Lanesborough Elementary School Committee members Robert Barton, left, and James Moriarty want the school to look outside Mount Greylock and Wiliamstown for partners.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — School Committee member Robert Barton on Wednesday continued his push to have Lanesborough Elementary consider its options for a new superintendency.
Barton outlined a plan for three meetings that he hopes will bring the committee closer to a final decision some time next fall about whether the district will remain partnered with Williamstown in Superintendency Union 71.
Barton reported to the committee that as a result of a recent meeting between SU-71 and the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, he thought it made sense to "assume Lanesborough will remain" in SU-71 and, by extension, the Tri-District partnership between SU-71 and Mount Greylock, as the Tri-District embarks on a search for a new superintendent.
However, Barton recommended the School Committee decline to participate in that search process while it evaluates its options.
That recommendation was countered by Regina DiLego, who was elected committee chairman during its annual reorganization on Wednesday evening.
"I would want to be involved in the superintendent search from the get-go," said DiLego, who volunteered to serve as the committee's representative on the Tri-District search committee.
Barton and James Moriarty voted to take DiLego up on her offer.
They were, however, unmoved by her argument that Lanesborough should focus on growing its existing partnerships, not seeking greener pastures.
Referring to a memo prepared by Barton that listed "encourage bigger/broader regionalization" as an objective, DiLego asked, "Wouldn't our first focus be to encourage and help regionalization in our own district and then encourage expanding outward instead of severing our children from the district that already exists? Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage that region to expand?"
DiLego was referring to the Mount Greylock School District's effort to expand from a Grade 7-12 district to a K-12 district. Mount Greylock has two member towns — Lanesborough and Williamstown; only in 2008 were the town's elementary schools united in a superintendency union.
At two different meetings this spring, Williamstown and Mount Greylock school committee members implored Barton to help form a united Tri-District as the schools begin their search to replace outgoing Superintendent Rose Ellis.
But on Wednesday, Barton was naming names of districts he thinks Lanesborough should be talking to: North Berkshire, Hancock/Richmond and six-school Central Berkshire, where, he said, Chairman Michael Case "wants to have a dialogue with us."
And although one of the main takeaways of the June 16 SU-71 meeting was the idea that dissolving a superintendency union is not easy to do, Barton on Wednesday repeated the oft-mentioned position that individual school committees can break up the unions at will.
To DiLego's question about pushing for greater regionalization for Mount Greylock, i.e. bringing other elementary schools into the district, Barton said that is not realistic.
"I can't see that happening," he said. "I don't think other towns would join because it's too expensive. Right now, we see people [school] choicing into Greylock, and that's likely to grow. Who should subsidize them? That is the question. It can't be two little towns. It's not fair for our two little towns to grow a fabulous high school that everyone gets to go to at half-price."
That said, Barton agreed that the school district is a reality that is not going to change.
"Our kids will still go to Greylock," he said.
And, for now at least, Lanesborough Elementary's pupils will continue to go to a school where a single administration can help align the curricula of the feeder schools for Mount Greylock.
But that reality could change.
"I want to see what else is out there," Moriarty said. "I want to have a discussion. I would like to see what the proposals are ... based on the way things are now and the way possibly things could be.
"We have not voted out of SU-71. it's in the best interest of Lanesborough [Elementary] and the town that we look at other alternatives and then make our decision accordingly. And I know there is opposition to this, but I feel strongly this way.
"There's no harm in looking into this."
The strained relationship between members of the LES Committee and the current administration were on display throughout Wednesday's meeting.
What usually is a routine vote at the school committee level to give the business manager and superintendent line-item transfer authority to balance the books during the summer was derailed when Moriarty and Barton objected to the idea.
"I'm not comfortable with this, partly because I think we will need to meet once in July, once in August and once in September," Barton said, alluding to the superintendency union study. "I would respectfully request we not approve this authority."
A discussion about whether the committee should hire someone to draft its minutes turned into an uncomfortable exchange between Moriarty and Ellis.
"Who does it for Mount Greylock?" Moriarty asked.
"I already asked her if she's interested," Ellis said. "She's not."
"If you could forward that name to us ... " Moriarty said.
After Ellis indicated she wasn't comfortable doing that, he said, "Can you ask us if she would be interested in talking to us? ... Would you do that for us?"
When Ellis said she would, Moriarty followed with, "When would you be able to do that?"
Earlier in the meeting, Moriarty came close to accusing Ellis of withholding information from the committee on an issue involving the school's plan for transporting special education students.
Moriarty repeatedly pressed Ellis on the existence of a spreadsheet outlining transportation options which Director of Pupil Personnel Services Kimberly Grady mentioned at a June 12 meeting of the Lanesborough School Committee.
DiLego said Grady, who was unable to attend Wednesday's meeting, had reported that the spreadsheet was on her computer and could not be recovered after a recent crash, but Moriarty insisted Ellis had the spreadsheet.
"[Grady] told us on the 12th that she had passed that along to you, Rose, and I think she was surprised you had not passed it along to us," Moriarty said, referring to a meeting Ellis was unable to attend.
"What she said was she had forwarded all the information to you, and she was surprised you hadn't given it to us."
Ellis said she believed Grady was referring to an earlier memo she had supplied to the committee.
"I think there's an issue here," Moriarty said. "She was adamant about all the alternatives on a spreadsheet. ... I'd like to see it. Frankly, I'm not very happy about that. I'm just not."
Barton recommended moving past the issue.
"I think we need to be frustrated about this and move on," he told Moriarty. "It's just a losing game for us to do do any more with this."
But Moriarty persisted.
"Before we move on, Regina, will that ever be provided to us?" he asked.
When DiLego told Moriarty that Grady was on vacation, he asked when she returned.
"When can we reasonably expect to see this?" Moriarty asked.
"If it's on her computer, and her computer's repaired, I don't see why she can't send it to the chair to disseminate," Ellis said.
In other business on Wednesday, the committee decided to follow suit with Williamstown and not adopt the experimental Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers standardized test for the 2014-15 school year. The commonwealth offered districts a choice to participate in the second year of a two-year trial run for the test that is being considered as a replacement for the MCAS.
Ellis and Lanesborough Principal Ellen Boshe advised the committee that they recently received indications that PARCC is not an inevitability and, in fact, Massachusetts may end up considering another standardized test.