Great Barrington                   Stockbridge                 West Stockbridge


Regular Meeting

Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School – Library

May 3, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.

Audit Review –  MBE Conference Room – 6:15pm


School Committee:                S. Bannon, J. St. Peter, D. Singer, A. Hutchinson, R. Dohoney, K. Piesecki, B. Fields.                                                        D. Weston

Administration:                      Sharon Harrison

Staff/Public:                            M. Berle, A. Rex, K. Farina, S. Soule

Absent:                                   P. Dillon, S. Stephen, A. Potter

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:    1 hr. 3 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.


TREASURER’S REPORT:   S. Harrison:  We are pretty much right on track with our revenue.  You will see we are over on the interest in investments.  Two factors in that.  The first is because of the change in the agreement so we are receiving our money now at the beginning of quarters rather than at the end and it helps us keep our reserve so we are gaining interest on that.  The other one is the Misc.  I don’t see it on here but I do want to bring it up because we were just talking about insurance and I don’t want to forget.  In April, the BHG voted to return retiree drug subsidy money to all of the units because our reserve was running up over $14 million again.  Rather than cut the rates and have another 14.5%, we didn’t want to artificially lower the rates; we decided we were going to give that money back to the district.  We received about $134,000.  You will see that in the 4th quarter but it will be in a couple of month.  S. Bannon:  Where does that money go to?  S. Harrison:  That drops to the E&D.  So it will hit in FY18.  Our budget expenses are running strong.  I am not concerned.  You will see some over and some under and that again is just because of transfers that were done in this quarter.  I do see that between the revenue and expenses, we will probably end the year again about 1.2 or 1.3 in our E&D as of right now.  I don’t what will happen in the next two month but I think we will end up in a good position.  R. Dohoney:  So why did you give us such a hard time about using it then?  S. Harrison:  I didn’t know that we would be getting $134,000 back!  The next page is the balance sheet and it basically shows you the cash.  Our total assets, our liabilities, our withholdings, this is obviously always in flux.  The reserve for encumbrances is the leftover from the FY18 reserve.  That will be gone in the next quarter as well.  The undesignated fund balances from June 30, 2017 used $400,000; right now that should say FY18.  The next page is the revolving funds and the grants.  School lunch fund is about the same as it always is at this time of year.  I do expect that the shortage will be a little bit smaller just from the tend that I am seeing this year.  The rest of it is spot on.  Our choice tuition is going to be slightly higher than expected as well as our tuition because I don’t budget the special education increment on the tuition because I never know from year to year what that will be.  That is usually will be where we have the excess in there.  If you will remember from earlier, with the audit having reserve is good for the district so this is where you are going to see some of those with the choice tuition in E&D.  The grant funds you will see some of those are in deficit.  The grants now work under a reimbursement program so at the end of the month, we have to ask for the money back and it doesn’t come in to the following month.  By June 30th all of those clear out and either they are 0 or positive.


