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Stephen Hemman of MARS leads the Adams-Cheshire Regional Agreement Amendment Committee through the steps of reviewing and changing the 60-year-old document.

Adams-Cheshire Starts Agreement Amendment Process

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — It's expected to take a year to review and make any changes to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District agreement. 

The amendment committee held its first meeting on Monday night at Hoosac Valley High School with help from Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools' Assistant Director Stephen Hemman, who estimated that the amendments could be voted on in the fall.

"This is a contract between the two towns ... and you don't want ambiguity," Hemman said. "If you are happy with something we leave it I am just going to point things out to you. I am not trying to open Pandora's box I am just trying to make sure you clearly understand."

The antiquated agreement was created in the mid-1960s when the regional district formed. The towns hadn't paid too much attention to the document until this past year, when budgeting woes led to the closure of Cheshire Elementary School over the protestations of Cheshire officials and residents. The smaller town was outmatched by Adams in voting strength. 

Both towns, however, agreed that it was time to reopen the agreement, with Cheshire looking for more parity in the district's governance. 

The towns formed a committee to review the agreement comprised of selectmen, School Committee members, finance board members and residents from both towns.

Hemman said the amending process will likely take a year. He said the committee will go through the agreement as it stands and make sure it is compliant with state guidelines as well as make changes and additions.

This would include properly including amendments that the towns may have voted on but that never received state Department of Education approval.

"In your case, there are a couple of amendments ... that have not been signed off on, so we have to do some cleaning up," he said. "It is not unusual and sometimes people just forget with changes in personnel."

Hemman said the committee will likely meet four times during the winter and go completely through the agreement. When changes are made, they will be sent to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure that those are compliant.

Once the draft agreement is complete, it will be sent to the School Committee for approval, then to the Department of Education for final approval.

Public meetings will be scheduled at that point and the selectmen in both towns will have give the OK to place the amended agreement on the annual town meeting warrants.

Committee member Edmund St. John IV, a Cheshire selectman, suggested pushing the town meeting vote out until the fall and holding a special town meeting.

"I don't want to run into a situation where we set a hard date," he said. "I'd rather take our time and do it right instead of rushing."

Hemman agreed and said they can wrap up the agreement in the spring and hold public meetings in preparation for a vote in September or October.

He added that it is recommended that districts go through the amendment process every five years and that a refined agreement will add clarity as to how the district operates.

"In 20 years, he [Superintendent Robert Putnam] is not going to be here and you all probably will no longer be affiliated with the district, but you want to have it written so when new people come in they know exactly what they are supposed to do," he said. 

Tags: ACRSD,   regional agreement,   

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