting to get through but I will say this, this is the beginning.  There will be many, many more public meetings and we will value the input of the public as this process moves forward.

 

Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Policy Sub Committee- MOTION TO ACCEPT THE HOME SCHOOLING POLICY – A. POTTER SECONDED – R. DOHONEY              ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Buildings and Grounds Sub Committee – J. St. Peter – we met earlier today to basically just to update on the three different schools as well as the district as a whole. Relative to the high school, there was a student-led initiative to put a moss wall on the back of the building for environmental factors that help increase oxygen, etc.  Steve Soule gave the ok that it wouldn’t be risking any structural problems or anything with the brick or mortar.  The students have done that and it is in the works.  If it ever gets to the point that it isn’t manageable, it will be very easy to powerwash off and not cost us anything.  Getting back the air quality concerns, the state did come back and test that and the results were very similar to what they were ten years ago.  We had stagnant air because our HVAC systems are 51 years old but nothing of high concern.  I will have the results for the next meeting or the meeting after.  There is a lack of heating in the main office corridor.  That was fixed toward the end of winter.  Regarding the middle school, we commissioned for the first time since it was built, we commissioned for all the mechanical systems by an outside source.  We are waiting for the report but tentatively everything looks great at the middle school.  The elementary school, there are about 75%.  They still have to do some air quality testing but so far there are no signs of obvious problems there.  Districtwide, composting, there is a token program at the elementary school.  The high school is student-led and they started a composting project.  There is a summer to do list of security in the district.  At the middle school, they are going to be changing the key fobs, some increased cameras at the high school as well as changing some of the analog to digital.  Sidewalk repairs over the summer, basically run of the mill stuff.  Bannon – the moss wall and the composting here are partially funded by School Center, Inc.  If that is successful, composting may be funded in a larger degree by School Center but it is a trial run.
  • Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – A. Hutchinson – we did meet and Peter presented the preliminary results of the teacher feedback from teachers and staff. Dillon – Dewey who is the chair of the committee, is in the process of sending the formal school committee evaluation survey to various members of the schools.  R. Dohoney – that is finalized when usually?  P. Dillon – sometime over the summer.  Ideally, it would have gone out already.  It started now with that subcommittee but he needs to get feedback and it is a little different in each district.  It is a better question for him to answer than me to answer because I am not running that part of it.  In our district with ten school committee members the subcommittee gives feedback.  In Hancock, I think the chair gives feedback.  In New Ashford, I think the chair gives feedback and I don’t remember in Richmond if it’s the whole committee.  R. Dohoney – when do we expect your evaluation to be completed?  I don’t care when it is; I just want to know when.  P. Dillon – maybe July or August.  S. Bannon – it would be nice to have it done by September 1st but it is a little more complicated than that.  R. Dohoney – it is very tortured including the Shaker Mountain people and the evaluation process and this is the last year of that arrangement of I think once this report is done, we should go back to the old system of our review.  P. Dillon – this really isn’t the last year.  A. Potter – we are in negotiations.  S. Bannon – there is probably going to be one more.  R. Dohoney – so the last year of this arrangement…S. Bannon – next school year is the end of that agreement.  R. Dohoney – correct.  The year starting July 1st.  There will be no need for the review at comes out next summer; the summer of 2020.  S. Bannon – that would be the last year of the join reviews.  What do we care what Richmond thinks if we are no longer part of that agreement.  P. Dillon – what is Richmond becomes part of our…R. Dohoney – that’s a different scenario.  P. Dillon – we will know all of that by December 1st.
  • Technology Sub Committee N/A
  • Finance Sub Committee – R. Dohoney – we met this evening and basically just set the calendar for next year which is fundamentally the same and we will circulate that to everybody. The three schools, we are doing in the fall, October and November, which tends to be the most interesting ones.  We did push the vote back a week but still having a following week in case we need more time to do it but for the past two years we seem to be able to vote a week early and the only reason we stick to the old calendar is because it was already preset.  We are not locked into anything but at least we have the flexibility to maybe vote a week earlier if we want to do that.
  • District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee – P. Dillon – at that meeting, sharing some of the preliminary feedback from the teacher survey, there’s a decent amount of interest in having me spend more time in classrooms or facetime within our own district. There was a discussion around what the implications were for that and what that means for our district in relation to the Shaker Mountain district and what that means for the Shaker Mountain union.  A range of possibilities were outlined which on a continuum would go back to the way it was and I am just superintendent here and Shaker Mountain figures out their own thing; something in the middle might be Richmond comes to us and New Ashford and Hancock go to somebody else or they come up with their own arrangement; a whole host of things.  The group decided that they wanted me to reach out to Glen Couture who is the chair at MSC and I did.  Glen is going to come and meet with the group to facilitate and do some interviews with individuals from school committees and try to meet with the whole group to help facilitate a range of possibilities.  It starts getting complicated for me to do it because I am involved in it so bringing in Glen I think is good and it is covered under our membership in that organization.  Bannon – they also decided that the timeline is now.  We have to come to some conclusion and everyone in the room understood that pretty clearly.  B. Fields – December 2020, it was correct?  P. Dillon – no decision will be made December 2019 about the 2020 school year.  S. Bannon – one of the decisions that is not in our hands is whether the union goes in separate directions.  That is up to them to decide.  We are not here to bust the union.  It gives us less choice if they stay together but that is there choice.
  • Next Steps Sub Committee

Personnel Report:

  • Long-Term Appointment(s)
  • Retirement(s) –
  • Resignation(s) –
  • Re-assignment(s)
  • Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)
Long-Term Substitute Appointment(s):

 

   
Gutter, CindyLong-Term Substitute – Music – MB/MV Effective 5/1/19 thru the end of school year in June, 2019 @ per diem-BA Step 1 days 1 – 10, day 11 forward – per diem of MA Step 5 (Juraye Moran)
Retirement(s):   
    
Collari, DavidCustodian – MB Effective 7/31/19
    
    
Resignation(s):   
    
Wine, DouglasPrincipal – MMRHS Effective 8/31/19
Fasano, StephanieParaprofessional – MMRHS Effective 6/14/19
Long, DavidInformation Technology Director Effective 6/30/19
Ziobro, CoryParaprofessional – MVRMS Effective 5/24/19
Gillespie, MichaelMusic Teacher – MM/MV Effective 6/14/19
    
    
Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)

(all 2018-2019 unless otherwise noted)

 Fund 
    
Park, JulianDungeons & Dragons Club – MMRHS Stipend:  $528
Dufresnre, AlexanderFencing Coach – MMRHS Stipend:  $1,650
Dus, LiskenCoordinator – Poetry Out Loud Stipend:  $1,269
Mooney, MichaelCoordinator – Jacobs Pillow Stipend:  $1,269
Jones, DallasCoach – Cheerleading – MMRHS Stipend:  $1,650
Sumner, BrittanySafety Care Training Coordinator(26619)Stipend:  $580 (grant funded)

 

Business Operation:

Education News:

Old Business:

New Business:

  • Public Comment
  • Written Comment

 

MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER              SECONDED:  J. ST. PETER                       ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

  

The next school committee meeting will be held on June 6, 2019 – Regular Meeting, Monument Mountain Regional High School, Library,  7pm

 

Meeting Adjourned at 8:41pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

______________________________

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

 

______________________________

School Committee Secretary