BERKSHIRE HILLS REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING

Regular Meeting

BHRSD District Offices, Stockbridge

October 3,, 2019 – 7pm

Present:

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

Administration:                       P. Dillon, S. Harrison

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

Absent:                                     S. Stephen

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:  hour, 58 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:

TREASURER’S REPORT:

  • SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT: Dillon  –  On your table in front of you is a copy of the updated Mass General Laws.
  • Good News Item (s) –
    • Tim Lee, Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School – N/A
    • Ben Doren, Principal, Monument Mountain Regional Middle School – N/A
    • Kristi Farina, Monument Mountain Regional High School – N/A
  • Requests for Approval
    • Overnight Field Trips: Monument Valley  (Nature’s Classroom, Washington DC, Peru) – B. Doren – I am really excited to bring Nature’s Classroom back to Monument Valley again.  The 5th grade has done a neat shift in the way we do instruction and the groupings.  We have really been building up our advisory program.  We are looking to go the week after Memorial Day.  We are going to reduce the trip by a day but really expand the trip by several weeks by integrating it into the curriculum in a much more comprehensive way.  It is pretty much the same program we have always done.  We will be going out to the Chimney  Corners site in Becket.  They have an amazing program where they do adventure, science, ecology studies, team building.  It is an overnight trip.  We have an option for a day trip for students who are not ready to do the overnight.  The past couple of years, about 100% of our students have gone.  When I first showed up at the school, it was only about 60% of the students that participated.  It is a huge development over the past few years.  The kids love it and it is a crowd pleaser, a memory maker but this year we are looking to integrate it better with instruction leading up to the trip and after.  It is a little later in the school year.  We usually do it in April but this year we really wanted to allow the full cycle of instruction to build up to it.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE MONUMENT VALLEY NATURE’S CLASSROOM TRIP    POTTER            SECONDED:  R. DOHONEY   ACCEPTED:   UNANIMOUS  B. Doren – I am really excited to talk to you about the Washington DC trip.  As you know we used to do it years ago, in the 1990’s at Searles, it was a Capstone trip then.  They made some shifts and had smaller trip.  When I showed up we were making an 8th grade trip to Philadelphia and a 7th grade  trip to Cape Cod.  The 8th grade team made a proposal about six years ago to do the DC trip.  We went with EF Tours.  We hadn’t done that trip for many years and most of our trips have been homegrown but it takes a lot of work to do a homegrown trip.  We basically pay for the coach bus and they arrange for the hotel, meals, all the sites, all the tickets, etc.  It really served our purposes and we wanted to make a pivot to go to Gettysburg which we have done the past few years.  At this point we have done it for five years.  We found at this point we want to go deeper with the curriculum and EF Tours doesn’t really support that and last year they weren’t able to get us tickets to one of our Capstone sites which is the Holocost Museum so couldn’t go.  We decided to do another homegrown trip this year.  The reason why would be we would be able to spend the time and do the things we want to do and not just be limited by the tour company.  It turns out that it might make the trip cheaper, by maybe $100.  Right now we are looking at a $500-$700 range per student.  In the past, it was about $740 or $760 per student.  We are looking to do a lot of the same things, go to the Holocost Museum, the African American Museum, Museum of History and Culture, the Smithsonians on the Mall, spend some time at the Capitol but also we would like to see some politicians, some local ones, if we can in DC.  We would like to get around the city.  There is going to be a chunk that we are going to connect to some studies and get to know DC as a city.  We are still going to see the sites like the memorials, the FDR, Jefferson, Martin Luther King, and another piece we are looking forward to is the work we are going to doing leading up to the trip then afterwards we have done a really good job of teaching about the trip and doing projects afterwards.  It is going to be a lot of work but the coordinator is up to the task and is really excited. I am really proud that at the Middle School every student that wants to participate does.  We don’t just create the opportunity for students but we actively look to make sure all students do participate.  It requires a significant of scholarship money but over the years we have had families that needed small contributions and 10% scholarships and other have 90% and then we have some families that we have had to pay for the whole thing.  