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The McCann School Committee holds its last meeting before the beginning of the school year.

McCann Ready to Start New School Year With a Few Changes

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The McCann School Committee met Thursday night in North Adams for what will be the last meeting of the year before students report in a week.
 
The meeting was also the last for Aaron Dean who will be taking over as superintendent of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
 
"He's a remarkable young man who has given his all to this committee, he has the ability to handle many issues at once," said Superintendent James Brosnan. "Thoughtful. Perceptive. That's probably a reason why [he was hired], he was so good here that the selection committee said 'Hey, he's our guy.' ...
 
"He'll be missed on a personal and professional level. I look forward to working with him as a colleague."
 
As Dean begins his career as top administrator, Brosnan was praised by the committee for two plus decades of service to the district in his recent evaluation.
 
Dean, who led the project, was first to chime in. "Our continued performance in SkillsUSA and MCAS has made us a prominent program wherever we go throughout the country," he said, in support of Brosnan. "We've also been steady all along in enrollment, which is a hard thing to do in today's competitive environment."
 
Former principal and current Chairman Gary Rivers noted Brosnan's trust in his staff. "He gives his administrative team a lot of latitude," he said. "Having worked with Jim for 25 years. I can honestly say it's been a pleasure."
 
The survey evaluated all aspects of the job. Not only academic and leadership performance but financial issues and the ability to engage the community through parent interaction. 
 
Dean finished the report by noting "Exemplary was a nearly unanimous rating."
 
Principal Justin Kratz began his report by giving an update on the Standards Based Grading (SBG) system that will be instituted as a pilot program for the 2020 incoming class.
 
"We've been preparing over the course of the summer, I've been meeting with a teacher's group, preparing materials in support for our teachers when they come in next week," Kratz said. "We have a good chunk of our professional development time on those days devoted toward transitioning our freshmen curriculum maps to freshmen SBG maps."
 
SBG is viewed as a more comprehensive assessment of a student's mastery of a particular subject and breaks down subject matter into smaller "learning targets." Where a student would receive a one line grade (A,B,C,etc.) in the past, they would now be judged using a 1-4 scale on several different goals within the semester. 
 
Kratz reached out to the admissions office at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts for help communicating to parents that "This is nothing scary." He noted that the college will be sending representatives to Freshman Parent night next spring to help explain the change in philosophy.
 
Final enrollment numbers were not available but Kratz said, "We're optimistic it's going to be a healthy number again this year." 
 
There will soon be three new machines at McCann thanks in part to the Governor's Skills Capital Grant. McCann received $150,000 this year from the program Gov. Charlie Baker initiated in 2015. The program is aimed at providing the most up-to-date training equipment to give students an advantage when entering the workforce.
 
"We want to be up to manufacturing industry standards, especially here in Berkshire County," said Kratz. "It's pretty amazing to see a fifteen or sixteen year old kid running a $100,000 piece of equipment that is the same thing they are using in the real world."
 
The new machines are a Waterjet Machining Center, CNC (Computer Numeric Control) Plasma Cutting Machine, and CNC Vertical Band Saw. All but the plasma cutter were awarded to the low bidder as Brosnan felt the low bid did not meet the specs the school needed. 
 
When it was noted that there was still some construction going on around the 57-year-old school, Brosnan was quick to say, "We will have everything put back together and shined up" for when the students come back.
 
McCann starts the 2019-20 school year next week with teachers reporting Monday and students on Thursday. 
 

Tags: back to school,   evaluation,   McCann,   superintendent,   

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North Adams Committee Looks for Legal Clarification on Pillar Art

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

The General Government Committee, made up this term of Chairwoman Lisa Blackmer, Jessica Sweeney and Wayne Wilkinson, will report back to the council.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee will be requesting the city solicitor's opinion on how a federal arts law applies to the so-called pillar art that was painted over three years ago.
 
 "We're sending it to the lawyer and my thought is let's let them do the heavy work first before we get too much in the weeds," said committee Chairwoman Lisa Blackmer.
 
Blackmer said her concern mainly was if or how the Visual Artists Rights Act would come into play. The 1990 act requires owners of the property on which the work is located to give artists at least 90 days notice that it will be removed. But it also only covers limited and original works of art.
 
 William Oberst, one of the artists involved in the after-school project that produced the pillar murals, is asking that the city allow a sample to be taken to see if the works were still viable.
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