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Superintendent Barbara Malkas at the Memorial Day ceremony at Brayton School. Malkas signed a second three-year contract with the school district.

North Adams School Committee Renews Contract With Superintendent

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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MASC District VI Chairwoman Andrea Wadsworth of Lee talks with the School Committee on Tuesday about upcoming events. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday signed a new three-year contract with Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas. 
 
Malkas was hired three years ago in May to take over the public school district after the retirement of longtime administrator James Montepare. 
 
There was little discussion as the committee voted to approve the contract negotiated in executive session. The administrative letter of employment states Malkas will be paid a salary of $141,166 beginning July 1 and $143,283 in the second dependent on her performance review. The third year will be $145,433, also dependent upon further negotiation and performance review. 
 
Malkas also received an increase in the city's contribution to her annuity plan and an increase of $1,500 for professional conferences — up to $6,000 a year — with the understanding this also covers in part members of her leadership team. 
 
The committee is expected to have further discussion on Malkas' performance when she is evaluated on June 18. The superintendent cautioned that the committee members would have a massive document in a zip folder waiting in their emails containing the rubrics for evaluation, a progress report using state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data and containing her own reflections and self-assessment.
 
"It's very interesting to me. Two things that came up to me as I did this particular document: One is it's good that that it kind of forces a self reflection ... what did I accomplish, what still needs to be worked on," she said. "The second thought I had was that with the comprehensive depth and breadth of these rubrics, there's always room for improvement. 
 
"And I will point that out. Because as I was doing this, I kind of identify where I would like to go with my goals for next year."
 
The goals for the year were broadly based in student learning, performance practice (community engagement), district improvement and the district self-assessment. 
 
Malkas pointed to some of the areas in her performance goals where she felt there had been significant improvement, including the professional practice goal, family outreach and community communication, and deepening the use of data in student learning goals. 
 
The instructional, district and data leadership teams are using information, she said, toward the development of standards and looking critically at instructional processes.
 
"There still opportunities for improvement there," Malkas said. "I think adding the additional time for collaboration in the teachers contract at their request was very powerful."
 
The department has also hosted training for Berkshire County educators on an online calibration tool for evaluators offered through DESE. 
 
"It really became very evident that it has great power for us, and getting not just the evaluators, but also the people who are evaluated to use this tool as a means of having very meaningful conversations about what we're seeing and what rigorous instruction looks like," Malkas said, adding she sees room for improvement in these areas. 
 
The district team and the School Committee will be meeting with a representative next week from DESE to discuss the 72-page completed site review and self-assessment report.
 
For management goals, she pointed to relocating Central Office to City Hall, plans for a centralized registration there and the development of a new statement of interest for Greylock Elementary School that was submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Collaboration with other districts can be seen in the addition of two more communities in the Northern Berkshire Academy special education program and the department's Food Service agreements with Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School and Emma Miller Elementary School in Savoy. 
 
For community and family, she noted the school district's recognition by the state's Safe Routes to School program, the development of a bicycle program, several life skills programs and partnerships with local agencies such as the Berkshire United Way and Child Care of the Berkshires.
 
"We have looked at two models for setting clear expectations and two-way communication with families," Malkas said but added that both had related costs. "One we're looking at how do we utilize our current system, or for the same amount of funds get a new system that allows us to develop a more interactive district website. 
 
"And then secondly, we're looking at what are the most effective means for communication with families."
 
The district is also recruiting parents and guardians for a family leadership team outside of the usual PTA or school council that would provide a place for topics to be addressed and that members wouldn't necessary have to attend every meeting.  
 
Malkas said the principals are in charge of their buildings and she works with them to address parent concerns. While the rubric goal calls for "consensus," the superintendent said that's not always possible and that collaboration is probably a better word. 
 
"They do try to work with families to resolve conflicts so that families feel heard but there's not always an opportunity to give them what they need or want," she said. "But we do work very diligently to make decisions in the best interest of the students."
 
The committee also reviewed the outline of the district's action plan that sets out goals, benchmarks, dates those are due and who is responsibility for implementing them. 
 
"We really wanted to adopt what will be very audacious goals for our district," Malkas said. "But also align them with the accountability measures. So that way, we're actually moving the needle on our accountability outcomes."
 
Those goals are that 80 percent of students will meet or exceed reading comprehension expectations by the end of Grade 3; 50 percent will meet or exceed written expression expectations by the end of Grade 4; 50 percent will meet or exceed expectations for algebra readiness by the end of Grade 7; reduce chronic absenteeism by 5 percent annually and increase engagement annually by 2 percent. 
 
Malkas said it may take several years to reach some of these goals. Some will require engagement with families, such as chronic absenteeism. That's measured at missing 18 days out of 180 but some students are out more than that for a wide variety of reasons and across grades. 
 
"We do have some students who are missing as many as 29-35 days a year, which obviously impacts their educational growth," she said. "So this is something we want to be working on. And that will be part of our family engagement, but also developing our awareness of how to become a more trauma informed community." 
 
The school improvement plans for Greylock and Brayton and turnaround plans for Colegrove Park Elementary and Drury High School will be presented in the fall once they have been reviewed and approved by DESE.
 
In other business: 
 
The committee heard from Andrea Wadsworth, chairman of the Lee School Committee and of Massachusetts Association of School Committee Division VI.
 
Wadsworth said she was touching base with school committees in Berkshire County and looking for feedback on legislative resolutions including the revising of the Chapter 70 education funding formula and how it specifically will affect districts like the Berkshires that are experiencing declining enrollment. 
 
"Unless we start having an influx of people with kids, that's something we need to address," she said. "And the formula right now is not addressing that."
 
• The committee accepted a gift of $2,710 from the family and friends of the late Kija Bolton, a special education teacher at Brayton teacher who died in March at age 52. The gift will allow the creation of a "Kija's Corner" in the school library through the purchase of books, seating, storage and decorative items.
 
• The committee accepted a gift of $151 from Greylock Federal Credit Union that was used to purchase the tent for the E3 Academy's Escape the Factory Room service learning project. 
 
• The committee accepted a gift of $1,000 for the 21st Century Afterschool Program. The contributor has had three children enrolled in the after-school program as well as the summer science camp. 
 
• The committee voted to accept the meeting schedule for the next school year that will include two meetings in October to make up for not having a meeting on election day, when the schools are closed for a professional development day. 
 
• The committee accepted a social media policy that regulates the posting of media on district platforms, who can post and how parents can opt out. 
 

Tags: contracts,   DESE,   gift,   school improvement,   superintendent,   

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The national political picture in these challenging times are characterized by embattled partisans filled with vitriol and empty rhetoric losing their voices in the echo chamber of social media and 24-hour news cycles. It is in this climate that gives me pause to reflect on the notion that late speaker of the House, Massachusetts' own Tip O'Neil, stated: "all politics is local." I appreciate the fact that North Adams has a mayor who epitomizes civility, level-headedness, and competency.

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