Clarksburg Seeks New Principal, Changes School Choice Policy

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The School Committee voted to change the policy for school choice.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg School will be looking for a new principal this summer.

Principal Linda Reardon will retire in September after more than four years in the post. She had submitted her intention to retire at the last School Committee, said Superintendent Jonathan Lev on Thursday.

"It is definitely sadness for all of us that you will not be with us very long," he said at the committee's Thursay meeting. "You will be very difficult to replace."

Reardon, who is 64, said she has loved teaching for 24 years, but the changing responsibilities of a principal's job and a desire to start working on her "bucket list," among other considerations, led to her decision.

"It was a difficult decision to make," she said.

Reardon had been teaching fourth grade at Sullivan Elementary School in North Adams for more than a decade when she was tapped as principal of the city's Brayton School in 2006. She came to Clarksburg four years later. She also taught in Adams and Stamford, Vt.

Lev said a search committee would be put together to begin seeking a new leader for the 200-student, K-8 school.

The School Committee also discussed the school budget for fiscal 2015 and concerns that it may not be acceptable to the town's Finance Committee.  

The total budget of $2,472,954 is up 2 percent, or about $48,000, over this year.  Lev reported to the committee that it was presented to the Finance Committee last Tuesday.
"Although they were surprised that it was only 2 percent ... they did not vote to recommend the budget as presented to them and I've been asked to attend next Tuesday's Finance Committee," he told the School Committee. "I think there will be some discussion of lowering this budget.   

"Obviously that concerns me because I think we did an excellent job of trying to be very reasonable with this 2 percent raise with everything going on."

The largest increases were in insurance (up 6.6 percent) and contracted salary raises.

"The other problem is our grants are decreasing," said Reardon. "So as the expenses go up and the grants decrease, it creates a compounded problem."

The fiscal 2015 budget is about $100,000 over miminum school spending, or the amount provided by the state and the town not counting grants or other revenue sources.

Lev said only 30 towns are operating schools at minimum spending, according to information he received from the Department of Education. About 90 percent of towns spend more than the minimum, averaging about 17 percent over.

"If they're asking for $50,000 to $100,000 [in cuts], we're looking at making some very serious decisions," he said. Those cuts would affect staffing and programs, such as the $50,000 budgeted to split the first grade — a spillover from splitting this year's large kindergarten class.

"I think it's a pretty solid budget," Lev said, adding he expected to discuss it again with the committee after Tuesday's finance meeting.

The committee also spent some time debating changes in the school choice policy. The school currently has 22 open school-choice slots but as policy has automatically taken in siblings of school-choice children already enrolled.

Several teachers said the policy could affect "high needs" classrooms by automatically enrolling children who do not live the town. Chairman Jeffrey Levanos said he didn't like the idea of splitting up families by only accepting some children.

"It might be more of a deterrent for parents considering school choice by not accepting siblings," he said. "My reasoning is if they moved to town you'd have to accept them anyways."

Committee member John Solari disagreed, saying it was about having control over enrollment numbers.

"I don't know every year we'll fill every slot, but i don't think it will devastate the school choice," said Debra Rosselli, director of special education. "It's really about protecting the integrity to the group you have in your room."

Solari and Committee member Patricia Prenguber voted to change the policy to give siblings first consideration but not automatic enrollment; Levanos voted against. The change will not affect those students already in enrolled in through school choice.

Lev also announced that Rowe had voted to join the North Berkshire School Union 43. Its joining will reduce some of the percentages that Clarksburg pays for centralized services, although Lev had said at a previous meeting more staff might be required to accommodate the addition of the Rowe to Clarksburg, Florida and Savoy.

The School Union 43 committee met immediately after the School Committee and voted to dissolve the current agreement and institute a new one that included Rowe.

Tags: fiscal 2015,   school budget,   school choice,   school union,   

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Clarksburg Officials Feel More Discussion Needed on Merger

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Interstate Merger Committee has hired Public Consulting Group to lead it through the next steps toward a merger between Clarksburg and Stamford (Vt.) Schools. 
However, the Clarksburg contingent feels more discussion is needed on the merits of a merger between the two small elementary schools. 
Superintendent John Franzoni filled the School Committee in last week about the selection of PCG, which had done the initial study of the schools that was presented to the towns. Based on that research, the adjoining towns both voted to continue the process to determine how such a merger would work and what legal processes would be necessary. 
There had been only two bids for the request for proposals for a coordinator to develop a plan of action and liaison with state and federal officials. The second was the local Berkshire Educational Consulting Group, lead by Howard "Jake" Eberwein III and William Ballen, longtime educators and administrators in the region. 
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