DC is as little different than the other programs where we have 100% going.  We have about 80-90% that go to DC.  When you look at the students that don’t go, it’s not the ones that can’t afford it.  It is for mixed reasons.  It is not based on income.   MOTION TO APPROVE THE MONUMENT VALLEY TRIP TO WASHINGTON DC       A. POTTER             SECONDED:  B. FIELDS                    ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS  B. Doren – the Peru trip is a select trip that is part of our Spanish language program.  We have done three different trips over the past few years.  It is a service learning trip.  Students go down to Peru, outside of Cusco; they live with host families, the take spanish language classes; the big difference is they do service.  There is a school for the deaf and a full week of their activity is volunteering in the school.  They get to interact with the kids and understand what real life is like in Peru and not just see the sites.  It is a very rewarding trip.  They come away with expanded hearts.  In the past we have done it over April break and the week after April break.  This year we are shifting away from that.  I got a lot of pushback from my faculty around not just this trip but all the many opportunities we give the kids.  It pulls kids out of programming and last year we broke the bank and teachers got mad and said we need to limit the amount of time students are out of class so we can have a consistent set of kids doing the curriculum.  This trip is similar to what Senor Heath has done in the past where we do it the last week of school and then the week afterward, in the past, it has been difficult because we don’t know about snow days.  What is neat is that it is also happening at the same time as that we do our year end service program for all 7th and 8th graders.  So while our students will be in Peru doing service at this school for the deaf, our other students will be doing their service learning project across Berkshire County.  P. Dillon – the broader concern is that there is some political unrest in Peru right now.  We want to keep an eye on that.  What I would like to ask you to do this is tentatively approve it.  At our next meeting we will come back with some additional information about that and a Plan B, travel insurance, etc. and if the situation in Peru gets better or worse, what might happen.  This is for students in the Spanish program and for students who can afford it.  There are no scholarships for this trip.  It is extracurricular and not part of the core curriculum.  That is the “select” pertains to.  R. Dohoney – what percentage do you expect would go?  B. Doren – about 35-40 students that take spanish so about 15 would go.  The cost per student is in the $1,000’s.  J. St. Peter – have there been students that have wanted to go but couldn’t because of financial reasons that you are aware of.  B. Doren – I am not sure.  I know from my own history and experience as an educator the answer is always yes but it is nothing I am explicitly aware of.  A. Hutchinson – there is some money available through Berkshire Taconic Foundation and he encourages families that don’t need not apply so there is more for others.  Parents can also do fundraising.  B. Fields – so it is possible that a kid can go to Washington DC and then go to Peru?  B. Doren – yes.    MOTION TO APPROVE THE MONUMENT VALLEY SPANISH TRIP TO PERU WITH STIPULATION TO REVIEW CONDITIONS IN 30 DAYS            A. POTTER         SECONDED:  R. DOHONEY             ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
    • Great Award from Jewish Women’s Foundation to Support Project Connection Food Distribution Program – P. Dillon – When people make donations, you have to approve them. The Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires would like to support us with $3,500 around our food and security work.  MOTION TO ACCEPT THE DONATION FROM THE JEWISH WOMEN’S FOUNDATION          POTTER        SECONDED:  D. WESTON      ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
    • Rural School Aid – P. Dillon – the numbers came out and last year’s were around $21,000. This year we are receiving $37,980.  The purpose of these funds are to support our district efforts to increase collaboration, consolidation and other efficiencies.  We will come back to you with some ideas on how we would like to use it.
    • Mass Learning Excursion in San Diego on December 3, 2019 to December 5, 2019 – K. Farina – This is connected to our work with Mass Ideas Grant. This is a next generation learning excursion and it was offered to schools in the Commonwealth to apply and because we were the recipient of the Mass Ideas Grant, we had some priority standing in the application process.  We did apply.  There were three different locations we could choose from: San Diego, Chicago and Washington DC.  We chose San Diego based on the schools that we are going to be visiting while we are there.  We are going to get to go Hi Tech High, Mission Vista and one other.  The team consists of myself, Krista Dalton who is on our Mass Ideas grant team, Matt Wohl who is one of our instructional leads, Jolynn Unruh and Valerie Ivey are joining as two faculty members.  We will be going to the first week of December for two and a half days while we are there and travel time to get out and back.  We get to visit the schools and learn about redesign efforts those schools have undertaken and use that to inform the work we are doing as part of our grant.