  • Bannon – as you can see, Peter is not here tonight. This has become an annual tradition with Peter and Ben being at MCLA celebrating Kim Cormier our 7th grade English teacher who was our latest winner of the Berkshire County Educator of the Year.  We will struggle on without him.
  • Student Presentation – School Redesigned in Action: Monument Mountain Attends New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) Learn & Lead for Equity 2018.  Rex – I am welcoming a group of our students from Monument Mountain Regional High School.  Ten students who are part of the principal’s advisory group and eight other faculty members from the school and Kristi Farina from BHRSD attended a two-day conference on teaching and learning.  For the most part, the students are going to present their experience but I am going to just give a little background about what the conference way.  First I need to thank School Center, Inc.  We wrote a proposal and they funded us to travel down there.  We had to stay overnight and because of the snowstorm, we had to stay two nights.  It was in Providence, Rhode Island.  This was a conference that is attended by about 1,000 educators across New England.  It is sponsored by New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) that is an organization that promotes innovative school practices and helps schools network with each other and provides them with excellent professional development.  Previously, Massachusetts was the only state that didn’t belong to NESSC.  They have just, in December, joined and created a formal agreement with them and want to fully participate around school transformation.  The center of their framework is around student-centered learning.  Shifting away from that traditional model where the teacher stands in front of the classroom and students are to absorb everything the teachers says then regurgitate it back.  This is really around competency-based learning so ensuring that students incorporate concepts and skills, it is around personalization; students being able to follow their passions and also learning in environments where they can be successful and succeed and transfer that learning one to important post-secondary school opportunities.  Learning anytime, anywhere, and the use of technology so that students can either access in the classroom in their traditional high school or online learning from other organizations anytime, anywhere.  Student owned learning is really about where students identify and work either with their peers or with their teachers or on their own with mentors to direct their own learning.  It is really a fabulous framework.  I am going to pass it on to our students.  Student #1:  One of the conferences that I attend along with Claudia who is also part of our group, was about cultivating curiosity through promoting question asking in the students and it was very interesting.  It was about two teachers who taught at the elementary level and it was very much about before starting a unit or a topic you ask the students to make a list of questions they have and what they know and connecting all the little pieces together.  By doing that, the students are able to organically produce something they can use to connect to what they are going to learn.  It was very interesting because it can be applied at the middle and high school level.  It was very interesting because especially in high school you get a lot of “why and I learning this?  I’m not going to use this”.  It was very much about how you can find something in anything and if you cultivate that curiosity.  Student #2:  Another presentation that I attended was What Can We Learn From Coaches, Conductors and Artists.  This was a presentation that was based on the book Empowered.  Basically the central message of the book was applied to engagement to empowerment and a group of educators did this in a middle school where they tried to get their classroom to work from the teacher just telling the kids what to do, giving them assignments, what to learn, how to learn, etc. to the kids being engaged.  Student presentations continued….(slides available upon request)
  • Fields – I have a couple of questions. One is how many schools were from Massachusetts?  Did you get a sense of that?  A. Rex:  Even though Massachusetts just joined officially, they have been attending the conference because it was open to them and as far as presenters go, the NESSC tries to balance it across all states.  There were as many Massachusetts schools presenting as there were CT, RI, etc.  It was a pretty balanced list.  B. Fields:  What you have done, flies in my philosophy of teaching and Monument has programs that are directly related to what all of you students have done, not totally but we are under the control of DESE.  They have a system known as MCAS and this state has adopted the common core.  The common core sets what you are going to teach and MCAS tells you that what you teach you are going to be tested on.  I hate to discourage you but there is going to be new MCAS coming down in social studies and according to the state legislature, they now want to do a civics and an economics test.  That is not our choice.  That is not this school committee’s choice.  We have to go by what the state says.  We can do little variations with it.  As I asked Amy at her interview, I asked a questions about, there are states that haven’t bought into this and Vermont being one and that the standardized test model is being challenged but this state has decided last year to devote $32 million to MCAS.  That is a great deal of money.  I would like to have some of that money returned in transportation for our school district.  I have been for four years talking about that in a sense assessment is controlled by the state.  We can do some things within it but basically it comes down to those tiers and I got into a parent debate with somebody on Facebook that I am terrible by asking parents to opt out because I am going to ruin the school.  