Great Barrington                     Stockbridge                  West Stockbridge


Regular Meeting

Monument Mountain Regional High School, Library

September 5, 2019 – 7pm


School Committee:                 S. Bannon,  B. Fields, D. Weston, A. Hutchinson, D. Singer, A. Potter, S. Stephen,

J. St. Peter

Administration:                       P. Dillon, S. Harrison

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

Absent:                                     R. Dohoney, M. Thomas

List of Documents Distributed:

School Committee Minutes of Meeting dated

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, 40 minutes.


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


The listing of agenda items are those reasonably anticipated by the chair, which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed, and other items not listed may be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. This meeting is being recorded by CTSB, Committee Recorder, members of the public with prior Chair permission and will be broadcast at a later date. Minutes will be transcribed and made public, as well as added to our website, once approved.



  • Good News Item (s) –
    • Tim Lee, Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School – We have had a really positive start to the school year.  It has been great seeing everyone come back.  It has been really smooth.  The groupings seem to be working out very well.  Both kids and teachers seem really happy to be back.  Last night marked on of our annual beginning of the school year traditions.  Our early childhood pot luck dinner was well attended.  It was sponsored by our PTA.  I would like to give a shout out to Randi Craft, our PTA president, and April Hoskeer who is also on the PTA, for their help in bringing the event together.  It was really a lot of fun.  It was great to meet all the new parents.  I wanted to give a special shoutout to our paraprofessional staff.  We had some enrollment changes just prior to the start of the school year that caused a big shift in our paraprofessional schedule.  A lot of paras left for the summer thinking that they were going to have one job when they returned to our school, and they found that they had quite different responsibilities when then came back.  Everybody worked flexibly and they have been really accommodating.  I just wanted to thank them for their hard work and flexibility through this time of transition.  Wanted to give a quick thanks to Steve again and his crew.  The past two weeks students have had a chance to return to our revitalized playground.  If you don’t know already, the facilities crew spent a lot of time and put a lot of effort into our playground this summer.  During last year had a bit of a flooding problem and a lot of the equipment was either damaged or unusable.  They fixed the flooding problem.  It is now dry and repaired just about every piece of the playground equipment that we have.  The kids are loving it; especially the tire swing – a big hit.  I wanted to close with a piece of data you might find interesting; the total number of students we had at our school at the close of the 2018-2019 school year was at 335 for students in PK through 4th.  For the start of this year as of today we are up to 345 students; an increase of 10 students.  It doesn’t sound like much, but to me just remembering over the past several years across the county, we have had pretty noticeable declines in elementary-aged population, especially at the early childhood levels and that we are able to maintain levels and even increase a little bit, I think it bodes well for the health of our school and our school community.
    • Ben Doren, Principal, Monument Mountain Regional Middle School – As Tim said, we had a great start to the school year.  This is the year of the team at Monument Valley.  I have been working really hard for so many years to get teams to wrap around students to really impress on kids and families the integrity of the team.  What I love about it is that we just arrived at all teams working well together.  I am really finding that my job has changed this year.  I have been baffled by the start of the year as it opens up.  I don’t have much to do except helping teams; I am not solving problems, there is no crisis, there are just things that are happening.  Miles Wheat and myself are looking at each other being very please what we have built over the past couple of years.  That being said, the teams are pretty amazing.  The 5th grade team went on a field trip today.  We took half of the 5th grade to the Berkshire Museum.  It is only day six.  It is a big thing.  They have known the students well enough and felt comfortable doing it.  The reason why is because there is an amazing exhibit at the Berkshire Museum; it is on DiVinci and they really wanted to integrate it into their science and math curriculum so they struck while the iron is hot.  Donna Astion, our enrichment teacher, does a lot of outreach with community organizations and really is an advocate for this kind of field work.  It is an amazing thing that half of the 5th grade went today and the other half is going tomorrow.  I am very impressed with who the 5th graders are.  It says a lot about the work that Muddy Brook has been doing over the past several years in wrapping around students and promoting the students that are well above grade level are coming in being able to excel and students who need services and support and coming in really able to jump into the curriculum because the supports are there.  The students in the middle are really enjoying themselves.  6th grade tomorrow is going on their annual hike up Monument Mountain which is a lot of fun.  It is a great challenge for the kids to get up there and for the full first week of school, it is a great way to do some bonding.  