Mount Greylock School Forms Regionalization Committee

By Stephen DravisWilliamstown Correspondent
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Consultant Stephen R. Hemman gave the School Committee tips Tuesday about the regionalization process.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee on Tuesday night established a committee to look at whether the regional school district should expand to include the town elementary schools in Williamstown and Lanesborough.

Currently, the Mount Greylock district, which includes both towns, serves grades 7 through 12, but this month they received a $50,000 state grant to "investigate the pros and cons of expanding" the district.

On Tuesday, the Mount Greylock committee decided on the makeup of an exploratory committee that will help draft an amendment to the existing regional agreement.

The committee will include up to three members from the Mount Greylock committee, up to two members from the Williamstown Elementary School Committee, one member from the Lanesborough School Committee, at least one member of the Board of Selectmen from each town, at least one member of the Finance Committee of each town, Lanesborough's town administrator, Williamstown's town manager and up to three members of the community from each town.

The large ad hoc committee was designed to maximize input from each of the stakeholders involved in the discussion. MGRHS Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Greene made the proposal after hearing a presentation from a consultant who recommended maximizing dialogue with all affected communities before bringing any proposal to the voters.

"Talk to people, listen to people, find out what their concerns are, and then go out again," said Stephen R. Hemman, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools.

The committee invited Hemman to give a presentation in which he outlined the "road map" to regionalization that his group developed at the request of the commonwealth's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

After the committee develops an amendment to the regionalization agreement, it submits the draft to the DESE for approval and then puts the proposal before voters at each town meeting.

Hemman stressed the importance of maintaining communication with residents in the town throughout the process -— holding public forums and focus groups — in order to ensure that any proposal that comes out of the process has a good chance of success.

Greene also noted that the state grant does not commit the district to putting any such proposal before the voters. The district could, after weighing the pros and cons, decide against proposing expanded regionalization.

The $50,000 grant will be used to hire a communications consultant, a financial specialist and a legal counsel to assist the newly formed exploratory committee.

In other business on Tuesday, the committee decided to postpone consideration of a request by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees that the Mount Greylock committee adopt a position statement on gun control in the wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

The MASC asked the committee to adopt a position calling on Congress to enact a ban on military-style assault weapons, limit the number of rounds in ammunition clips and institute background checks for all firearm purchases. The MASC also is asking school committees to go on record urging the rejection of the National Rifle Association assertion that arming school staff is the most effective way to ensure safe schools.

Several members of the committee said they were not sure the committee should involve itself in a political issue. Committee member Chris Dodig said he specifically had qualms about making a definitive statement on one proposal to ensure safe schools without saying what is the most effective way to ensure safety.

"Aren't we obliged to consider what is the most effective strategy before we say what is not?" Dodig asked.

On a vote of 4-2 with David Langston and Robert Ericson voting against, the committee postponed a decision on the position statement until its Feb. 26 meeting.

In between, Mount Greylock on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 6:30 p.m. will host a special forum for Berkshire County School Committees with Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, to consider pending legislature on gun control, gun safety and public health.

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