Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge


Regular Meeting

Monument Valley Regional Middle School, Library

October 24, 2019 – 7pm


School Committee:                 R. Dohoney, A. Hutchinson, D. Singer, S. Stephen, J. St. Peter, D. Weston

Administration:                       P. Dillon, S. Harrison

Staff/Public:                             K. Farina, B. Doren, K. Burdsall

Absent:                                     S. Bannon, A. Potter, B. Fields, M. Thomas

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 hour, 04 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.

September 5, 2019

October 3, 2019



  • SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT: Dillon – I will start with a bit of good news.  We have a couple of students here and a teacher to talk about a potential trip so we will bounce things around a little bit so they can present then go home and do homework.  A neat thing happened and I posted it on Facebook a little while ago.  Sean Flynn spoke at the Reni Center Conference and that got highlighted in their newsletter.  He was on a panel moderated by the Massachusetts Secretary of Education.  It got good coverage and I will send it around to everybody tonight to tomorrow morning.  Tim is not joining us tonight and when we get to the MCAS stuff, I will talk about it.
  • Good News Item (s)
    • Tim Lee, Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School – N/A
    • Ben Doren, Principal, Monument Mountain Regional Middle School – Science Week is a huge thing. Miles Wheat is our assistant principal.  He is a former science teacher and he really got turned onto this project by Cori Sprague who is a district parent.  We talked last year about how amazing science week was.  Miles did a really nice job by getting feedback, both from students and families but also from faculty about needing more time and investment in preparation and professional learning, which we did.  I2 offered their regular training this summer and we got new people on board but also we were able to invest in people getting a second level of training this summer and put a lot of professional learning time into it.  At some point this fall I got really annoyed at my assistant principal because he had stolen all my faculty on half day to prep for this then I walked around this week and saw the most amazing thing.  I saw the school I wished we could be.  It happened.  5th Grade is doing an investigation into Loon Lake.  Why is Loon Lake so sick and how do we fix it.  6th Grade is designing a lunar colony; 7th grade is doing kinetic sculptures and 8th grade is doing surgical techniques.  They are dissecting brains, hearts, going into neuroplasticity, they are learning how to do surgery on a chicken wing and suture it up.  They are becoming surgeons.  It is amazing.  7th Grade is learning about physics and art and the connections between them.  They are making dynamic sculptures with marbles and dominos and things that fly in the air.  The lunar colonies are amazing.  They are learning about space but also ecosystems.  5th grade with Loon Lake is amazing.  I went and stayed in the back of the room for about 10 minutes.  The teacher was sitting at her desk with a few students coming up and asking questions.  They were deep into putting together their public service announcements and figuring out why Loon Lake is sick and what to do about it.  They spent all day during science week.  There is deep study, lots of literacy, lots of reading and writing, some math connections, deep science content but what I love about it is it is integration and the teachers are working so hard to make this come alive.  Miles has put together an amazing week of integrated study and the teachers have really risen to the occasion yet again.  I am super impressed.
    • Kristi Farina, Monument Mountain Regional High School – The team and co-teaching at the high school this year is really making a difference. Today I had an opportunity to see Beth Spence and Scott Annand who have been team teaching three sections of our college-prep biology, they have taken their class and really done some amazing work.  They restructured the entire curriculum to align it with the new science standards.  They have been modifying labs given our new schedule.  Today there were out on the track having students doing running activities then doing measurements physically connected to the biology of that.  The students were engaged for the entire 73 minute period  which is one of our longer periods.  It was very exciting to see.  This Sunday evening, we have NHS induction ceremony where we are going to be honoring students who have met the requirements not only in their academic achievement but for the character and their leadership and service.  All of you are invited to join us at 6pm in the auditorium.  Last week Sean Flynn, Scott Annand, Steve Estelle and I had the opportunity to meet with some folks from BCC.  At the high school we have had are articulation agreement in our early education exploring childhood class for many years.  This year we have an articulation agreement with BCC in our personal finance class.  It is very exciting.  BCC is pushing towards a program where they would like to see high schools get as many students as possible to be graduating with 15 college credits.  We will be continuing conversations with them in thinking about what courses we could offer next year and beyond that students could actually be doing their course work at MMRHS but earning college credits that would be transcripted through BCC.  