Adams Sees New Regional School District's Amended Agreement
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen and Finance Committee reviewed the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District amended agreement last week.
The joint meeting on Wednesday included members of the Regional Agreement Amendment Committee who outlined the major changes in the agreement.
"This has been a long, long process ... and talk about due diligence and crossing all of the Ts and dotting all of the Is," Superintendent of Schools John Vosburgh said. "Let's just say it has been read over a lot and I think it is a very good document."
The Regional Agreement Amendment Committee, or RAAC, formed in 2017 to update the antiquated agreement between the two towns. A subcommittee was formed with members from both Adams and Cheshire and the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools was hired to facilitate the amendment process.
The School Committee voted to approve the amended agreement late last year after the Department of Education signed off on it.
MARS facilitator Jay Barry outlined some of the changes and said a good portion of the overhaul was just language updates that aligned the agreement with state and federal standards.
"This was a good document and well written when it was originally written but that was when the district formed," he said of the 50-year-old agreement. "That was quite a while ago and new laws have been passed and there are a lot of things that should be in this document."
Some of the more substantial tweaks includes changing the district's name to Hoosac Valley Regional School District and adding a clause that would mandate that certain votes such as closing a school or hiring a superintendent would need more than a straight majority. These votes would need an affirmative vote from both an Adams and Cheshire committee member.
"The two towns really have to cooperate with each other and vote in joint and come together," Barry said. "In my view, this is a positive change that will strengthen the cooperation between the two towns."
This extends into the committee's quorum standards and, in order to hold a meeting, at least one member from each community needs to be present. For instance, the seven-member panel would no longer have a quorum if only four Adams members were there.
The Finance Committee had a few questions about some of the larger changes but member John Cowie also asked about a change in Section I that moves "vocational education responsibility" to a different section.
He was less concerned about the move but felt the language would allow the school to pursue vocational programming and compete with McCann.
"It looks to me that what they want to do is start vocational education up there and compete with McCann," Cowie said. "We already have a vocational school and they do an excellent job."
He added that he thought if the district wanted to add substantial vocational programming it should have to go to town meeting.
Barry said although the line would allow the school to implement vocational training, the district has no interest in doing so in a way that would compete with McCann.
"You don't want to restrict the School Committee's ability to implement curriculum," he said. "This allows them to do that but there is no intention to challenge the status quo."
Barry said he would check with the Department of Education to see if the language could be changed or taken out but said it is needed to allow district students to go to vocational schools and the department tends to frown upon language that is restrictive.
The Finance Committee also had questions about Section X tgat covers adding new towns to the district.
Finance Committee member Craig Corrigan's question was focused on Section XI — withdrawal.
"With our population decreasing, 20 years from now something is going to have to change in the way we do business in education," he said. "We may have to join another town and is there anything in here to dissolve this district in case we need to join with someone else."
Barry said the towns would first have to dissolve if the district was still only a two-member district. This would require a vote from both town meetings and approval from the state.
"I am not a lawyer and you would want to talk to a lawyer but you would have to dissolve first," he said. "I don't know how immediate these changes will be but it is good that you have this language in here to withdrawal."
Barry said dissolving the district is a "big deal" that only comes to be for reasons like further consolidation.
Selectman John Duval had some questions about shared payments if the district were to dissolve.
"For example, if we did a renovation at Plunkett and had to pay for it for 20 years but two years later Adams decides to leave," he said. "What does Cheshire do they have 18 years left and Adams just took their building."
Barry said a second agreement would have to be created outlining how assets are broken up as well as costs. He said in the past the agreement had a calculation that would determine how much an exiting community would pay. With the amendment, the payments would not stop.
He added that the state likely would not allow the district to dissolve without this new agreement in place.
Barry added that the state still has to approve legislation that will allow the district to continue elections as it has done in the past and concluded that once the town meetings sign off on the amended agreement, the state must again approve it.
Tags: ACRSD, regional agreement,
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