Molly Polk of Williams College explains some of the elementary school programs students at Williams are participating in.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Drury High School senior Alexandra Bernard was presented with this year's Superintendent's Award for her academic achievements.
The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents' Certificate of Academic Excellence is given to the highest ranking high school senior within a district.
"Alexandra is a worthy nominee," said Superintendent Barbara Malkas at Tuesday's School Committee meeting.
Bernard, daughter of Thomas and Jennifer Bernard of North Adams, has taken honors classes and six Advanced Placement classes.
"She not only has the highest [grade point average] in the senior class but she has been an active member of both band and theater, and the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Program," Malkas said in presenting her with the certificate.
She is also band president and vice president of the Student Council and plans to attend college in Boston to pursue a career in health care management.
"You never get to any place of greatness by yourself," Malkas told her in acknowledging the support of her parents and of her paternal grandparents, Tom and Jane Bernard, "who have collectively contributed 68 years of educational service to our district."
In regular business on Tuesday, the committee endorsed the district's pursuit of a state Efficiency and Regionalization Grant Program that will allow it to develop a regionalized shared-services program for special education students within Northern Berkshire needing more intensive programs. The proposed collaborative could gain up to $200,000 of the $2 million being dispersed.
"Whenever we have a student who rises to an intensive level of need, our options are at minimum a 45-minute commute ... over the mountain for them to get to school," she said, adding that special education placement can weigh heavily on a district because of "not only the private tuition cost, but the transportation cost for sending a student that far for services."
Having already seen the results of working with a collaborative during her time in the Webster schools, Malkas said there is the potential for hundreds of thousands in savings while also serving students and their families closer to home and "positively impacting the quality of education for all students."
Malkas said superintendents of the other four districts and their directors of student support and special education are very interested in making this work. The grant application will be built on the agreements with the Collaborative for Educational Services of Northampton, which will "step back" as the Northern Berkshire group takes the lead if the grant is approved.
The program will have to be "turnkey" within a year of being awarded, which would give the districts a deadline of Jan. 1, 2018, to have a shared-services program in place.
Molly Polk of Williams College's coordinator for outreach for North Adams and Williamstown elementary schools gave a presentation on the activities the college has been doing with local pupils. Sophomore Joseph Wilson and senior Zoe Harvan also attended to answer any questions.
Some 51 students worked during the spring semester at Brayton and Greylock elementary schools and a number of college students also volunteered in the after-school program, for about 1,000 hours total.
Among the programs are First Grade Buddies, in which Ephs join first-graders for lunch and recess; Middle School Mentors, which places college students in Grade 6 and 7 classrooms for academic support; the Assist Program that pairs college students with pupils; the iTeam iPad initiative that brings technology-based curriculum into the classroom; and field trips to Hopkins Forest and other parts of the campus.
A partnership between the public schools, Williams and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts teaches science through a National Science Foundation grant and offers professional development and research. This fall, that includes 12 Williams students at Brayton, 16 MCLA students at Colegrove Park and five Williams and one MCLA student at Greylock.
Polk said the hope is to continue to scale up these programs to involve more students.
"We thought it would be a good idea to highlight the partnership," said Brayton Principal John Franzoni, pointing to the benefits college students bring, such as in the mentoring program. "This is giving them a positive role model, a peer, that they can meet with once a week ... every day there's a busload that drops off Williams College volunteers."
Greylock Principal Sandra J. Cote added that "our students are becoming such good friends that they're saying, 'I want to go to Wiliams, I want to be a teacher, I want to be a scientist.'"
In other business:
• Business Manager Nancy Ziter said closing the books on the Colegrove Park school project is still months away. The Massachusetts School Building Authority is still waiting on two documents, a LEED certification that should be ready later this month and a commissioning report the district should be also to sign off on this week.
MSBA should begin final audit review by the beginning of December that will take a couple months.
• Committee member John Hockridge informed the committee that the Berkshire County Education Task Force has received a 75-page report commissioned from the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute on regionalization and collaboration. The report will be presented to county school committees and to both the North Adams School Committee and City Council in December.
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