Sheila Hebert, right, again will chair the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, which will be reconstituted in the November 2018 election as Mount Greylock transitions to a preK-12 district.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional School's name finally jibes with its reality.
The district's School Committee last week formally voted to change the name of the middle-high school to reflect the fact that it serves students in Grades 7 through 12, removing the word "high" from the title.
Although the two-town regional school district has been known as the Mount Greylock Regional School District since its inception, the one school it has governed (two more come on board Jan. 1, 2018) has been known officially as Mount Greylock Regional High School.
Principal Mary MacDonald on Tuesday brought the committee a request to adopt the more descriptive name Mount Greylock Regional School.
"Mount Greylock Regional High School was used initially with the idea that Mount Greylock was a junior-senior high school for a very long period of time," MacDonald said. "Twenty-five or 30 years ago, the junior-senior high school model shifted to where it's a middle-senior high school.
"It's an educational philosophy and an approach to teaching. We do have to mix middle and senior high school students in arts and performance-based classes, for example. But the core classes … are distinctive with regard to seventh and eighth grade."
School Committee member Carolyn Greene, who expressed a preference for staying with Mount Greylock Regional High School, asked whether the word "high" is needed now more than ever to distinguish the 7-12 school from the two elementary schools poised to join the district as a result of this month's town meeting votes in Lanesborough and Williamstown.
"I like the defined age range," Greene said.
MacDonald said the school was frequently referred to as simply "Mount Greylock" by community members who routinely drop the "Regional High School." And in the effort to make the school's name match its usage, the people she consulted wanted to avoid adding both "middle" and "high" to the name.
"The real catalyst is we're looking at permanent signage," MacDonald said, referring to signs related to the addition/renovation project at Mount Greylock. "We want to move formally to decide what that's going to say."
The committee voted unanimously to go with her recommendation and adopt the Mount Greylock Regional School name.
The district's transition to a preK-12 region was a topic that impacted much of the committee's discussion at the pre-Thanksgiving meeting.
The panel's annual reorganization, which included a vote to keep Sheila Hebert on as chairman, featured discussion about the role of the School Committee's subcommittees as the Mount Greylock Transition Committee takes the reins in January for preparing the district's fiscal 2019 budget.
The Transition Committee, which has no formal power until the Jan. 1 start of the expanded region, will hold its first organizational meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at the junior-senior high school.
In the meantime, the Mount Greylock School Committee's Finance Subcommittee, which normally would have a lot of work to do on the coming year's budget, was pared down to just Hebert, who will report back the full committee on any in-year adjustments that need to be made on the current FY18 spending plan.
Likewise, the current regional school committee's Negotiation Subcommittee won't have much work to do -- while the Transition Committee will be very active aligning contracts at the three schools. But School Committee member Chris Dodig agreed to stay on as the district's point person in case any contract issues arise through June 30, 2018, while Mount Greylock operates under its current contract.
The switch to a preK-12 district also factored into the School Committee's discussion of plans to house the current Tri-District central administration staff in a trailer on the Mount Greylock grounds.
The interim superintendent, director of pupil personnel services, business manager and other staff who serve Mount Greylock, Lanesborough Elementary and Williamstown Elementary have been housed at Mount Greylock since the Tri-District was formed. Their offices are going away as part of the addition/renovation project, and the district chose not to build any space for them as part of the project because the Massachusetts School Building Authority does not participate in the cost of square footage for central administration offices.
As the building project progresses, interim Superintendent Kimberley Grady told the committee she wants to be moved out of the building and into a temporary trailer before the frost sets in, making it difficult to run utility lines to the trailer and promised to have a budget for the School Committee when it meets in December.
"I'll be homeless come April, as well as the other three people who work in the district office," Grady said. "But that's prime budget season. … And you'd like to get it [set up] before the ground freezes with the wires pulled over to it. If we can get in during the Christmas break, that would be great."