It is a strenuous hike for some of the kids and some of the kids you have to corral down because they are trying to zoom down the mountain.  7th and 8t grade, last week, did the team go challenge.  It was Team Green and Team Orange.  This is our second year of the new structure in 7th and 8th grade.  What I love about that is all of our 8th graders have now had the same teachers that they did last year.  We were able to jump right in, the 8th graders stepped up, had friendly competition and on Friday we had a all-school assembly.  It was very cute because right in the middle we have the 6th grade here are the 5th grade here, Team Orange and Team Green and it was a sea of orange and green.  They had some friendly challenges all through the day to build up community doing activities.  Team Orange won the spirit; they were dressed in orange and Team Green won the actual activities.  We were able to get the team go cup to Team Green.  There will be more challenges coming up.  The kids have friendly competition and a real sense of culture and purpose.  I also want to highlight is our Autism and Behavior Center (ABC) program.  We pretty much doubled our enrollment in that program.  Many of those students are inclusion students.  I want to impress upon you just how unusual this program is.  We have students with Down Syndrome, significant autism, significant developmental disabilities and the like who are not just coming to be well taking care in a separate program; they come to school, they shop up in advisory, they participate in the regular education program which a significant of therapeutic programming.  That is not like most programs in the county or in the state or even in the country.  We really do an amazing job.  We have students choicing into our district for that and I want to really share how proud I am not just of the students or the staff but actually our general education staff and the teams; because of the team we do we are able to succeed in this full-inclusion program for all students.
    • Kristi Farina, Monument Mountain Regional High School – I am happy to report that Monument also has had a pretty smooth start.  As this is my first time through this whole experience as building principal, I am reporting that based on the feedback I am receiving from staff and students, they have been telling me that we have had a smooth start to the school year so that is really remarkable giving some of the bumps we encountered this summer around scheduling.  We have our new schedule in place and I have had multiple people come up to me during the day today telling me just how much they are liking the new schedule.  There was a lot of trepidation around the new schedule so I think that bodes well for the year ahead of us.  Fall sports are now in full swing.  We had our girls soccer team up in Vermont on Monday.  If you went by the school yesterday, you saw a full parking lot and front lawn, cars down by the tennis courts and over at the elementary school because we hosted all of the cross country teams from the county for both girls and boys cross country.  At the same time, we also had the boys soccer playing and we had two big wins both in boys cross country and boys soccer yesterday.  Tonight you might have noticed we have volleyball taking place here and we also had our golf team out at a match at Mt. Everett.  Tomorrow night is our first football game against Drury.  Our student senate has organized a pre-game tailgate that is going to happen here before the football game tomorrow.  They are going to have music and games so if anyone is interested in joining, please show up for that.  On Monday of next week, we are having an advisory for our 9th and 10 graders for students to showcase all of our clubs, extracurricular activities, winter sports to make sure that all of our underclassmen are aware of the opportunities that are provided to them.  It is a good use of our advisory time that is a new piece of the schedule I referred to.  Finally I want to share with all of you that Commissioner Reilly is going to be visiting us on November 7th.  He is coming during the school day and we will be having an assembly where he is going to speak to us about the state’s work with districts on implementing deeper learning.  We are looking forward to hosting him and we hope some of you can join us.
  • Review Pay Rate for Substitutes – Dillon – For many years, every time I go grocery shopping, people catch me about the pay rate for substitutes.  We did a little survey and it is our recommendation that we change it.  Historically, we try to be in the top quarter of pay rates.  You will see in the memo that Sharon put together, where we are in relation to other districts.  What we are proposing is to do two things: to slightly raise the rate for typical substitutes and then to create a second tier for certified and/or retired teachers.  The thinking there is that they have experience and a relationship with the district and while somebody could walk in off the street after they are vetting and be effective, somebody who had worked for us at a previous time, has the potential to be even more effective.  The recommendation is to have our typical/regular sub rate go up to $85 and our certified/retired teachers rate go to $110 a day.  Along with that we are also recommending that we raise the nursing substitute rate to $150 a day.  People who are nurses know, it is very hard to recruit nurses as day to day subs.  D. Weston:  When you say retire, is that only retired only from Berkshire Hills?  When you say certified, do you mean certified in Mass or do you mean certified anywhere?  P. Dillon – I would like it to be retired from Berkshire Hills.  