WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Two weeks before it asks the town's voters to put it out of business, the Williamstown Elementary School Committee met Wednesday to review the budget and discuss two final changes to the regional agreement to be considered on Nov. 14.
That is the night the towns of Williamstown and Lanesborough will decide whether to expand the Mount Greylock Regional School District to include the junior-senior high school's two feeder elementary schools, Williamstown and Lanesborough Elementary.
It is also the night when the three elected school committees in the two towns may begin the process of forming a transition committee that will direct the expanded district starting on Jan. 1.
Although the Williamstown School Committee would continue to exist through the end of fiscal 2018, the focus of the district would shift to the transition committee if both towns approve regionalization at concurrent special town meetings.
That transition committee would include four members from the current Mount Greylock School Committee, two from the Williamstown Committee and one from the Lanesborough School Committee and would be responsible for negotiating the initial contracts for union personnel in the three school buildings and developing the FY19 budget of the expanded district.
It also would go away in November, when a new seven-member Mount Greylock School Committee is elected by voters in both member towns.
Before any of that happens, the current Mount Greylock School Committee has one more piece of regionalizaton business on its plate, Committee Chairman Joe Bergeron explained to his colleagues on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, the Mount Greylock School Committee will hold a special meeting to approve minor changes to the proposed regional agreement. Specifically, the district has been asked to add language that protects the two towns, who will continue to own the elementary school buildings and would lease them to an expanded preK-12 Mount Greylock district.
"The changes were related to the lease clause," Bergeron said.
One change adds language that clarifies the towns will be able to continue to use the school buildings for events like town meetings "with priority being given to school events." The other change specifies that "[p]lans to improve, alter or remodel the leased buildings will be subject to negotiations between the [regional district] Committee and the building owner-of-record Town."
Both modifications were requested by officials in Lanesborough, Bergeron said. Neither the school committee members who crafted the proposed agreement nor officials at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education objected to the notions.
"In a situation where the regional school district wanted to do capital improvements, there should be a discussion in partnership with the town prior to the school trying to do it," Bergeron said. "Instead of the school saying, ‘Here's what we want to do; you can vote it up or down,' you would think the school committee would want to talk about it with the town first.
"In DESE's mind … you can put that stuff in the lease. But it gave more comfort to Lanesborough to have it in the agreement, and we don't see any obstacles to doing it."
The Mount Greylock School Committee is scheduled to vote on the final language, seen below, at a 5:30 6:30 meeting at the high school on Thursday. The Williamstown Board of Selectmen plans to vote its recommendation on the regionalization at its Nov. 13 meeting.
The School Committee plans at least one more public information session prior to the Nov. 14, 7 p.m. special town meeting at the elementary school.
The deadline to register to vote at town meeting — for those already not registered — is Friday, Nov. 3. The town clerk's office at Town Hall will be open until 8 p.m. on Friday.
In other business on Wednesday, the committee heard a budget update from Mark Chapulis of Auburn municipal finance firm The Management Solution, which is providing services to all three schools in the Lanesborough-Williamstown Tri-District.
Chapulis told the committee that the FY18 budget is on track, though one area that the district will have to keep an eye on is funding from grants.
"Grants are coming in a little lower," Chapulis said. "We may have to identify additional funding sources [to cover salaries tied to grants]."
Chapulis said that he would have some line-item transfers for the committee to consider at its December meeting.
Principal Joelle Brookner gave the School Committee a recap of last month's Words are Wonderful celebration, a weeklong event that, this year, featured residencies by authors Kate Messner and Timothy Basil Ering and a performance by Berkshire Theatre Group. Brookner thanked the volunteers who made the week happen, singling out chair Kathleen Igoe.
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