Egremont suit against SBRSD is frivolous

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By Friday, May 5 Letters  2 Comments
Terry Cowgill
The closure of the South Egremont Village School is the cause for a complaint against the Southern Berkshire Regional School District and the town of Egremont, Massachusetts.

To the Editor:

I am not alone in being very distressed at the debacle caused by none other than the Egremont Board of Selectmen regarding the South Egremont school building. As a member of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District’s governing board (School Committee) as well as its finance subcommittee, Charles Flynn was party to or should have been participating in the budget deliberations for the coming fiscal year. He chose not to fulfill his sworn duty as one of our town’s representatives to said subcommittee. He even had the unmitigated gall to berate the town’s other School Committee member in a public forum for not keeping the Board of Selectmen apprised of the goings on at their regularly held meetings. When the budget was announced a few weeks ago, the Egremont Board of selectmen cried foul as if surprised by the fact that the retiring kindergarten/first grade teacher is not being replaced.

In what appears to be a weak attempt to save face, the Egremont Board of Selectmen announced plans to spend my tax dollars bringing a lawsuit against the district for violating the terms of the regional agreement. The school district will then have to spend more of the five member towns’ tax dollars to defend the frivolous action.

Meanwhile, there are monies appropriated by the town as well as some grant funds earmarked for needed structural and accessibility improvements to the charming historic building that is held dear in the hearts of many. The construction season is now upon us. There is no contractor lined up to do the work nor has anyone even mentioned the lead paint that is on the inside and outside of the building.

Can the school be saved?

Yes it can. The foundation needs to be repaired or replaced, ADA accessibility standards need to be met and the lead paint has to be remediated. After all of that is satisfactorily completed and if the SBRSD chooses not to continue the educational program there, the building should be rented out to be used as a year round daycare facility and/or nursery school.

Steve Willig

Mt. Washington Road

Egremont


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2 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Susan Bachelder says:

    Dear Mr. Willig
    The ability of the SBRSD’s finance committee to close the school through removing the funding for Egremont’s teacher is what is being challenged in court. As I think everyone remembers in 2012, all the towns were required to vote on the closure of the little schools. That effort spearheaded by Herb Abelow and the school committee failed. Thank goodness. If the new Berkshire task force’s speaker two weeks ago is correct, almost all consolidations fail anyway. The SBRSD has violated the terms of the school agreement – pure and simple.

    To say that Mr. Flynn’s presence or absence at two finance committee meetings would have made a difference to this action when this appears to have been railroaded through after years of discussions on this point I think is the more questionable behavior.

    You yourself were involved with a Task Force set up to review how alternative functions might give the outlying buildings more use when the closure vote of 2012 failed. Mr. Abelow, a smart man, and seeing the acrimony closure had created, voted the $2500 request to fund this positive next step, as did you. Mr. Stewart did not. Nor did Mr. Sears. This Task Force had the opportunity to deliver a report that could have moved the Committee in a positive direction of engagement with the five towns, but instead relations began to erode further, and clearly have continued to do so to get us to this pass.

    All three towns also began to research what they might do to support the presence of their programs in their communities. This is clearly stated in the SC minutes of August 22, 2013. “Mr. Valentini then moved that this School Committee moves the sense of the Committee that they are committed to the continuation of programs in the community schools of New Marlborough, Monterey, and South Egremont. Mr. Flynn seconded the motion. ”

    It is pretty naive, or very arrogant, for anyone to think that a school district has the authority to close a school in two finance committee meetings. I would remind the District that it is a creature under the law whose only mission is to serve the Towns that created it – not to turn into Frankenstein.

  2. Nancy DuVall says:

    I am ashamed that my town of Egremont is threatening a law suit against the school district of which it is a member.
    Egremont has historically been a most loyal supporter of the school district. Always a source of pride for the 50 or so years that I have lived here. A law suit just adds unneeded expense to both sides. It sounds a little bit like Trumps wall. Who is going to pay for it? Aren’t we shooting ourselves in the foot? Let’s stop the nonsense.
    We have just voted the funding for renovating the small, cherished building, a good move, in my opinion, but it seems to me to be petulant and childish to disapprove the budget and threaten law suit on the same schools our children attend. Sometimes we have to take the bitter pill, and get on with it. Nancy DuVall

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