  • CVTE Update – P. Dillon – postponed until the next meeting
  • Job Description Revision: Intern: School Psychologist (all levels) – P. Dillon – we are not having this sit in Unit A because it is a paid internship and that doesn’t make sense.  The person will be supervised by the director of student services which is Kate or her designee and we do an evaluation at the end of the year in consultation with the university program the intern is in.  It is fairly straightforward.  The substantial shift is that it is not in Unit A.  It is just a stipend position.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE REVISIONS TO THE JOB DESCRIPTION OF SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST INTERN     POTTER     SECONDED:  J. ST. PETER            ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • User Fees: Ultimate Frisbee – P. Dillon – Based on this little memo on ultimate frisbee, I would like to ask that you approve the ultimate frisbee group as a co-curricular program and allow it to collect a user fee of $100 for each participant in this school year.  Other programs that do this are the Shakespeare and Co. residency in the spring and musical production but since this is not listed there, they need your support to do that.  Bannon – so on those two that you mentioned, the money is collected and where does that go Sharon?  S. Harrison – it goes to the student activity account and is used for the expenses for that activity.  R. Dohoney – We just have to authorize them to do this.  Do we have to set the rate?  S. Harrison – it is consistent with the rate that we have for the user fee which is why it is set at $100.  R. Dohoney – are we actually setting it?  S. Harrison – you would set it because we don’t have a user fee for them right now.  R. Dohoney – what is the user fee for other sports?  S. Harrison – $100.  D. Weston – if there is a maximum per student per family, it counts right?  S. Harrison – yes, it counts.  P. Dillon – if you are a three sport athlete, you pay for the first two sports but not the third.  B. Fields – Kristi, can I ask you something?  How do you feel about this, because the policy says the principal recommends and then the superintendent okays, then it comes to us.  How do you feel about this ultimate frisbee club?  We heard a lot about it last year at one meeting.  Have you recommended it be added to the co-curricular list?  K. Farina – I don’t feel I have been in any discussions about ultimate frisbee.  If there is a club happening, I would like to support it.  B. Fields – so the previous principal okayed it if it got to this level.  P. Dillon – several previous principals okayed it.  B. Fields – so we now assume responsibility for this program?  S. Bannon – there are a couple of things here.  It was pointed out at our meeting the other day that we now have to approve all clubs and we have never approved this club because it is grandfathered in because we changed our guidelines.  I think this club especially, we gave our consent when they came to our meeting and we talked about it.  It is not a problem.  B. Fields – we are going to absorb the cost of this program?  P. Dillon – No.  S. Harrison – it is a club.  B. Fields – it is a club but it is still in our….  R. Dohoney – currently no general fund dollars are going to this.  B. Fields – but if we adopt it….  D. Weston – don’t we pay a stipend for the faculty person?  S. Harrison – the advisor.  P. Dillon – so that is general funds.  B. Fields – so we are not on the hook for transportation?  S. Harrison – no, that is what the user fee is going towards.  B. Fields – officiating, all those costs, they are all covered by the user fees?  S. Harrison – yes.  P. Dillon – all we are asking for tonight is the ability to collect a user fee.  We are not yet ready to commit to other parts of it but at some point we may come back to you with more.  B. Fields – so we aren’t adopting it, we are just doing the user fees so it is still hanging out there as not part of our co-curricular program?  K. Zigmund – It is part of our program, we are just changing it a bit and allowing user fees along with Shakespeare & Co. and spring musical.  That is the only change.  M. Thomas – so bussing?  K. Zigmund – they will need bussing for a couple of tournaments.  M. Thomas – but this user fee will go towards that?  K. Zigmund – yes as well as tournament fees for those tournaments.  A. Potter – how many kids do you have in it this year?  K. Zigmund – about 40 last year and similar numbers this year.  Football is about 30.  B. Fields – one of the things I was reading in the guidelines is the impact of adopting the program into the co-curricular program that would impact other programs.  