I am going to send that school to a level 3 or 4 and we are going to be screwed royally because that is the test.  I would like to know from any of you, how do you plan; this model is super.  This is the model I would love to teach under.  How do you present this to the DESE to change their way of thinking that standardized tests are the way that Massachusetts students are going to be measured and graduated because it is a state requirement that you pass that test.  Student:  I think the way I would propose it to them is basically this whole proficiency learning based is all going toward having a broader understanding of the topic in itself and basically instead of learning these little facts, you are understanding the topic as a whole and it is not just to keep up with the demands of homework and tests but it is completely become competent in it.  I don’t think there is anything with someone being competent in anything will not be able to do well in these tests.  Student #2:  I would say when did we lose the learning.  The biggest takeaway from everything we learned and everything we are trying to do is just that learning is the most important.  That’s what school is.  It shouldn’t be about fitting you into a certain path.  You can’t measure these certain things by these larger tests.  Learning is so much more important than preparation.   A. Rex:  DESE has started a conversation around (inaudible).  B. Fields:  The special interests like Bill Gates and Pearson and Forward Progress who does the MCAS I believe are going to say no because there are profits to be made and curriculum books, texts, lesson plans to be formulated and these kids are great.  I wish I was a teacher again at Monument.  When I listen to you all, I would have loved to have gone to this conference.  I hope that since we are using the word re-imagination this should be part of the re-imagination of the district.  Besides looking at what we teach and how we teach, I think we should look at – can the state see an alternative model?  We have an alternative model and we should take this and run with it and say to the state “let’s stop MCAS for Berkshire Hills” and run with this model.  I am not sure if they will buy that.  We did it at the beginning.  We presented an alternative to MCAS.  We had kids to portfolios.  We had kids to individual projects.  Of course the principal was threatened with a loss of her certification if these things occurred.  I don’t know how that worked out.  She didn’t lose her certification.  This should be part of our re-imagination of this district.  Exactly what you heard tonight.  S. Bannon – thank you very much everyone.  It was wonderful.  Amy, thank you.
  • Good News Item(s): See below:
  • Request to add HSA as an Additional Insurance Option: Harrison:  Included in your packet was a memo requesting the committee’s consideration of the HSA rate saver plan.  In October the Berkshire Health Group authorized the development of a Health Savings Account qualified health insurance plan.  For a health insurance plan to be qualified for HSAs, it has to have a higher deductible.  I believe the individual is 1350 and family is 26 or 2800 deductible.  This plan developed between October and January, approved at the January 29th meeting, would have a 2,000 individual and 4,000 family maximum deductible for medical expenses.  That is also the maximum out-of-pocket expenses for medical.  It then also has, unlike our other plan, a maximum on the prescriptions of 3,000 and 6,000.  It should like a lot, but if you have people with chronic illnesses, with transplants, you get to that very quickly.  We have the plan.  It is going to have a lower cost.  It is about 19% lower.  We would have to negotiate with our units to come up with the cost share.  However, we would first have to have this on the menu.  I do believe for some individuals…for the district it is certainly good.  It is a savings.  For some individuals, it is as well because of the maximum on there.  The interesting part about the HSA/HMO because of the deductible it will no longer require a referral from your PCP for specialists.  I know that there are some people who go to the PPO and PPOS because they don’t want to have to go through a referral from their PCP.  This health plan allows that.  The reason it does that is because there is still cost reduction due to the deduction on there.  At the same time that the board approved this plan, it also approved maximum contribution by the units of 50% of the cost of the deduction into an employer contribution into the HSA.  That also needs to be negotiated with the unions.  What we are asking now is for the school committee’s blessing to put this on our menu of health insurance options.  R. Dohoney:  So we are putting it on our menu of option, when we go to the unions to negotiate the split?  S. Harrison:  Yes.  What I needed was to have the school committee’s approval to even go to discuss it.  If we are not going to offer it, then there is no need to negotiate it.  R. Dohoney:  Putting it on our menu, that is not obligating us to anything at this point.  S. Harrison:  Correct.  It is allowing us to offer it.  B. Fields:  and they don’t’ have to accept it.  They may not want any more options.  S. Harrison:  The school committee can say, we are going to have this and then we have to bargain the rate.  D. Weston:  Nobody has to sign up for it.  S. Harrison:  Correct.  J. St. Peter:  So you say we are going to fund 50% of the HSA:  S. Harrison:  No.  THat has to be negotiated.  What the Berkshire Health Group did was put a limit of 50% employer contribution either to individual or to the family plan.  The reason is, statistically what has been studied, if you put a higher amount in there, you don’t realize the cost savings on your claims because what this does is encourages to be more educated consumers.

