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Ellen Sutherland with her going away gifts at Tuesday's School Committee meeting. Sutherland is retiring after 25 years with the school system.
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Sutherland poses with current and former committee members and the two superintendents she worked under.

North Adams Schools Say Goodbye to Longtime Administrative Assistant

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Ellen Sutherland, right, delivering homemade cupcakes in December for a Northern Berkshire United Way donation. She has been a driving force behind the district's donations and was honored last spring for her efforts. 

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee said goodbye to longtime administrative assistant Ellen Sutherland, who is to retire.

At the last regularly scheduled meeting of the school year Tuesday, officials gave Sutherland a proper send-off after almost 25 years of service to the district.

"It has really been my privilege to work here but it is time to go," Sutherland said.

Mayor and Chairman of the School Committee Thomas Bernard told Sutherland that she has made an impact on many in the district and community.

"Three School Committee chairs, two superintendents and I won't venture how many School Committee members, how many teachers, faculty, staff and students you have been a positive force for over time," he said.

Some of those former committee members were there. Larry Taft, and John Hockridge and Mark Moulton, who both left last year, attended the meeting to wish Sutherland their best.

"Your work ethic your skill set is second to none and it is not just what goes on in this office it is your heart that you give out to the community," Moulton said. "The entire community has benefited from having you in this position we are all going to miss you."

"You made us look good in spite of ourselves and kept us out of the news headlines by making sure we didn't violate any open meeting laws," Hockridge said. "You are extremely dedicated and extremely professional, and you did all of your work without the expectation of public acknowledgment and I am glad you are getting it tonight."

Committee Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger recited a poem to Sutherland and noted how important she was to the district.

"We have big shoes to fill … and Ellen really goes above and beyond," she said. "She sends notes to those who may not be feeling well or battling something, she sends flowers, gift cards and she really has that personal touch. She is a face of the school district and she has been for so long."

Former Superintendent James Montepare also attended and said when Sutherland was first hired they were still using typewriters. He added that she held a very important position, especially to the superintendent, and noted that even in his retirement he misses her guidance.

"There are two job titles in the district that people need to know in order to survive: one is the custodian …and the other is the administrative assistant," he said. "Everything goes through this office and Ellen is that person, that buffer. It is a scary thing to have someone like Ellen leave who has done the job with such ease."

Current Superintendent Barbara Malkas emotionally relayed to Sutherland that she was critical in her transition to head administrator of the school district.   

"I thanked her for helping me successfully transition to the superintendent of this district," she said. "So thank you."

School Committee member and retired teacher James Holmes left Sutherland with a message from the other side.

"I can only say this, every day is Saturday," Holmes said.  

Malkas presented the School Committee with an updated job description and noted the position has already been posted.

Twenty applications have been submitted to date.

She asked for volunteers from the School Committee to help her sift through the applications and make recommendations for final interviews.

The goal is to have someone in the position for July 1. 

Tags: NAPS,   retirement,   

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Drury Graduate to Direct Horror Film in North Adams

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Drury High School graduate is hoping to bring his dream — or, more appropriately, his nightmare — to film life. 

The horror film "The Uncredited," written by Nick Burchard, will be filmed in North Adams this spring, pending fundraising and the COVID-19 pandemic. Burchard's Tiny Viking Productions is making the film in conjunction with Sancha Spiller and Kasey Rae of Skylah Productions of New York City.

"I grew up in the area, and I've always appreciated the historical places, in particular the Hoosac Tunnel, Mohawk Theater, and the old mills," Burchard said. "I think North Adams has a very unique setting, with the mountains surrounding the city and of course, all the steeples.

"The Uncredited" follows a young woman who appears in an independent film. While watching it, her friends notice something disturbing in the background of her scene. This leads to rumors and distrust in even the closest group of friends.
"My goal is to make great characters, and even though it's a spooky thriller the characters in it are just friends sitting down to watch a movie together," Burchard said. "They crack jokes, roast each other, and are all collectively trying to have a good time … but that juxtaposed with the realization that one of them might be hiding something is what creates the thriller edge to this. I think it's really fun."
Spiller added that the film does not rely on horror tropes such as jump scares. She said the screenplay is character-driven.
"It showcases our greatest fear of not knowing the people around us as well as we think," she said. "It makes us second guess who we trust and remember that just being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have horrifying consequences."
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