In the arts, we have two things I want to highlight.  We have our cast working hard to get ready to perform the Twelfth Night with Shakespeare & Co.  That will be taking place in mid-November.  Today we had about 85 students who were down in Great Barrington like they are annually doing the Halloween window painting and it was a beautiful day.  I hope you all get a chance to see the artwork that are in the storefronts there.  I want to give a big shoutout and congratulations to the boys cross country team.  They made it to the tournament this year.  It is the first time since 2008.  I would like to end by telling you are doing spirit week this week and culminating it tomorrow with a community unity breakfast and a pep rally in the gym then senior night for boys soccer and Saturday night is homecoming.  It is a very busy weekend this weekend.
  • NOTE to School Committee: May 7, 2020 School Committee has been changed to May 14, 2020
  • Job Description Revisions:
    • Information Technology Director
  • Peru Trip Update – P. Dillon – at our last meeting we said we would come back about Peru. The situation in Peru isn’t great.  In many ways it is too early to know what the situation will be like.  We looked at some reports about the stuff going on with the government and we will have a much better sense of that soon.  We have a couple of other options I wanted to share with you so you have some level of comfort.  One would be instead of doing the trip as planned, do a two week trip to Mexico and the details of that are in your packet.  Option two would be a two week to Salamanca in Spain.  We have good back-ups.  Either would be appropriate.  Ben and I talked to Senior Health about this and in terms of when he buys tickets and flight insurance we think we will be in good shape.  Something might happen in Peru right at the start of the new year during elections.  We will come back to you in the middle of January or early February to lock something in.  Even if late in April we had to make a change, I think we have a flexibility to do that.
  • MCAS Review – P. Dillon – we put together a nice packet that is fairly detailed but if you are a serious number cruncher, you can go nuts and look at everything. The first page is a comparison of all the districts in Berkshire County.  Rob put the first two pages together and I want to bring your attention to this, there is a relationship between wealth and achievement and poverty and lack of achievement.  The two highest performing districts overall are Mt. Greylock and Lenox and they are also the two least economically disadvantaged.  We are the third and in most areas we perform as the third.  We don’t want one’s zip code to be one’s destiny and that is what is going on here.  In particular places we do really well, where we outperform where we are based on our economic status and in some places, unfortunately we do the opposite and we underperform.  What I thought I would do, and maybe we could go into this in more detail in a future meeting, talk a little about the elementary school.  We try to look at multiple years of data and not one year and we try to look at absolute achievement and also growth.  The tricky think about growth is if you have a particularly terrible year in terms of achievement, then the next year you have a particularly wonderful in terms of growth but that may not say a lot.  If you are able to sustain growth over time, that’s pretty wonderful.  The growth range that we are looking for is in the 40-60% in each year.  The growth is 25 and that is underachieving.  The first couple of pages is percentage meeting or exceeding.  The other thing worth noting is the kinds of tests change all too often.  Sometimes it is hard to make comparisons year over year because you’re comparing one kids of test to a test that was different from the year before.  In particular, this past year from the first year kids were taking assessments in third and sixth grade on computers.  For some kids that was a steep learning curve.  At Muddy Brook, the long-term trends from the 16-17 to current are positive, growth scores are really strong from 3rd to 4th and really strong with the high needs subgroup.  You only have a subgroup if it is 20 or more kids.  If it is less than that, it is not reported for statistical reasons.  The bad news in the elementary school are in particular the third grade math scores.  If you look who is the highest and the lowest in the county, we are not doing well for 3rd grade.  That may indicate certain issues around teaching but more importantly may indicate a curriculum problem.  Dan and I have been talking about this for about 10 years, we are going to do a deep dive and look at our math curriculum and if it makes sense and what other possibilities are.  We are going to do it as a K-12 look and we are planning to set aside money in next year’s budget to start investing in whatever magical curriculum we come up with.  We will be doing a lot of work on that.  Doren – I am very pleased by the MCAS results this year.  We improved in all of our areas.  There were concerns specifically with our subgroup of latino students not performing well in the previous year so this was a nice boost there.  This is due in part to teaming around the students and that was helpful in getting us a full time ESL teacher at the middle school.  Even the work we did before teeing this up was successful.  