James Brosnan needs approval from the exsting seven member towns to include Lanesborough and Cheshire. Both Lanesborough and Cheshire have opted to join the district.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Voters approved joining the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District by an 87-6 margin at Tuesday's annual town meeting.
The town joins Cheshire as the latest to join the district, pending authorization from three more of the district's members.
The member towns of North Adams, Williamstown, Clarksburg and Savoy all approved amending the school district to include the two additional towns. Florida, Monroe and Adams still need to vote.
On Monday, Cheshire voted by a wide margin to join the district and on Tuesday Lanesborough followed suit. This year, the town tuitioned out 21 students to vocational education — 15 to McCann Technical School and six to Taconic High School in Pittsfield. If those students had all gone to McCann in North Adams, the town would have paid about $32,000 less, according to study performed by consultants hired by McCann through a state grant.
While McCann Superintendent James Brosnan could not say exactly what the future costs were, he said he was confident that it would save the town between $20,000 and $30,000 per year and increase from there.
Chris Dodig, who was the chairman of a committee tasked with analyzing the town's vocational education, said McCann was the best option. The committee looked at tying in with Taconic, continue tuitioning students or joining McCann.
The expense to tuition is problematic because of the cost and there are too many unknowns about the future of Pittsfield's vocational education, he said.
Residents questioned why Taconic was ruled out so quickly when the tuition cost is half that of McCann. Dodig said that since Pittsfield is looking to build a new school, he would expect Lanesborough would have to shoulder some of that cost if they joined with them. Additionally, Pittsfield never invited them to join their district, he said, there would be a lot more negotiations that would need to happen.
"It's cheaper now but if they build a new school... our prediction is that it would be much more expensive," Dodig said.
In support of McCann, many residents said McCann's education was far superior to Taconic. One of those supporters was Rose Ellis, superintendent of the Williamstown-Lanesborough Public Schools. Ellis said four years ago she looked into both schools and liked McCann better.
"We felt McCann was far superior in regards to an educational product," Ellis said.
Also supporting McCann was Christine Canning, who recently won a court settlement with Pittsfield Public Schools. She took a shot at her former employer saying the differences between the two systems were "night and day."
"If you pay peanuts, you're going to get monkeys," Canning said. "Buy a cubic zirconia if you want, but I suggest the diamond."
Other residents were concerned that they would be forced to pay for expensive renovations but Brosnan said McCann has already spent about $5 million in recent years in renovations and does not expect any more soon.
In a separate warrant article, voters denied Mount Greylock Regional High School the ability to create a reserve account for future capital repairs.
School officials said the account would be part of the regular budgeting and would improve the school's bond rating, be an avenue to set aside emergency funds and a "vital financial tool" in building or repairing the aging school.
However, in recent years the budget process between the school and the town has been a battle. Lanesborough has twice denied the school district its budgeted request before eventually caving in to an agreement. Lanesborough officials are concerned that the budget could go to a district vote with both Williamstown and Lanesborough and since Williamstown has more residents, Lanesborough would be "forced" into the paying the School Committee's requests to add to any reserve fund.
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