If you are getting 40 to 50 kids, where does that put baseball, track, tennis, etc.?  Has that been looked at?  K. Zigmund – I would say the spring sports are all healthy although we did lose our boys tennis team for the first time last year but we have a lot of freshman interests.  We hope to have that back at full strength in the spring.  P. Dillon – there is a little ebb and flow.  Girls softball we were anxious about and Scott Annand started coaching and it improved.  J. St. Peter – the commitment and the life lessons they get in a varsity sport are a lot greater than clubs where there is no commitment of penalty for missing time.  Even with the play and Shakespeare, we need to differentiate the benefits that kids get in a club or activity vs a sport.  I am all for it and maybe someday the MIAA will add it as a varsity sport.  A. Potter – I think the commitment saw with the kids and the parents when they came to us, I was impressed.  K. Zigmund – there attendance is probably better than football.  They are a special group that works hard.  They are very dedicated.  M. Thomas – is there a coach.  K. Zigmund – last year we had a volunteer but we are trying to have a stipend position this year for a coach.  That is something they would like.  R. Dohoney – are they insured?  K. Zigmund – when they go to a tournament, we have insurance for them.  S. Harrison – we have the catastrophic insurance so if there are catastrophic injuries that are a liability for us, that is covered.  Otherwise, they would go on their own medical insurance.  Every student activity, club, sport, gym is covered that way.   MOTION TO ADD A USER FEE FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE ULTIMATE FRISBEE CLUB  STUDENT ACTIVITY IN THE AMOUNT OF $100 BEGINNING IN THE FY20 SCHOOL YEAR         A. POTTER            SECONDED:  R. DOHONEY         ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Policy Sub Committee – N/A
    • 1st Readings: Policy DFH-Class Account at Graduation; Policy JJ-Co-Curricular and Extra-Curricular Activities, Policy JJA-Student Organizations; Policy JJH Student Travel
  • Buildings and Grounds Sub Committee – St. Peter – we had a productive meeting.  Tim gave us an update on the Muddy Brook traffic.  It has been going very well this year.  Better than last year and greatly from years before.  Volume of cars parked on the road seems to be a lot less especially after the first few days when parents get used to it.  As far as affecting the budget, it is having to pay a paraprofessional and extra half hour a day to help with traffic in the morning and really seems to have helped.  Also, from a safety factor, that para has also been able to keep cars from parking in the circle and leaving them unattended while they run their kids in which creates a significant safety factor with other cars trying to pass them and people walking in.  Also, the elongated entry where you drive in, you have to pull right and follow all the way around.  It seems to be going very well this year which is good to see.  He informed that parents needs to be ready when at school as far as having the shoes on, the bags packed and ready to go and also a big thing is making sure the kids get out of the passenger side of the vehicle for safety reasons obviously.  The pick-up has been great.  Nurse Becki coordinates that.  She has a walkie talkie with cars lined up so that was great last year and this year.  The elementary bucket swings were replaced there has been a little push back because they are harder for kids to get into.  This is strictly because of code compliance changes in the last ten years.  They don’t sell the swings that we have had before because they were deemed to be less safe.  Now the swings are harder for the kid to get in and out of but there is no other option.  As far as the middle school goes, smooth start to the year.  The heat pumps all have communication boards and they are starting to get at the end of the life cycle.  There are 63 of them.  We replaced 10 of them.  One of the broke and they are about $3500 to replace them.  We have about 52 left to go that will have to be replaced over the next five or so years.  We will try to get about 5 done a year.  We are looking into a new swing set for the middle school.  I guess there is a question on where to put it that won’t affect other things.  It has been high on the list of requests.  At the high school, we are on track to have an asbestos abatement in the boiler room.  To totally do it, it would be $50-75,000 but this spring it will be a one to two week job to do one of the boilers which will cost $10,000.  The house not in use if you are driving out of the high school driveway on the right in front of the tennis courts, Steve went in with his crew and noticed it was in pretty fair shape.  This winter, they are going to paint it, do some carpet removal, there is about $1,800 worth of asbestos abatement  that needs to be done but after that he is pretty confident that it can be used again as meeting spaces or other type of use the district has.  It was in better shape than some people had feared.  The after-school programs like Project Connection and other programs, both at the elementary and middle school and now starting at the high school, it has increased the cost of caring for the buildings and the wear and tear so at least Steve is going to need to hire another custodian for that 3-11 shift to help with the clean-up cost of that crew.  He is going to want someone to float between all three buildings to help with the clean-up.  Not just cleaning up that program but also whatever rooms they use push back to 5 or 5:30 so his crew can get in there and clean so it becomes a time crunch as far as those rooms go.  It is nothing that can’t be done but something that needs to be factored in.   S. Bannon – so will the grant pay for that?  I don’t think it does?  Somehow we have to figure it out because we can’t afford to add another custodian.  If that program is causing the problem, they have to figure out a way to solve that problem because you are just taking away from education in finding another custodian.  That will be a discussion at budget time.  D. Weston – is that something we are trying to do for this year or next year?  S. Soule – for next year.  P. Dillon – the grant may be able to partially do that.  S. Bannon – if so, that’s fine.  A. Hutchinson – it is part of education though.  S. Bannon – it is part of education but it x number of custodians is able to do a building and our budget is not infinite.  That is just my opinion.  J. St. Peter – but we are adding more work and having less time for them to do it.  S. Bannon – I am not saying it is a bad thing.  J. St. Peter – anything that increases the cost is something we have to look at.  These are some of the consequences of running these programs.  S. Bannon – and Anne is right, it is part of education.  J. St. Peter – the last thing is the generator at the high school was in for it’s yearly service and noticed there was a small antifreeze leak so we had to get a temporary generator.  Unfortunately the guy who generally fixes it wasn’t here for the first time and he found the problem fairly easily and he was able to get to it.  The old generator is working well and is serviced when needed.  P. Dillon – the dishwasher at the high school finally croaked.  Steve and Kathy are working on that.
  • Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – N/A
  • Technology Sub Committee – A. Potter – we had a short meeting a couple of weeks ago and I was the only member to attend. I had the two principals, thank you for supporting me.  Weston – I was told to go to another meeting.  A. Potter – it was a good chance for Uli and I get to know each other.  Most of his presentation is what we are going to see in the finance subcommittee meeting.  Generally everything looks really positive.  I got two thumbs up when I looked over at the principals.
  • Finance Sub Committee – Dohoney – we met before this meeting and went through the middle school budget.  There wasn’t any major red flags.  Response that the changes we made to the ESL program last year has paid off.  It was just really a general review.  There were no majors shifts there at should affect the budget much.  We also met two weeks ago, but I wasn’t there.  D. Weston – we had an excellent presentation from both tech and the elementary school.  They were very thorough.  They have some needs.  The are asking for next year, they articulated very clearly, why they needed them with quite legitimate needs but were very thoughtful proposals going forward.  R. Dohoney – so we are still tracking toward an early December draft preliminary budget for the school committee.
  • District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee – P. Dillon – there are two parallel things going on. We have been meeting regularly with Southern Berkshire folks and there are two subcommittees.  There is a municipal subcommittee and there is a school committee subcommittee.  Sometimes those groups are together and sometimes they are separate.  What I want to bring to your attention is on October 15 at 6pm in this room, there is going to be a giant joint meeting presumably of both of those subcommittees and then presentations by Glen Kutcher of MASC and Steve Hammond and Jay Berry from MARS and they are both going to do an overview of what happens in the context of creating an expanded region, a new region, regionalization or consolidation.  If you are not at a soccer game that day or some other sporting event or activity, it might be a good one to come to.  I think it will be very content rich.  Separately, I have been meeting with the Shaker Mountain folks and Richmond has approached Shaker Mountain about the possibility of leaving the union.  We have been talking about that and the implementations of that.  Expect to hear more on that.  The timeline for a formal decision being made there because it impacts how we are doing shared services with them, so it will probably be early December.  If we were no longer providing some services for one or two of those communities, then they would do a formal search.

