To the Editor:
Recent posts on social media, letters and comments on radio programs are so filled with inaccuracies and glaring omissions that it makes sense to set the record straight.
Our recent community dialogue about the high school renovation project has surfaced a range of concerns that may have been ignored for decades. We’re working hard to resolve them and are making significant progress.
The six South County districts (Berkshire Hills, Farmington River, Lee, Lenox, Southern Berkshire and Richmond) have been meeting regularly with the help of state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli and signed a Memoranda of Agreement on collaboration and submitted a Community Innovation Challenge Grant to the State for $300,000. The grant is focused on action as opposed to additional planning. By building relationships and trust through shared work, we open possibilities for deeper partnerships.
Tuition and Choice
The District has renegotiated tuition rates with Richmond and Farmington River and is currently in additional negotiations to start to close the gap between the tuition paid and the cost of educating students. While we appreciate what those students bring to our school community, we want to close the financial gap.
We are in the process of drafting a bill to support the creation of “hub districts” for choice that would receive different reimbursement rates than the 23-year-old unadjusted rate offered through the State.
At the same time, multiple school committees have voted for school choice for 23 years straight. They realize that whether we accept students or not, we cannot keep students from choicing out — a $600,000 liability — and that school choice students contribute to a wider range of course offerings and activities and make Monument a truly comprehensive high school.
The District operates because of a 50-year-old regional agreement among Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge that has not been altered since 1990. Elected officials from each town have scheduled a meeting to share information on updating the agreement with the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools.
I am traveling to China as a guest of Hanban University at no cost to the District. I am traveling with 22 principals, superintendents and college deans from New England. The purpose of the trip is to develop cultural understanding and explore opportunities for language and cultural exchange which might include a tuition based program for Chinese students.
The redesigned administrative space includes offices for the folks who work with kids on the most complicated issues – a nurse, principal and assistant principal, 3 guidance counselors and a social worker. It also provides a safe and monitored entrance and views of the parking lot. Finally, there’s a conference room for college visits, parent and team meetings.
Monument is a wonderful place. Students and teachers are engaged. Students are well known by their peers and multiple adults. The range of learning opportunities are comprehensive and remarkable. We could be even better.
Modern science labs will enable students to do more relevant and rigorous work. Updated auto shops and improved horticulture facilities will support hands-on learning that will lead to meaningful employment. Improved technology will support connections to a broader world. Better light, heat, air circulation, safety and accessibility will set students and teachers, as well as our community, up for success.
If you haven’t visited Monument in a while, I urge you take a tour on Saturday, November 1st at 9 a.m.
Our dialogue as a community around education is important. Many of us see education as the cornerstone of our democracy. Let’s keep the dialogue going and let’s hold each other to a high standard of accuracy and transparency.
The writer is Superintendent of Schools for the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.