The distinction there, between certified and retired is the licensing requirements changed quite significantly in the last several years and there are some people who are retired, like Bill, who … B. Fields.  I maintain my certification though.  P. Dillon – there are a whole gaggle of people who were certified whose certification lapsed and by having it be certified/retired, that would let us bring them in.  I think they are still quite capable; they may just not have a correct license.  I would like to restrict to Berkshire Hills at least initially.  If we continue having trouble recruiting, then I would come back to you about potentially expanding it.  J. St. Peter – I would like to see it open ended and let our superintendent make the final decision on what he thinks.  It is his professional judgement and if we get to a point we feel we need to draw more qualified applicants then I don’t want him to be hindered so I don’t mind that being a gray area.  I think this is a critical step because from a lot of parents as well as talking to teachers and principals, there has been trouble finding sub especially in this day and age with two parent families, there is a need for teachers to take off time, understandably, has increased.  It is critical to have qualified, the best we can, substitute teachers in there so our students’ learning experience doesn’t get hindered.  I am very happy this proposal is being made.  I know a lot of parents are too.  P. Dillon – this is one half of the equation; getting people in to cover.  The other half of the equation is trying to continue to work on reducing the need to cover classes.  I will be working on that and working with the union and the principals and will come back with some ideas on the other side of the equation.   MOTION TO ACCEPT THE FINDING OF MEMO RE: INCREASED PAY RATE FOR SUBSTITUTES        A. POTTER            SECONDED:  J. ST. PETER             ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Washable Utensils – Food Service Program – P. Dillon – for the last several years, we have been using plastic cutlery and this memo details our shift away from plastic cutlery to stainless steel. I don’t think anybody is going to argue for us to continue using plastic.  This is just a celebration.  We are going to buy a lot of flatware or silverware and start washing it so we will be using less plastic.  The one thing I would encourage folks to do is when you use flatware, try not to throw it out because we have to buy more of it.  St. Peter – we don’t have to hire more staff?  What is have is adequate for now?  S. Harrison – yes.  It might add a little bit to time while the process is getting going because it takes a double soaking and a double wash but we don’t have to hire more people.  J. St. Peter – I know that there was concern about, especially in the high school, the kids have a tendency to leave the cafeteria area.  Is that policy still in effect.  K. Farina – last year and continuing this year, we have tightened up on the areas in which students can go during lunch.  I that will help with the problem from a few years ago with silverware travelling all over the building.  If we find that there is a problem with things getting thrown away or lost that shouldn’t be, we will probably recruit students to problem solve around that.
  • Memorandum of Understandings
    • Blizzard Bag – BHEA Unit C – P. Dillon – the quick summary of it is we have blizzard bag days and we are potentially eligible to do them for one more year. In June you voted to do that.  The state then after you  voted on it said that this year will be the last year of blizzard bags.  If we have blizzard bags, teachers are preparing work and responding to that work after it is handed in and that counts for a day.  Paras aren’t so the purpose of the memo is to give paras a pathway to make up the day of lost work and earn their pay.  MOTION TO ADOPT THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH BHEA UNIT C – D. WESTON              SECONDED:  POTTER         ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
    • Teacher Leadership (Instructional Leads & Team Coordinators ) Extend through June FY20 – P. Dillon – when we were negotiating the Unit A contract, we did an MOU on teacher leadership stipends outside of the contract. That MOU was for one year.  Before I turn around and pay stipends, I would like to extend it for another year.  Particularly based around the work we did this summer with Dan and the principals, we had a whole lot of training with the instructional leads and I think that work is moving in a really good direction.  MOTION TO EXTEND THE TEACHER LEADERSHIP MOT THROUGH FY20 – A. POTTER            SECONDED:  HUTCHINSON             ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Prevention Needs Assessment Survey – P. Dillon – we touched on this in early summer and was from one student’s perspective and I thought by having Ananda come tonight from Railroad Street, she could talk about it in a more detailed way, having looked at these data sets for about 12 years, it would be better. Ananda Tampaign (sp?), I am the executive director at Railroad Street Youth Project.  One of the things that happens and Railroad Street Youth Project is we are the home of the South Berkshire Community Health Coalition and in the Coalition, we work in the same area that Railroad Street works with, so we are working with all of the towns and communities of both school districts and the students who attend them.  I am here with Sarah Rosen.  She is one of the co-chairs of the coalition this year.  I have asked her to come so I can cover more data but any question about Monument and students or what is happening here that I am not qualified to answer, Sarah is deeply in that work.  Rosen – I am a senior at Monument and co-chair of the Southern Berkshire Coalition and also the head of Monument’s brand new wellness team.  Last year a group of students worked with NIU and a school redesign team.  From this, Monument received a grant from Mass Ideas to continue student-led work regarding redesign.  This is where the wellness team was formed along with the environmental team.  We are trying to make all aspects of wellness systematic and safe in all Monument foundations.  We want to create a strategic plan this year to implement wellness into all areas at Monument.  A. Tampain – We do the prevention needs assessment every two years.  We are really getting a strong sample of the school district and it gives us a sense of what happens over the trajectory of 8th grade to 12th grade from student experience.  It also gives us a sense of the district as a whole over time.  I think the first year it was done was 2007.  I went back and found data from 2009.  You are getting a selection of data, not all the data we have, that is 2009 to the present for Berkshire Hills and also the national data that comes with that.  In the report that we get every other year, when we go through this survey process, the data set we get allows us to compare ourselves to the previous two surveys so it about a five year spread and also to the county and to the national data available.  At Railroad Street, we look at the data combined for south county generally.  What I have done for us tonight is dig into just Berkshire Hills.  The survey tracks a range of things.  The reason we use it and why it is really useful to supplement the data the state tracks, that in addition to giving us behavioral information, in the case what you are looking at you will see substance use related data.  It tracks substance use, it tracks some other behaviors that can be problems, things like gun to school, etc.  We also have some extra questions that we use to track some things related to sexual health and also accessing mental health services and supports.  The thing that is really important to use about the prevention needs assessment is it allows us to look at the underlying factors.  At Railroad Street, we actually think of it all that way.  The concern we have with substance use is not the substance use itself.  It is an indicator that something is not going well at this level.  P. Dillon – one thing that will stand out; 2009 that data for the 8th graders is sort of skewed and weird because we used to have parents actively consent to do it so the return rate was really low.  The next time we did it in 2011 we switched that so people had to opt of it so the return rate went through the roof.  Specific to the middle school only.  A. Tampain – overall when we are comparing BHRSD to national levels, one of the things that is very striking about our community that is that we are really consistent in 8th grade with national levels.  We jump in our substance use rates in high school.  It jumps in 10th grade and even more in 12th grade.  One of the risk factors that has a strong link to problem substance use and addiction later in life is the age in which a person starts using a substance.  It is tied to brain development and also the likelihood that those that use have had trauma.  Our 8th grade rates, stay low, have been low and are consistently low.  The substances that are really significant for us and nationally, alcohol, cannabis, cigarettes, which we are in a transition period which is really flipping as to what is getting surveyed because of e-cigarettes which is really vaping.   The cannabis use among 12th graders is as high as 40% compared to 22% nationally.  That is the kind of gap we might be looking at.  In terms of e-cigarettes and vaping which is on everyone’s minds, we just don’t have good data yet.  It will be awhile before we have a clean data set for that.  For cigarettes we are a bit higher than the national level.  Some good news is that we are trending down on alcohol and cannabis use as well as drunk driving and riding with a drunk driver.  Also trending down with alcohol use in 10th grade.  There is a national trend that is dropping as well but we are dropping more quickly.  In the area of individual risk factors, friend use and the early initiation of use are also both dropping.  A. Potter – the data around parental attitudes, it seems like it drops.  A. Tamgain – one of the things that change between 2017 and  2019 was the cohort.  To look at the number picture is so much more informational.  I want to flag parental attitude because there is a lot of cultural judgement around that regarding right and wrong.  I want to hold that carefully.  I think the world of prevention has done a poor job of talking the parents or anybody that in a way that isn’t laden with a lot of shame and guilt.  It just is not useful.  The other thing is that in the debate that we lived in for many years about whether or not to legalize cannabis, it reduced our conversation in ways that wasn’t useful for how to talk  with young people.  It really put communities and people into one camp or the other.  The arguments from those camps were very specific to supporting those positions around a policy change that was being debated.  It didn’t help us with talking accurately about what do we know about cannabis use from a health perspective.  Does it have any health consequences?  The answer to that is we are way to early in the ability to do research to have an answer across the board as to whether or not cannabis has specific really clear health consequences at what level.  It has been hard for parents to navigate.  There is also a specific risk factor to navigate around cannabis use for teens related to parents education levels.  Young people with parents who are college educated with either a BA, BS or post grad degree are at higher risk for cannabis use.  