Williamstown's Dan Caplinger, left, and Lanesborough's Al Terranova will serve on the Mount Greylock transition committee.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The three school committees who govern the Lanesborough and Williamstown school districts Wednesday named the transition committee that will lead the expanded Mount Greylock district through the November election.
The committees from Williamstown Elementary, Lanesborough Elementary and Mount Greylock set the Wednesday meeting in advance of Tuesday's special town meetings so they could discuss next steps whichever way the votes went.
After securing the approvals of Mount Greylock's member towns to bring their elementary schools into the district, the three committee chairs needed to assign members to the seven-member transition committee.
Per the regional agreement, each of the three elected school committees will remain in control of their respective schools through June 30, 2018, the end of the fiscal year. But the transition committee will start Jan. 1, 2018, laying the groundwork for the expanded preK-12 district and take full control on July 1 — up until November, when all seven spots on the Mount Greylock School Committee will be up for election.
The transition committee includes four members of the current Mount Greylock School Committee, two from WES and one from LES — with the stipulation that it maintains Mount Greylock's current split of four residents from the district's larger town, Williamstown.
Lanesborough Elementary School Committee Chairwoman Regina DiLego said she had no choice but to appoint herself to the transition committee. One of the Lanesborough committee members, P.J. Pannesco, is an employee at Mount Greylock; the other, Danielle Taylor, chairs the elementary school's School Council, which will play an expanded role in developing budgets in the expanded region.
WES Committee Chairman Joe Bergeron named himself and Dan Caplinger. Bergeron, who was heavily involved in drafting the regional agreement, was a natural choice. The other two members of the five-person school committee at Wednesday's meeting agreed Caplinger was a natural for the panel's second representative.
"I would definitely serve, and thank you for your confidence," Caplinger said. "All of us on the transition committee will rely on the members who are not — at the very least through June 30, and beyond that there's only a short four months or so where we would be acting without an election."
Mount Greylock Chairwoman Sheila Hebert, citing concerns about the additional time commitment of the new committee, appointed Lanesborough residents Chris Dodig and Al Terranova, who both volunteered for the job.
She also named Steven Miller and Carolyn Greene. The latter is the longest tenured member of the Mount Greylock School Committee and, like Terranova, serves on the district's School Building Committee. Miller, who helped craft language in the regional agreement that will guide budget apportionment in the expanded district, noted that it would be helpful to the transition committee to have his experience in that area.
The members of the new transition committee were a little unsure about the timetable for their work. Although, technically, the committee has no power until the new agreement takes effect on the first of the year, all agreed that they want to hit the ground running.
Williamstown's Steve Miller, left and Lanesborough's Chris Dodig are two of four current Mount Greylock committee members who will serve on the transition committee.
"Until the commissioner [of education] has officially stamped the regional agreement, it's kind of just a construct that's out there," Bergeron said. "The Jan. 1 date is in the agreement for that purpose. We've gotten the verbal go-ahead [from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] to organize ourselves and get the ball rolling. I think there will be more allowances made for the transitional committee to meet sooner.
"But any contracts they wanted to sign, they couldn't do that until Jan. 1."
The transition committee will be responsible for negotiating unified contracts with labor unions at the three schools and — after Jan. 1 — making any decisions on the addition/renovation project that need to be made at the district level. It also will need to create a single policy book to cover all three schools — a process made easier by efforts in recent years to align policies at the three schools operating under the Tri-District shared services agreement.
It also will have the authority to appoint a new superintendent to lead the three-school district. The Tri-District has been led by an interim superintendent for more than a year, and the school committees decided to hold off on conducting a search for a full-time replacement until after the regionalization question was settled by voters.
The members of the transition committee Wednesday agreed to look for a meeting date the week after Thanksgiving to start addressing these topics.
Wednesday's meeting also included a piece of business that seemed pro forma but which was actually something of a milestone for the towns. Acting as Superintendency Union 71, the elementary school committee members from Lanesborough and Williamstown voted to formally dissolve SU-71, effective June 30, 2018, the date when the schools fully complete the transition from single-school districts to a full region.
All this change was facilitated by Tuesday's contemporaneous town meetings in Lanesborough and Williamstown, which were themselves the result of years of discussion and planning about how to build collaboration between the two towns.
"I'd like to thank the committees at LES and WES in 2007-08, who had the vision to start this," DiLego said in opening Wednesday's meeting. "I thank the cooperative work of all our committees. It's excellent example of how our towns can work together."
"I want to thank all the volunteers, administrators and teachers — everyone who contributed to the dialogue and the work," he said. "It's been many years and many people and two villages' worth of work to make this happen."
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