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Jennifer Macksey, currently vice president of administration and finance at Southern Vermont College, was offered the post of school business administrator for Northern Berkshire School Union.

Northern Berkshire School Union Offers Business Post to SVC Veep

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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David Fierro is interviewed Thursday as a finalist for the NBSU post. 
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — A former treasurer for the city of North Adams has been offered the post of business administrator for the Northern Berkshire School Union. 
 
Jennifer Macksey of North Adams has accepted the position, pending negotiations, Superintendent of Schools John Franzoni said Friday. 
 
Macksey was one of three finalists for the position who were interviewed on Thursday evening at Clarksburg School. Nine members of the School Committee representing the union's five towns spent nearly 2 1/2 hours interviewing the three candidates and debating their choice, finally voting 7-2 to offer the post to Macksey. 
 
Also interviewed were David Fierro Jr., currently auditor for the city of North Adams, and Peter Roche of Southboro, the lone applicant to already be certified as a school business administrator. 
 
Macksey and Fierro were the preferred candidates from the start. Roche had a very lengthy resume of his work in the public, educational and private sector in the eastern end of the state and said he would accept the salary listed of $65,000. However, he also informed the committee at the start of his interview that while he was very interested in NBSU, he was "looking at a lot of other positions."
 
Fierro, of Stamford, Vt., has been the city's auditor since 2007 and has also held the posts of part-time town accountant in Clarksburg, elected treasurer in Stamford, and part time in Monroe. He holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. 
 
"I'm interested in this position, I'm looking at it as perhaps a capstone on my career," Fierro said, and would see himself still there in five years and looking to retire five years after that. 
 
He said he had a lot of experience in administering grants but not so much in writing them. However, he pointed to his work with the city's financial team in growing North Adams' reserves significantly and evaluating the budget to find efficiencies in materials and labor. 
 
"That's probably one of my greatest feats," he said. "We went from an A-minus with a negative outlook from Standard & Poor's to an A with a positive outlook in those 10 years."
 
Fierro said he also oversaw the borrowing and tracking of costs for the $30 million Colegrove Park Elementary School project and reporting to the state. He also oversees the payments to the city's more than 500 employees and retirees. 
 
"Debits are debits and credits are credits in accounting," he said, assuring the committee he was up to the task of handling the separate town school budgets for Clarksburg, Florida, Monroe, Rowe and Savoy. 
 
Macksey had been treasurer for the city from 2000 to 2008 and its director of finance/procurement officer for five years before that. She then did a stint as director of student accounts at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and taught several courses. She holds bachelors of science in both accounting and business administration and a master of science in higher educational administration.
 
Her position as vice president of administration and finance at Southern Vermont College will end when the Bennington school closes in the spring. She said she was interested in Clarksburg because she wanted to stay local and to continue to work in education.
 
Macksey said finance in education was a little different than municipal and though she's spent the last years in higher education, she'd worked in the past with the North Adams School Department. 
 
"My position was somewhat of a liaison between City Hall and the School Department before they created the school administrator position," she said. "So I've done a lot of things with the School Department from purchasing to settling contracts to benefit administration to grant management.  
 
"I feel I bring a skill set that you're all looking for." 
 
Macksey said she has written grants working with the technical data that has been provided to her to "finesse the narrative" but most of her experience has been oversight. 
 
"I've had good local careers so when I drive down Main Street and see trees or I go to Drury High School and see the renovation project," she said. "I'm always proud of those accomplishments."
 
Both Macksey and Fierro said they would be committed to completing the coursework required to be certified as school business administrators. 
 
"I had them both as students, and they're great," said Clarksburg School Committee Chairwoman Patricia Prenguber. "They're both smart, intelligent. They have integrity, they're very cool people and it's going to be difficult to make that decision."
 
The committee wanted someone who could handle the day-to-day financial affairs at the district and the five school budgets, to be able to take some of the work of grant writing and research off the superintendent's plate and help with the management of several facilities projects that were coming up.  
 
"One of the things that I had mentioned when it was brought back to a full-time position ... was that hopefully, to allow for this position to advocate and to be able to do more looking for grants," Franzoni said. "We talked about this with Carrie's situation being split between six different towns basically and two different entities, there's not time to do that."
 
Carrie Burnett, who had been the school union's business administrator for seven years, was hired full time by the North Adams Public Schools beginning July 1. She had spent the past year working for both educational entities through a shared services agreement. 
 

Peter Roche of Southboro had a lengthy resume but also told the committee he had applied to other positions. 
The committee went into a brief executive session to discuss a personal matter related to one of candidates. When the members came, the discussion centered on the two local candidates. The consensus was both were professional, had interviewed very well and appeared to have similar experience and competence.
 
"I know them both, I know they're both very good at their positions, I have respect and admiration for both of them. They're both successful at what they do," Franzoni said. "I don't have any issue with either one of them ... I think they're both very competent at what they do."
 
Carla Davis-Little of Monroe advocated on behalf of Fierro, saying he had been fantastic as treasurer for the little town. But others were worried about a conflict of interest; Franzoni said representing the finances of the town and the school would upset the checks and balances. Committee thought if he was chosen, he would have to give up Monroe. 
 
However, the decision appeared to tip toward Macksey because of her background in education and what seemed to some as more experience with grant writing. 
 
"I think both Jennifer and Dave interviewed fantastic," said Alana Boyd of the Savoy School Committee. "But I think Jennifer is the most qualified."
 
Both had changed their monetary requirements since their initial screening interviews, with Fierro going up and Macksey coming down, to where they were about even. Judy Oleson of Florida pushed the committee to increase the cap on the salary. The committee also agreed to pay for the cost of certification but would check with its attorney to see if that could be linked to a contracted period of service. 

Tags: business manager,   candidate interviews,   NBSU,   

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Clarksburg Property Owners Will Feel Impact of Debt Exclusion

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Homeowners will see their property tax rise an average of $350 in fiscal 2020.
 
The Select Board on Wednesday approved a single tax rate of $17.89 per $1,000 valuation, up nearly $2 over last year's rate of $15.99.
 
The 11 percent jump in the tax rate is largely because of the $1 million borrowing approved at town meeting in May. The borrowing to address a number of capital projects is excluded from Proposition 2 1/2 but the tax impact will only last five years.
 
Assessor Ross Vivori has calculated that the average tax bill will rise $354.53 based on a comparison of last year's and this year's tax rate and house values. The value of the average single-family home increased slightly from $166,606.54 to $168,635.94, a difference of about $2,000. 
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