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Potential future changes in South County public education

By Thursday, Dec 5, 2019 Letters 5

To the editor:

I write this document hoping to clear some of the confusion surrounding activities of an eight-town group and two regional school districts performing similar investigations into forming a new single-governance model to provide public education services for the eight towns of Alford, Egremont, Great Barrington, Monterey, New Marlborough, Sheffield, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge. Currently pre-K through 12th-grade public school students attend Southern Berkshire Regional School District and Berkshire Hills Regional School District, along with choice students from outside the eight towns. The eight-town group members are residents from each of the eight towns. The two regional school districts’ members are the two regional school districts’ school committees.

Any change to or from the existing two regional districts, other than as specified in the two regional agreements for items such as addition or withdrawal of individual towns, must follow steps defined in Massachusetts General Law (MGL). While the processes would be similar for the groups, they are different in how the required first step, forming a “Regional School District Planning Committee,” is formed and structured.

In order to start the formal MGL process, each of the eight towns could begin by forming a Regional School District Planning Committee for their town consisting of three members. This must be done by a majority vote of the town board of selectmen and majority vote of the school committee, or by vote in town meeting duly called for that purpose.

For the two regional school districts to start the formal MGL process, each could begin by forming a Regional School District Planning Committee. In the case of the existing two regional districts, formation and structure of the Regional School District Planning Committee is left to the school committees.

After deliberation, the group of eight town Regional School District Planning Committees and/or the two Regional School District Planning Committees meet and form a “Regional School District Planning Board,” which then organizes and moves down the formal path of investigation, analysis and planning, including meetings with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), etc., through the more detailed part of the process, ending with production of a regional agreement for a new regional district. The agreement is submitted to the DESE and, subject to its approval, is then sent to town meetings for approval.

While a member of the SBRSD school committee, I present this information as a private citizen with hope the general public will understand they will be the final decision makers, through votes at town meetings, on whether any new region will be formed.

Dennis Sears

The writer is a member of the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee.