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The Regional Agreement Amendment Committee meets at Hoosac Valley High School on Monday.

Adams-Cheshire Hopes to Conclude Agreement Before Superintendent Retires

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Adams Cheshire Regional School District's Regional Agreement Amendment Committee hope to complete the process before Superintendent Robert Putnam retires.

Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools Assistant Director Stephen Hemman recommended to the committee on Monday that it aim for a closer completion date to accommodate Putnam, who plans to retire at the end of the year.

"As you know Rob has announced his retirement," Hemman said. "I would like to get as much done as we can before he leaves because it will be difficult for someone new to come in in the middle of this without background."

Late last year, Putnam announced that he planned to retire at the end of the school year after serving the district as the interim superintendent and the permanent superintendent since 2016.

Hemman said the process, that began in November, would likely take a year and ultimately will be voted upon by town meeting. Now he said the committee should aim to pin down all its amendments before Putnam retires.

The committee continued discussion on the makeup of the school committee and how the school committee votes. The main focus of this change is to prevent the school committee from voting along town lines as it did when it was voted to close Cheshire Elementary School.

Last meeting it was suggested that the committee decrease the number of members on the board from seven to six to ensure equal representation from both towns.

Hemman did not recommend this.

"You will end up with too many ties and I would not recommend that," he said. "Some committees have six and they look to change that."

Cheshire representative Edmund St. John IV instead suggested that for certain votes a majority vote must contain representation from both towns.

He suggested that these votes be the hiring of a superintendent, business manager, district counsel, for entering into any legal action, changing the configuration of grades in the buildings and changing the configuration of buildings in the district

Cheshire representative Adam Emerson suggested just making these two-thirds votes.

"These are pretty hefty things and I think you would want two-thirds of the committee on board," he said. "You don't want a 4-3 vote on something like hiring a superintendent."

St. John said looking back on his tenure on the School Committee, most votes are unanimous.

"The only vote that really came down to contention was the recent one that went down town lines," he said. "There have been budget votes where it has been 6-1 or maybe 5-2 but usually nothing more than that."

Adams representative Michael Mucci agreed with St. John's idea but wanted to clear up the language and have very specific guidelines for what would trigger these votes.

"Unique things come up and they may not fall entirely in a category and it could set up some roadblocks," he said. "I think we need these bullet points to be as clear as possible."

Cheshire representative Justin Kruszyna moved the conversation toward the now closed Cheshire School and asked if it was possible to add language that would allow Cheshire to reopen the school without Adams' approval.

"If Cheshire wants to bring back its school in Cheshire, it is not Adams' decision," he said. "Everyone I have talked to wants to see that school open again."

Hemmon said the towns have given the district the right to make these decisions and it is not really up to the towns.

Kruszyna suggested allowing a town to fund its own school if they decided to.

"If one town wants to take on more of the financial burden it should be up to the town," he said. "Last year, we wanted to put in another $100,000 to keep the school open and we were told we couldn't."

Hemmon said this, too, could create complications with issues of unequal funding between schools. He added that, procedurally, they would have to address this concept in the assessment section of the agreement.

Kruszyna floated adding to the agreement that both communities must have elementary schools and noted that many students have left the district because Cheshire has closed.

Adams representative Christine Hoyt felt this could prevent the district from growing if it is forced to keep schools open.

"I hesitate to put any language in the agreement about specific schools ... I think that could hamstring us in the future especially with recommendations from the education task force ... to come together with more towns," she said.

Adams representative Paul Butler added that if the district is forced to fund the operation of another building, money would be taken away from education.

Kruszyna also advocated for language that would allow Cheshire to leave the district without Adams' approval if it so wanted.

Hemmon said that this is a different process and he did not recommend it.

"If that happens, there is a lot that has to take place and you would become three districts," he said. "Each one would need a school committee and a superintendent."

The committee will revisit these topics at a future meeting.

Tags: ACRSD,   regional agreement,   

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