Williams Putting Academic Investment in Mt. Greylock

By Tammy DanielsPrint Story | Email Story
WILLIAMSTOWN - Mount Greylock Regional High School got a double dose of good news on Tuesday night as Williams College said it would launch a more a formal partnership with the high school and news that the school had been ranked among the top 500 in nation. Williams' plan to open a center at the school had been in serious talks for several months, said Superintendent William Travis on Wednesday. The college will assume the costs of the program. "I really think it's the best thing happening in education in Berkshire County," said Travis. "Grants can come and go, but the center won't be subject to that. Grant-funded programs can just fade away." Kaatje White will coordinate the educational collaborations that already exist between the school and the college, develop new ones, and ensure that center activities focus on enhancing the school's mission. White has worked on a number of collaborations between the schools and is co-founder of Where'd You Learn That?! and co-director of an afterschool program taught mostly by Williams students at the elementary school.
Center's Guiding Principles
  • Benefit all students at the school.
  • Focus on core academic skills.
  • Accent the excitement of teaching.
  • Engage all relevant school faculty.
  • Engage as many college students, faculty and staff as possible.
  • Start by coordinating current efforts but with an eye to growing them.
  • Result in no financial burden on the school.
"Williams students, faculty and staff are already involved in a number of ways at the school," said college President Morton O. Schapiro in a press release. "But there's potential for so much more. Through this center we aim to work more closely with Mount Greylock faculty to realize this fuller potential, to the benefit of both institutions." Travis said the new Williams center won't exclude programs in the works with the two public colleges. Berkshire Community College has provided the high school with Accuplacer software, used to place incoming freshmen in math and English courses. Juniors will be taking the test next week. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is working with faculty on two math courses for sophomore and junior that could also provide them with college credit. The Williams center was one of the recommendations of the school district's Long-Range Financial Planning Subcommittee, established nearly two years ago and charged with finding ways to stabilize the district's fragile finances and strengthen its academic opportunities. Travis said there was a push to get the center up and running within this academic year after the committee's preliminary final report. The announcement of the center was made after the panel submitted its "final, final report" on Tuesday. The committee was chaired by James Kolesar, the college's public affairs director and assistant to Shapiro. "Since Mount Greylock's educational quality and finances are so intertwined," the report said, "the greatest potential advance for the school may be the development of a much stronger relationship than already exists with the educational powerhouse that is Williams." Travis said he felt several factors influenced the college leaders in making their decision. First, the school had been projecting a decrease of 20 students for this year, but only dropped by two. He attributed that to parents keeping their children at Mount Greylock because it had not sacrificed teachers in its efforts to reduce costs. Second, the school district had proven it could contain costs within the Selectmen's targeted budget after several years of struggling with overrides. Both spoke to the district's seriousness in maintaining academics and fiscal responsibility. The school makes use of several college facilities, including for science labs and athletics, and the college passes on to the school equipment it no longer uses, such as computers. School science faculty work with college faculty in the summer to prepare labs for school courses and Mount Greylock students are eligible to take part in science research at the college in the summer. There are also tutoring programs with Williams students and qualifying seniors can one free course each at Williams. As part of the college's program of Olmsted Awards, Moun Greylock each year receives $5,000 to grant faculty for professional or curricular development. Williams has also donated funding for various purchases adn programs. "A Williams College Center at Mount Greylock is potentially the most significant educational enhancement the district has received," said Travis in a statement. "Unlike a grant, which has a fixed purpose and funding cycle, the center's guiding principles will help bolster our teachers' instructional strengths, expose our students to new intellectual opportunities, and enhance the resources needed to help all our students meet high, rigorous goals." The committee also recommended sealing or leasing district land on Route 7 and Green River Road, sharing classroom space and programs with McCann Technical School, establishing a center for autistic students and more consolidation with other local schools. The school was listed among the top 500 schools in the nation last week by U.S. News and World Report. The weekly magazine, famous for its annual college rankings (which named Williams as the top liberal arts school for 2008 - and its nemesis, Amherst, as No. 2) awarded Mount Greylock a silver medal, one of 24 awarded in Massachusetts. Five other schools received gold and 14, bronze. The magazine based its rankings how well students did on state tests, how well disadvantaged students were educated and whether the school provided college-level coursework. It analyzed public information from nearly 19,000 schools nationwide. Travis said the school district's low poverty level may have played a role, but Mount Greylock students have performed well on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests and a large number of students take Advanced Placement courses. The magazine found more than half of the student body participated in AP, taking an average of three tests with a pass rate of nearly 80 percent. This is the second time in six months the school has been cited in a national magazine. Earlier this year, Newsweek ranked Mount Greylock 413 out of 1,300 schools. But in that case, the school did a self-evaluation that it submitted to Newsweek, as did the other schools in the list. "This came completely out of left field," said Travis. "We had no idea." Graphic by www.designedtoat.com
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State Releases Guidelines for Childcare, Starts Allowing Family Visits to Nursing Homes

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
BOSTON — Child care is going to look different as facilities begin to reopen in the second phase of the commonwealth's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but one element of elder care will start getting back to normal under guidelines released on Tuesday.
 
Commissioner of Early Education and Care Samantha Aigner-Treworgy and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders joined Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday at his daily press availability.
 
Aigner-Treworgy laid out a number of the guidelines on child-care programs that were released on Monday.
 
Sudders explained the rules that will let assisted living facilities to start allowing family members to visit their loved ones — outdoors and while observing the social distancing rules that mark the rest of life in the commonwealth during the pandemic.
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