MOTION TO APPROVE THE ADDITIONAL OF HSA AS AN ADDITIONAL INSURANCE OPTION:  R. Dohoney                   Seconded:    A. Hutchinson                               Accepted:  Unanimous

  • Updates:
    • Security & Safety: N/A

Good News:

 Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School –  Mary Berle,  Principal:   In 1980, 81, 82, 83 there were two elected student members who came to every school committee meeting and I know that because I was one of them.  Maybe that is something to bring back.  I just want to share, connected to this wonderful presentation, an example of math reasoning and working with conjecture and proof.  A third grade math class from this week, Savannah, in Shannon’s Guerrero’s class was working with a conjecture that one of her classmates came up with was if you take any fraction and the denominator is one number and the numerator is half of the that number, it is equivalent to one half.  We said that’s very interesting and I wonder how you would prove that.  Savannah thought about that for a new minutes and she came back and said if I took a piece of paper and I cut it into any number of pieces and I take half of those pieces and make that the half….if I make 100 pieces and I take half that is 50 pieces so 50/100 and I will have another 50 which would be a half and a half equals a whole.  I thought that was pretty good for third grade.  It is an example of the student- centered work of what at the big questions that come up as you notice patterns and how can you prove using models and relationships.

We had a lovely family day on Sunday at the Rockwell Museum.  Some of you were there and your kid’s work was there.  I just wanted to really thank our third grade team, all of our specialists, Roger Burr our new Tech teacher did a lovely job supporting everybody with students learning a storyboard program and having that be a piece of what was presented along with original artwork that Ali Benton supported very well and fables that student wrote in class.  Kim Chirichella had kids making paintings about Harlem Renaissance art and the whole thing was wonderful and connected to Jerry Pinkney’s visit and the six week unit on fables here.  I also want to thank the Norman Rockwell Museum staff.  Laurie Norton Moffett has really embraced this vision of a deeper connection with the schools beyond field trips and Rich Bradway, Patrick O’Donnell, Stephanie Plunkett and Tom Daley have all been lovely partners with our teachers in trying to grow this relationship and make it special and also a model for work that can happen in other school locally and also ultimately with digital resources that would be available to schools nationally.  I am really proud of our team.

Speaking of MCAS, we did get through the 4th grade online version.  It took a lot of work and the kids did great.  They really worked hard.

Other great news is Joey LaBraska is a former Muddy Brook student who opened on Broadway in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last week.  It is fun because it came to Muddy BRook, he loved singing with Rob Putnam years ago; he graduated from the high school a couple of years ago and he is playing five parts in this incredible musical on the biggest stage and he is the understudy for the lead role.  I did put a link in your good news items from the New York times that includes a picture of him.  Congratulations to Joey!  His mother is a paraprofessional at Muddy Brook, Janie, and his brother is a paraprofessional at the middle school.  It is really a big Berkshire Hills moment.

Dr. Buccino may be the greatest friend to Muddy Brook ever who has helped us so much with our collaborative work and finding ways to best support whole families and the kids in school here.  She has just won a very prestigious award from the Mass Medical Society for her work on collaborative care in large part but also in her other work.  We just wanted to give her a shout out and deep gratitude for the hours of volunteer time caring for our community.

Today we had a KDG screening and we had many kindergarten families come in.  I want to shout out to Christine Kelly who does an amazing job organizing that; welcomed every family; made it really wonderful.  Christine is also doing nice work at organizing the data in ways that we can now share with United Way and the other five elementary schools.  To that end, Amy Taylor has been a great partner at United Way and she got a national trainer in for the Brigance Screening tool which is a very simple interview assessment but if it is reliable with the other elementary schools in south county we can use the data to apply for grants and support so that our 0-5 projects that we work on with the United Way and many other partners, that series of project will have support and funding over time and also identify gaps in services.  Our goal is for more and more kids to be ready for kindergarten.  In the next couple of weeks we will have the data.  My prediction is based on the work that has already happened, we will have more kids ready for kindergarten than we have had in the previous years and that is just a great way to start.  Thank you.

Monument Valley Regional Middle School – Ben Doren, Principal:  N/A

Monument Mount Regional High School – Amy Rex, Principal:   N/A

Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Policy Sub Committee: N/A
  • Building and Grounds Subcommittee: N/A
  • Superintendent’s Evaluation Subcommittee: N/A
  • Technology Subcommittee: N/A
  • Finance Subcommittee: N/A
  • District Consolidation & Sharing Subcommittee:

Personnel Report:   –

  • Long-term Substitute Appointment(s)
  • Re-assignment(s)
  • Resignations(s)
  • Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)

Name                            Position                                                                       Salary/Stipend