The other thing that I think the scores really show, we have a really strong scores in 5th and 6th grades; 7th and 8th grades, even though they improved, the 5th and 6th grade scores are due in two things.  We really invested a lot in aligned our curriculum in math over the past several years as well as investing in our literacy program through self-regulated strategy development for writing and reading for writing.  A lot of the professional learning we have been doing and the alignment I think is starting to pay off.  I also feel there is a lot of work that Mary Berle and Nan Thompson did at the elementary school with the teachers to buckle down around strong literacy, co-curriculum as well as tier II in ways that I haven’t seen in many years in math as well.  After several years of work with students in the upper grades at the elementary school, they are coming across and we are seeing better prepared students.  K. Farina – The data in our accountability clearly demonstrates that our performance and our growth in both ELA and math were higher than the state and improved over the 2017-18 year.  As Peter mentioned, there is a change in test so at the high school last year, we did shift to the computer based testing and the next generation so looking at the state data is useful.  I would also like to highlight the attendance and the improvement in attendance at the high school.  That has been an area in which we have had concern for many years.  Our attendance rate jumped dramatically last year.  Peter Falkowski is continuing to work on that and has actually formed an attendance committee that meets weekly to review student attendance and look for patterns and try to identify if there are particular students that we should be trying to really reach out to and wrap around supports to improve this.  P. Dillon – to go from 88 to 93 is a huge deal and while we still have work to do to the elementary and middle school, the high school has slightly worse attendance.  J. St. Peter – I know in years past we had a problem with certain people not taking the test and getting low scores.  It seems like that has changed.  P. Dillon – I’m trying not to talk about it so it goes away.  That appears to have been a passive wave and the number of people who were doing that is decreased dramatically.  J. St. Peter – I think it is good.  The parents that are doing that should be applauded, I am grateful to them.  It hurts the district when we do have kids opt out.  I think we have done a good job saying we will not be a test-based district but I think there is positive information and it is brave of these parents to have them take the test when they felt uncomfortable.  I feel personally as a school committee member, I am grateful to them to have their kids sit for it because it gives us the data we can us to further better education.  P. Dillon – I think so.  I would like to make an argument for alternative from a place of strength and not from a place of poor participation and that is helping us do that.
  • Proposed Motion: Formation of Regional Planning Committee for Consolidation – P. Dillon – I would like to recommend we pass over this motion.  In my mind we reached out to the other districts in the context of our letter to do that and it may make sense in part because so many members are missing tonight to table that until our next meeting when more people are present and also get a better sense of what some of our neighboring districts are doing.  Dohoney – when is the next meeting of the municipal group that has been dealing with this topic?  S. Stephen – November 19th at 5pm in Stockbridge is the town driven on.  R. Dohoney – and the information discussion group among the school committees, that has been disbanded now right?  S. Stephen – we were actually voted out of that.  Our school committee members were voted out of that and we were not allowed to participate.  P. Dillon – I may be missing something; I don’t think the school group …J. St. Peter – so the eight town group was not selectmen and school committee?  P. Dillon – no.  There were two parallel groups meeting simultaneously.  An education group with school committee members and an eight town group that was …let me recognize that Dan has excused himself from the table due to conflict…there are two groups, the school committee group and the eight town group.  There are two school committee members, one from each district who sit on the town group but as non-voting members.  S. Stephen – did you say at the last meeting that we are not involved with the town group whatsoever? A. Hutchinson – my understanding was that the superintendents were there and there is no representation from school committee.  S. Stephen – we were supposed to meet.  P. Dillon – we might have to clarify that because I was under the impression that both Dennis and Steve are there as district representatives.  R. Dohoney – Steve has some role in that group.  S. Stephen – when we left the meeting in Stockbridge, the town representatives were going to have their meetings and the school board members were supposed to have their own meetings.  P. Dillon – Let’s see what happens with that but I am not requesting a motion.
  • Request: Overnight Field Trips – MMRHS