But the committee was not sure how -- or whether -- to apportion costs for the trailer among the Mount Greylock, WES, and LES, which are operating as independent school districts with their own budgets through the end of the current fiscal year. Under the Tri-District shared services agreement, the three schools split the cost of central administration services through a formula based on enrollment. But as the district transitions from a 7-12 to preK-12 region, it was unsure how to apportion an expense that likely will span the July 1, 2018, date when the elementary schools are no longer their own districts.
Yet another issue related to the transition involved the $5 million Williams College capital gift.
Since any private donations would be deducted from the district's MSBA reimbursement if the donations were spent on the building project itself, Mount Greylock has never contemplated applying it to the $64.7 million project. Instead, school officials have been looking at site improvements that fall outside the project's scope (needed improvements to the school's parking lot and athletic fields) and the creation of an endowment to address future repairs (as was done with a similar college gift when WES was built).
One question before the School Committee last week: Who decides how that $5 million is spent, the current seven-person regional school committee or the Transition Committee, which includes four members of the current Mount Greylock School Committee, two members of the WES Committee and one member of the LES Committee.
"Legally and conceptually, it presents some interesting issues," said Dodig, an attorney at the North Adams firm Donovan, O'Connor and Dodig.
Per the regional agreement adopted by Lanesborough and Williamstown voters: "During the Transition Period the Transition Committee shall possess all powers, subject to the availability of funds necessary for the exercise of such powers, necessary for the planning and implementation of the pre-K-12 District to be effective July 1, 2018 …"
However, the Transition Committee is not supposed to formally have the power to spend a dime until Jan. 1, and the district is under time pressure to decide on the site improvements in time to bid work and break ground this summer, while the Mount Greylock property is still an active construction site (demolition on the existing academic wing is set to begin as soon as classes move into the new addition during April vacation).
And, in any event, the Williams College gift was given to the 7-12 Mount Greylock Regional School District and received by its governing School Committee, long before regional expansion occurred.
"It would seem to me those decisions stay with this board for the next six months," Dodig said.
"I don't know about the next six months, but certainly until the Transition Committee convenes [in January]," Wendy Penner said.
The School Committee discussed making decisions in consultation with the Transition Committee, which does have a mention of the Williams College gift on its Nov. 28 agenda, under a listing of subcommittees that need assignments.
Lanesborough Elementary's representative to the Transition Committee, its School Committee Chairwoman Regina DiLego, attended Tuesday's Mount Greylock School Committee meeting but did not speak from the floor.
In other business on Tuesday, Grady announced that the district's longtime treasurer, Dick Jette, has announced his intention to retire at the end of December. She has posted the job and told the committee she may need to ask for a special meeting in advance of its scheduled Dec. 19 session to appoint a replacement.
MacDonald and the school's director of academic technology told the committee that Mount Greylock's 1-to-1 technology initiative has successfully put Chromebooks in the hands of all students in Grades 8 through 12 who did not supply their own devices. Students will have the use of the devices at school and home throughout their time at the school.
MacDonald reported that Mount Greylock's Oct. 1 enrollment was 540, which included a few students enrolled in programs beyond 12th grade. The large sixth grade "bubble" at the elementaries means that if all those pupils choose Mount Greylock in September, the school will be looking at a class of 106 seventh-graders, not including Hancock School students who come under an existing tuition agreement between that town and Mount Greylock.
And Grady at Tuesday's meeting announced that senior Jacob Hane is the recipient of the 2017 Superintendent's Award for Academic Achievement.
"Tonight I have the opportunity to do what we as superintendents like to do the most," Grady said in recognizing Hane's contributions to the school. "This is not just based on academic success but also on the many activities he has participated in and led. He is an active member of the National Honors Society, a class president, has performed in many drama and music performances as well as played lacrosse for three years."
Grady cited a number of other accomplishments both on and off campus in presenting the honor to Hane.
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