                                                                                                                                                           Effective Date:

Long-Term Substitute Appointment(s): 
Esposito, MargaretLong-Term Substitute – Special Education Teacher – MMRHSEffective 5/21/18 – end of school year-June 2018.  Day 1 – 10 per diem of BA Step 1($220.08/day), Day 11 forward – per diem of BA Step 3 ($237.73/day)

(replaces  Elyce Mercier)

D’Aniello, AnneLong-Term Substitute- Special Education Teacher – MMRHSEffective 4/5/18 – end of school year-June 2018 – 2 days/ Day 1 – 10 per diem of BA Step 1($220.08/day), Day 11 forward – per diem of BA Step 5 ($254.22/day)

 (replaces  Jennifer Miller)

Briggs, FrankFrom Skilled Maintenance to Maintenance Supervisor – DistrictEffective 6/1/18 @ $26.50/hr – 8/hr./day (workday 8 ½/hrs. day

(replaces  Ronald Getchell)

Crum, LoriMB – ParaprofessionalEffective 04/06/2018
Alcantara, KelseyParaprofessional – CVTE MMRHS -Classroom/Library/MediaEffective end of school year June 2018
Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)

(all 2017-2018 unless otherwise noted)

Scott, WendyMusical Costume Designer – MVStipend:  $641.50
Diamond, HaleyMusical Set Designer – MVStipend:  $641.50
Project Connection-Spring 2018:Fund Source

21st CCLC

Muddy Brook 

Chirichella, Connor                           Paraprofessional – MB                          (25718)                                          $14/hr. up to 26 hours

March 26, 2018 – June 1, 2018

Business Operation:

  • FY18 Q3 Transfer Report – for people in the audience and watching, most of these are in a longer report than you have seen so far. It is five pages and the majority of those are either for professional development and moving some funds around because we are doing some very interesting things and Kristie has talked about.  For anticipated expenditures, we have talked about this before, we set the budget in January/February and this time of year you might need more text books or more supplies, so that is the second portion and the third one is I waited later this year than normal to balance the salary accounts because there were so many people that had been moved during the year and I wanted to make sure that was locked down.  Those are the three primary categories.  Were there specific questions people have?

MOTION TO APPROVE THE FY18 Q3 TRANSFER REPORT:  B. Fields,  Seconded:  J. St. Peter Accepted:  Unanimous

  • Request to set up three (3) additional gifts & donations accounts – one (1) for each school – S. Harrison: In FY14 the school committee approved the development of the addition of a gifts and donations revolving account.  In May of 2015 was our first deposit into that and we had a $125 in that a couple of year ago; last year we had over $2,000 because we were the fiscal agent for the DuBois and there were lots of donations coming in; then this year it was about $36,000.  It is getting a little cumbersome to have all of that in one account and it is also difficult for principals for see what their donations are.  My request is for the school committee to authorize establishing three additional gifts and donations accounts.  One for the elementary school, one for the middle school and one for the high school.  That way when donations come in specific to the schools we can deposit into that and give a view to the principals in the accounting system.  Then we would have the general gifts and donations for this that happen at the district level.  Weston:  How to principals get the money out of those accounts:  S. Harrison:  Through the regular PO process.  D. Weston:  But we don’t have to budget for that…S. Harrison:  Correct.  Most of the donations come in for a specific purpose or for general like the music program or field trips.  Principals are really tight about that and spending it for the right reasons.    MOTION TO APPROVE THE SETTING UP OF THREE ADDITIONAL GIFTS AND DONATIONS REVOLVING ACCOUNTS ONE FOR EACH SCHOOL:  R. Dohoney                   Seconded:  B. Fields                         Accepted:  Unanimous

Education News:

Old Business:

New Business:

  • Public Comment
  • Written Communication  

MOTION TO ADJOURN:  R. Dohoney             Seconded:  J. St. Peter                 Accepted: Unanimous

The next school committee meeting will be held on May 17, 2018 – Regular Meeting – Monument Valley Regional Middle School, 7pm

Meeting Adjourned at 8:03pm

Submitted by:  Christine M. Kelly, Recorder


Christine M. Kelly, Recorder



School Committee Secretary