    • February 15 – 23, 2020 – Dominican Republic – Serving-learning project with orphanage; no school will be missed. Funding raising will be done.  16 Students will be teaching math and science, construction, painting buildings, arts and crafts.  Scott and Jennifer Annand will be faculty advisors for the trip.  Dohoney – what is making this a school activity?  P. Dillon – School staff are chaperoning the trip and it is a good practice.  If we send 16 of our students somewhere, I am more comfortable doing that under the umbrella of the district as opposed to doing it some ad hoc way on the side.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE MMRHS DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TRIP        S. STEPHEN               SECONDED:  A. HUTCHINSON      ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
    • April 18-26, 2020 – Yellowstone National Park – E. Hernandez – a non-profit company will be hired for the trip called Ecology Project International. Students will be staying in cabins in Yellowstone working with researchers.  Students will be tracking bison, bears, wolves, etc.  13 students with 2 teacher chaperones would be going.  7 students have committed already.  Fundraising will be done.  The cost of the trip is $2,400 plus airfare.  Dohoney – who is eligible to go?  E. Hernandez – anyone who applies from all four grades.  We would like them to write a letter of motivation and meet with us.  It is not based on grades just their motivation.  J. St. Peter – I just want to make sure there is a mechanism for kids who might not think they can afford it.  There needs to be a way for them to get different funding.  E. Hernandez – besides these grants I have, the science department has a grant and we will be partially sponsoring those kids.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE MMRHS YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK TRIP – S. STEPHEN                SECONDED:  A. HUTCHINSON                 ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS  R. Dohoney – now that we are getting more of these trip requests, should our policy committee look at a more formal policy with criteria for approval of these trips?  Rather than just putting it to a yes or no vote.  I have some concerns of the ramifications of a majority of the big trips being for the A students.  I think that could be an issue.  I know that was not the case with this trip, but.  I think we need a broader look and then come down to some criteria before we approve them.  P. Dillon – I think Sean and I can bring that back to the policy group and increasingly more and more as three schools and as a district, we are removing gate-keeping devices so to formalize that in the context of policy would be consistent with out belief system.  I am not sure if we have a standing policy around it, but it would be great to make our own and to address in the policy the lack of gatekeeping and encouraging a diverse group of kids to participate and specifically address doing our best to remove financial obstacles.
  • Dillon – DESE announced that they have grants or a pot of money, half a million dollars, for competitive grants to support consolidation efforts. I am going to ask this in two parts.  I would like to ask for your support and in many other ways you have voted a half a dozen times and talked about it in minutes, I would like to ask for your support to give me latitude in submitting one or more grants to support that.  In particular, I am interested submitted a grant to support our work with Richmond so there is no conflict there.  R. DOHONEY – MOTION TO AUTHORIZE THE SUPERINTENDENT TO TAKE ALL REASONABLE AND NECESSARY ACTIONS TO PURSUE AND OBTAIN AN APPLY FOR ANY AND ALL GRANTS AVAILABLE THROUGH DESE IN FURTHERANCE OF OUR EFFORTS WITH RICHMOND CONSOLIDATED SCHOOLS       SECONDED:  J. ST. PETER               ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS     P. Dillon – (D. Weston leaves that table)  the same thing but this time with Southern Berkshire.   R. DOHONEY – MOTION TO AUTHORIZE THE SUPERINTENDENT TO TAKE ALL REASONABLE AND NECESSARY ACTIONS TO PURSUE AND OBTAIN AN APPLY FOR ANY AND ALL GRANTS AVAILABLE THROUGH DESE IN FURTHERANCE OF OUR EFFORTS WITH SOUTHERN BERKSHIRE REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT       SECONDED:  J. ST. PETER               ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Policy Sub Committee
    • 2nd Readings: Policy JJ-Co-Curricular and Extra-Curricular Activities; MOTION TO APPROVE POLICY JJ            WESTON         SECONDED:  J. ST. PETER          ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
    • Policy JJA-Student Organizations; MOTION TO APPROVE POLICY JJA STEPHENS         SECONDED:     J. ST. PETER          ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Buildings and Grounds Sub Committee – N/A
  • Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – P. Dillon – we are meeting in Richmond on the 29th and the upate on that is Doreen has been working with Dewey to update the electronic feedback on the evaluation. She will give Dewey an aggregate report within individual comments attributed to people and hopefully we will finalize that.  We are a little late this year.  I will also share my goals for this year which are tied to the district improvement plan.
  • Technology Sub Committee – P. Dillon – we are excited about Uli. He is making a lot of progress and meeting regularly with the principals and technology teams.  I think we are moving in a very good direction.  We will have a future technology meeting.
  • Finance Sub Committee – N/A
  • District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee – N/A

