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Mount Greylock School District Developing Strategic Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District has identified five key goals to address in the district's first strategic plan since it fully regionalized to include its two elementary schools in November 2017.
 
Superintendent Kimberley Grady laid out the goals and discussed some of the steps the district can take to address them at last week's special meeting of the School Committee.
 
Grady said the plan is being developed by a committee of 15 to 20 people representing the three schools' principals, two members of the School Committee, staff and community members.
 
"It's important for us to really focus on our goals and objectives so it would better define our mission," Grady said.
 
The first goal is one familiar to past committee discussions of needs at Lanesborough Elementary, Williamstown Elementary and Mount Greylock: addressing social and emotional learning.
 
"We looked at all our data from surveys and and identified areas of concern," Grady said. "Social and emotional learning is a big area of concern for us in the schools and in the community."
 
In January, the strategic planning group conducted a districtwide survey of families and staff to determine what areas the district needs to address.
 
Grady said Mount Greylock has implemented the Botvin Life Skills curricula in all three schools, and at Williamstown has supplemented that recently with the Choose to be Nice program.
 
The schools also have partnerships with groups ranging from the Brien Center mental health agency to the Elizabeth Freeman Center to the Berkshire County district attorney's office to bring specialists in to talk to students, faculty and staff.
 
Two other goals identified by the strategic plan committee relate to the concept of social and emotional learning: increasing a sense of inclusion and diversity at the schools and working to improve the schools climate and culture.
 
The planning group also identified a need for the district to do a better informing families and the wider community about what is happening at the schools.
 
"We talked about where our shortfalls are and how to work to improve [public relations]," Grady said. "The common thread [in surveys was], ‘We didn't know these things were going on at the schools.' "
 
Grady said the group talked about more focused communications, including restructuring the weekly newsletters that principals in each of the schools email to families. It also considered doing more outreach to get parents involved in groups like the schools' parent teacher organizations.
 
One of the goals also dealt with preventing substance abuse throughout the district.
 
"Research out there shows that conversations about vaping and substance abuse should be brought down to the elementary schools as early as grade 3," Grady said.
 
After giving the committee a preliminary look at the strategic plan in progress, Grady said the full three- to five-year plan, with benchmarks, will be developed by the planning committee in hopes of bringing a full plan to the School Committee later this year.
 
In the meantime, the district is taking steps to address one of the concerns it heard during the strategic planning survey by creating a Technology Committee for the region, Grady said.
 
"Technology should never replace good instruction," said Eileen Belastock, the district's director of academic technology and a member of the newly formed committee. "Technology should be used in conjunction with education when it engages students, enhances students and extends their learning.
 
"That is really what has been going on in all three schools."
 
Belastock talked about how technology, including the district's 1-to-1 Chromebook initiative, has helped create personalized learning experiences and how teachers are implementing Google Classroom software.
 
She and Grady also talked about efforts in all three schools to help keep students safe online, including outreach to families to make them aware of online dangers -- particularly as children access the internet at younger and younger ages.
 
In other business on Wednesday, Mount Greylock Principal Mary MacDonald announced the speakers for the June 8 graduation ceremony; the faculty selected Clare Sheedy, and the senior class chose Adam Cohen. MacDonald also shared a list of the colleges and programs to which members of Mount Greylock's senior class have been accepted, a list that includes Harvard and Yale.
 
And the School Committee by a 5-0 vote made an amendment to the district's 2019-20 school calendar, moving the start of the kindergarten programs at LES and WES to Thursday, Sept. 5. This was in a response to a request from the teachers at WES, who asked that the committee recognize past practice at the school and start kindergarten after pupils return in grades 1 through 6 in order to give families a chance to acquaint themselves with the school before the little ones have their first day of school.
 
Classes for the rest of the students in Grades 1 through 12 remains Tuesday, Sept. 3, as previously decided by the committee.

Tags: MGRSD,   strategic plan,   

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Completion of Lafayette Trail Celebrated in Hancock

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff

Hancock officials celebrate the designation recognizing the role the town had in history.
HANCOCK, Mass. — During the American Revolution, famed French general the Marquis de Lafayette played a significant role as an ally of the rebellious colonies.
 
So much so that President James Monroe invited him on a farewell tour of the nation in 1824, celebrating the country's 50th birthday.
 
Lafayette traveled all 24 of the United States, including going directly across the Berkshires on his way to Boston.
 
Now, the Berkshires have recognized his contributions by designating the trail he took from Hancock to Hinsdale on his way back Boston with an official designation as the Lafayette Trail.
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