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Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas and Vincienza Alicandri, this year's recipient of the Superintendent's Award.
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Alicandri with friends and family.

Drury High Senior Presented With Superintendent's Award

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Alicandri with Mayor Thomas Bernard, left, Drury Principal Timothy Callahan and her family.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas remembers the first time she met senior Vincienza Alicandri.
It was a barbecue at Hancock Shaker Village and they chanced to sit down next to each other.
"I then got schooled on exactly what needed to happen to promote our district and to promote Drury High School," she said. "By the end of our dinner, we had decided that Vincienza would be working on an internship of helping us to develop materials that we will be able to use in our future for recruitment purposes."
Alicandri's motivation, eagerness to accept challenges and high academic standards were recognized on Wednesday when she was presented with the Certificate of Academic Excellence. She and her family attended the presentation.
The award is made through the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents to the student who has the highest academic ranks and who has distinguished his or her self in the pursuit of academic excellence. 
Malkas says this annual School Committee meeting is the best one of the year because she gets to present the certificate and acknowledge the achievements of the district's best student. 
Alicandri, the daughter of Linh Brown, has taken eight Advanced Placement courses in addition to her internship with the community outreach coordinator. She also is editor of the yearbook, a student ambassador and a founding member of the after-school homework help club.
Outside of school, Alicandri is also a mentor with 4-H, a volunteer with the Berkshire Food Project, an ambassador for the Berkshire Mountains Faerie Festival and has been selected to participate in the 1Berkshire Leadership program.
Malkas said the Drury senior takes advantage of every opportunity that comes her way and goes far and above what is expected. She recently was selected for the Chang Chavkin Scholarship, which offers up to $15,000 a year toward a four-year college. She is considering either Barnard or Williams College and wants to major in psychology. 
"This is a young lady who I can only say I look forward to seeing where you go," Malkas said. "So please, whatever you're doing make sure you stay in touch with the superintendent's office." 
In other business, Malkas also reported on the completion of hte district's self assessment for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
"Our staff worked tirelessly in preparation for the review," she told the committee. "They appreciated we were very honest in the self-assessment. [The DESE representative] would be very curious to watch North Adams Public Schools over the next few years because he felt we were entering into an opportunity for growth."
The self-assessment critically examined governance and leadership; district improvement plans and evaluations; curriculum and instruction; data assessment and implementation; student support; human resources and professional development; and financial and asset management. Each indicator was scored as "very well, well, somewhat well and not well at all" with examples of how the school district is addressing each. 
The evaluation team rated the district as well or somewhat well in categories and offered paths to overcome some of the challenges it sees.
"On reflection of the standards and indicators and through discussion of ratings, the district could best be described as initiating and implementing many of effective practices identified," the assessment reads, pointing for example to hires in support services and curriculum development over the past few years. "The work is ongoing and we are only beginning to gain momentum toward achieving our goals."
The school district has also been addressing its high-needs population by developing programs addressing learning and behavioral needs and implementing nutrition and food-scarcity programs like Breakfast in the Classroom, supper programs and free lunch. It's also pursuing more outside revenue through grant opportunities and using data to more closely inform student learning needs. 
The superintendent credited the work of the leadership team on the self-assessment.  
"It was because of the efforts of the people behind me we were able to get this done," she said, referring to the school principals and administrators seated along the wall.
She anticipated the first draft would come back from DESE for review in four or five months. That could only be corrected for factual information before the report could be uploaded.
Mayor Thomas Bernard, chairman of the School Committee, also thanked Central Office and leadership for getting all the documentation ready.
"The benefit does not come from the report although that helps, but from the self-reflection," he said. "We know there's going to be findings because we identified ourselves where we need to improve."
The committee also accepted a donation of $413 from St. John's Episcopal Church of Williamstown to Brayton School. In a communique to the committee, Principal Carolyn Wallace wrote that the parish has in the past donated backpacks and supplies for pupils, which has been appreciated. This particular amount will go toward items and supplies the children might need, such as clothes or toiletries. 

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Mural Planned for Ashland Street Apartments in North Adams

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Housing Authority approved a mural project that will transform one end the Ashland Park apartments, more commonly known as the high-rise.
Housing Authority Executive Director Jennifer Hohn said the authority voted Monday to allow the painting of a mural on the north side of the eight-story building.
"I am extremely excited for this extraordinary opportunity for the North Adams Housing Authority to be part of this piece," Hohn said. "This will add even more intriguing art opportunities for tourists coming to Mass MoCA or other local museums."
The mural is part of the Ashland Street Initiative, a project to enhance and beautify the area between downtown North Adams and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
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