Personnel Report:

  • Non-Certified Appointment(s)
  • Resignation(s)
  • Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)

Business Operation:

Education News:

Old Business:

New Business:

  • Dohoney – I was reading that the Mt. Greylock school district is discussing their school schedule. Have we done any analysis around that or are there discussions county-wide?  P. Dillon – they discussed it and they were 50/50 split and decided not to do anything.  The obvious reason for them not to do it is many of their families are on a MCLA academic calendar so it works for a lot of people.  The downside is that many of the families or staff also live in surrounding communities that are on the traditional February/April one.  When I lived and worked in New York, Diane was on the university schedule and I was on a public school schedule and she would have vacation when we didn’t have it, etc.  It was problematic.  I think for the moment, they are tabling it.  We have not done a big analysis of it.  There are advantages and disadvantages to it.  If you want us to do that, we can.  The potentially thing though equally complicated is that we don’t start particularly early; we do still start a little earlier than some of the pediciatrian groups and other groups are recommending so maybe the more interesting conversation would be to do an analysis as to what our start times are rather than February & April breaks.
  • Dillon – going back to the grant, the Berkshire County Education Task Force is also interested in writing some of those grants. My inference and I just want you to confirm this, because you voted maybe almost a year ago for us to withdraw from that group, we have no interest as a district in having them write a grant on behalf of the county that we would be part of.  Is that accurate?  S. Stephen – would our not being part of it prevent them from …P. Dillon – no.  Somebody might make an argument that the county as a whole is more likely to get resources than an individual or two districts but I don’t know that to be the case.  My assumption, I just want to check this, is because you voted for us to withdraw from the group, it wouldn’t be consistent for them to apply for a grant with a group we are no longer part of.  They can do whatever they want.  R. Dohoney – correct.
  • Dillon – we received a letter from the Fencing Club to the school committee late in the game relative to charging a participation fee. (P. Dillon reads letter in full) – MOTION TO APPROVE THE FENCING CLUB TO CHARGE A PARTICIPATION FEE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE – R. DOHONEY            SECONDED:  S. STEPHEN        ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Public Comment
  • Written Comment


The next school committee meeting will be held on November 7, 2019 – Regular Meeting,  MMRHS, Library,  7pm

Meeting Adjourned at 8:04pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

______________________________ Christine M. Kelly, Recorder


______________________________ School Committee Secretary