It is tied to their relationship to reading and understanding research and having questions as to how it is presented.  B. Redpath – I have a daughter that graduated last year, I have two kids in the school currently and was actually at the May 23rd meeting where this was talked about previously.  I was on the Southern Berkshire Coalition about 10 years ago, so this is something that has been on my mind for awhile.   When I asked what was the response of the committee when this was presented last time, the answer is it is more of an education matter.  Let’s let Peter answer it.  That struck me sort of odd.  I think it is everybody’s job and responsibility to have leadership around this.  I went back and looked in all the budgets and the mission of this committee is to hire and engage in policy and so forth and Peter is the level in which that gets worked on or manifested.  If you go back and look at your budgets, there really aren’t any consistent line items pertaining to wellness that I could see.  You had some initiatives with Kripalu yoga but that disappeared.  There seem to be programs that come and go but I just want to point out and suggest that the committee have some symetrics around that are ongoing.  It is everybody’s job.  It is parents, community, and you guys.  I think this committee could really have a good impact by making sure it is budgeted and also just checking back.  S. Bannon – There is not necessarily going to be a line item that says wellness but I also think it is not something we have dug into as a committee.  I would say that we will put this on the next agenda.  We should form a committee that includes the superintendent, the business administrator and possibly Ananda and Bob and look at what is in our budget and where we are lacking.  One thing I will say to defend the committee, we haven’t turned anything down.  It may be what is lacking in the budget so let’s do that.  This is the time of the year to do it.  The budget doesn’t come up really until December.  Let’s do it now; have a couple of meetings, look at it and see where we can improve.
  • Schedule Sub-Committee Meetings – September 19, 2019 – P. Dillon – on September 19th we are trying to transition into a different structure. On of the things that was brought up was that we typically have two school committee meetings a month and then on top of that there are about 5 or 6 subcommittees that are happening and occasionally our school committee meetings are long and sometimes very short.  This year on a few days, we decided we would use the blocked meeting time for subcommittee meetings.  For our next meeting which is going to be in Stockbridge, it isn’t entirely perfect, I spent a lot of time trying to figure this one out.  You are all on many subcommittees and I was thinking we would have subcommittee at 6pm and subcommittee B at 6pm then at 7pm we would switch to subcommittee C and D.  On the 19th we have a meeting scheduled with the Shaker Mountain Union and a number of you are involved in that.  I think it would also make sense to have a building and grounds committee meeting scheduled on that night.  Most of the people that are involved in the Shaker Mountain one are not involved in buildings and grounds.  I would like to have a negotiations subcommittee meeting in executive session and then a technology meeting.  Again, most people are not on both except Andy and Dan.  My recommendation for that one would be that one go to one and one goes to the other and I catch the person up later.  I couldn’t come up with another committee that had more conflicts than those two.
  • District Improvement Plan – P. Dillon – The principals did a retreat in Maine and I got involved in it a little later. Kate, Dan and Rob spent a lot of time this as well.  The good news is there are measurable outcomes than in the past.  It is not entirely tight or perfect but I think it is moving in a good direction.  It is September 5th and we are sharing a district improvement plan which is really good.  The next step will be over the next four or five weeks, the principals will work with their leadership teams and school communities to update and tighten up the school improvement plan and will bring them back to us.  MOTION TO APPROVE THE DISTRICT IMPROVEMENT PLAN – A. POTTER           SECONDED:   STEPHEN             ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS
  • Student & Family Handbooks – Muddy Brook, Monument Valley and Monument Mountain – P. Dillon – The middle school is most similar to what it was a year before. There are few small changes.  The elementary school and high school have made significant changes from the previous year.  They are getting clearer and more thoughtful in terms of giving guidance to parents and families.  Bannon – from a school committee point of view, Peter and I always talk two days before the meeting and say are we supposed to approve these or not?  We usually just accept these by a vote.   MOTION TO ACCEPT THE THREE SCHOOL HANDBOOKS – A. POTTER         SECONDED:  B. FIELDS                 ACCEPTED:  UNANIMOUS

Sub-Committee Reports:

  • Policy Sub Committee – N/A
  • Buildings and Grounds Sub Committee – N/A
  • Superintendent’s Evaluation Sub Committee – N/A
  • Technology Sub Committee – N/A
  • Finance Sub Committee – N/A
  • District Consolidation & Sharing Sub Committee – N/A

Personnel Report:

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

Business Operation: 

Education News: 

Old Business:  

New Business:

  • Public Comment
  • Written Comment


The next school committee meeting will be held on October 3, 2019 – Regular Meeting,  BHRSD District Office,  7pm

Meeting Adjourned at 8:41pm

Submitted by:

Christine M. Kelly, Recorder


Christine M. Kelly, Recorder



School Committee Secretary