Personnel Report:

  • Certified Appointment(s)
  • Non-Certified Appointment(s)
  • Summer Program Appointment(s)
  • Extra-Curricular Appointment(s)

Business Operation:

  • Request to Establish a Chapter 74 Revolving Fund – Chapter 74 Programs – S. Harrison – Now that Karl has a year under his belt, we have been going through the student activity fund and although we’ve had sub accounts in there for years that have been operating okay just like with the handbook and bringing up that the school committee has to approve clubs, we are trying to clean it out, for lack of a better word, where in the past it was okay to run certain funds through the student activity, DESE is getting much more stringent about those rules. Two accounts that we have in there are really vocational curriculum support that counts.  For example, in horticulture, the plant sale money that doesn’t come to us for the larger FFA says in there and they use that to supplement their budget for potting soil, pots, plant seeds and then money comes back from the plant sales.  It is a revolving account and then the Mountainside Nursery School has also done that some kind of thing where tuition goes in then they use funds for the program.  The problem is it doesn’t meet the requirements for a student activity because it is    However, there is a provision in the law, Chapter 74, Section 14B that allows us to have a revolving account that supports curricular programs.  In order to clean out those student activities accounts but still be able to have that function, we are requesting that the school committee allows us to establish this Chapter 74 Revolving fund.  MOTION TO ACCEPT MGL CHAPTER 74, SECTION 14B IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH AN EDUCATION PROGRAMMING REVOLVING FOR THE HORTICULTURE, AGRICULTURAL AND FAMILY SCIENCE SUB ACCOUNT        A. POTTER              SECONDED:  R. DOHONEY                 ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS           

Education News: 

Old Business: 

New Business:

  • Fields – I am not going to at the next meeting so I wanted to tell you now, November 4th the Next Steps Committee will be in Great Barrington doing a presentation at 6pm on in West Stockbridge November 6th at 6pm. Stockbridge is still to be determined.  We are going to do a presentation.  It will be much more concise and to the point than what was presented to this committee in May.  D. Weston – there were a lot of email blasts and news coming out of the state about elementary and secondary schools budget.  It is a 4% drop in what the state is going to pay.  4% of our budget for the state is going to pay in the next seven years.  Maybe Sharon at an appropriate meeting come back and share where this proposal might be going and how it would affect us.  P. Dillon – we have been monitoring it closely.  It is up in the air, minute to minute, hour to hour, amendments get passed or fail; the Governor released one set of numbers but might not line up with another set of numbers, then someone else released a set of numbers so we have to wait until the dust settles.  The schools that will benefit from this are the ones that are perceived as highly needy and we are not seen as highly needy.  We would benefit more than many of our neighbors potentially.  It is really speculative now.  The place it would help us would be stuff around regional transportation.
  • Public Comment
  • Written Comment

MOTION TO ADJOURN – A. POTTER              SECONDED: B. FIELDS                       ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS  

The next school committee meeting will be held on October 24, 2019 – Regular Meeting,  Monument Valley Regional Middle School, Library,  7pm

Meeting Adjourned at 7:58pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

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Christine M. Kelly, Recorder

 

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School Committee Secretary