Mount Greylock Gets 6-Week Reprieve From NEASC

By Stephen Dravis Williamstown Correspondent
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The high school's accrediting agency has asked for a progress report on 16 areas of concern by mid-January.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional High School's accrediting agency has given the school until the middle of January to provide a "special progress report" explaining why its accreditation should not be revoked.

Because of many outstanding issues with the condition of the aging school building, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges last year warned the district that its accreditation might be pulled.

A NEASC delegation visited the school last month and two weeks ago sent the district a letter asking it to submit a progress report by Dec. 1. At Tuesday's meeting of the Mount Greylock School Committee, District Superintendent Rose Ellis and newly elected Cairwoman Carolyn Greene told committee members that NEASC has extended that deadline.

"They had said Dec. 1 because they were waiting for MSBA," Ellis told the committee.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority, which funds construction projects throughout the commonwealth, on Nov. 7 announced that Mount Greylock would not be considered for the current funding cycle.

Now that a comprehensive approach to the building's deficiencies (most likely by building anew) is off the table, the accrediting agency wants to see the district approach some of the most critical concerns on a piecemeal basis.

"I talked to the director [of NEASC], and she said their concern was that nothing had been done on the building for a number of years," Ellis said. "They're looking for reasonable progress and a reasonable timeline."

In its Nov. 7 letter, NEASC listed 16 specific areas of concern. One caught the eye of committee member David Langston.

"[T]he Committee noted with grave concern the magnitude and plethora of old, unorganized, and even unidentified and unsecured chemicals throughout all areas of the science wing which present health and safety concerns for all building occupants," the NEASC letter reads.

"I was surprised and upset by that," Langston said. "That, to me, is not a question of the building. It's a question of the staff not being on the ball."

In response to questioning from Langston, Ellis said she is still learning about the chemicals herself and that the chemicals are being inventoried and the school will contract with an outside vendor to take care of disposal. She also emphasized that the chemicals in question were not in classrooms.

"So by Christmas, the vendor will have come and cleaned it out?" Langston asked.

"I would think so," Ellis said.

As for the rest of the deficiencies identified by NEASC, the district's building subcommittee is preparing a spreadsheet of specific projects with estimated costs and will discuss that document at its next meeting on Nov. 29, said Greene, who sits on that subcommittee and on Tuesday was elevated to School Committee chairman.

After that discussion, the subcommittee will present its recommendations to the full School Committee at its next scheduled meeting on Dec. 18, Greene said.

Carolyn Greene was elected chairman of the committee and Sheila Hebert was sworn in as a Lanesborough representative at Tuesday's meeting.
Greene reaffirmed the district's commitment to submit another "statement of interest" with the MSBA, a quasi-independent government authority funded by a portion of the state sales tax.

Ellis and members of the building subcommittee went to the MSBA's recent board meeting in Boston and received feedback that will help the district craft a better proposal next time around, Greene said.

In other business on Tuesday, newly elected committee member Sheila Hebert of Lanesborough was elected the panel's vice chairman as part of its annual reorganization, and the committee welcomed new member Colleen Taylor of Williamstown.

Prior to the meeting, a joint meeting of the School Committee and the Boards of Selectmen of Williamstown and Lanesborough appointed Chris Dodig to fill a seat previously occupied by Hebert. Hebert was forced to resign from a position on the board to which she was appointed (to fill out the unexpired term of a resigning member) when she was elected to the committee in her own right in November.

The committee also discussed new evaluation procedures for administrators and teachers and heard reports on two innovative educational programs at the school: the Williams Center at Mount Greylock and the efforts of the school's recently hired digital and media learning specialist, Richard Scullin.

Tags: MGRHS,   MSBA,   NEASC,   

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