CHESHIRE, Mass. — The new superintendent of the Hoosac Valley Regional School District made one thing very clear on Tuesday:
"I don't intend to go anywhere for quite some time," Aaron Dean told the Board of Selectmen.
There has been frequent turnover in the position lately. Dean is the third person to hold the top education post in as many years but says he's in for the long haul.
"I've been to the Maple Grove Civic Club, the Adams select board, I'm putting together parent advisory groups. I'm excited to be here and, six weeks in, I'm still excited," he said.
Selectman Ron DeAngelis asked whether the enrollment numbers Dean handed out were typical as he had never seen them before. Dean sees positive enrollment numbers at the elementary level but spelled out bluntly the challenges in keeping students through the 12th grade.
"Typically the lower grade levels have been high because you have less options. Students get to middle school and you have [Berkshire Arts & Technology Public Charter School] as an option. Then at the high school level you have BArT and McCann [Technical School]," he said. "The thing with McCann is that those programs fit certain students and we are not a vocational school. If there are students looking for a vocational aspect they are going there."
Dean wants more focus on the students retained than worrying about the ones that aren't.
"I feel we have a strong core of leaders to build around. We've started developing a district improvement plan that we're going to present to the School Committee in November," he said. "From what I can see, there have been a lot of great things happening, but they are happening all over the place. No real focus or mission for the district. That's what I've been tasked to do: Work to create an identity."
He won't just give up students to other options, however.
"Those students that are on the fence, maybe there are some programs that will keep them in the district. But I've approached it as 'We have to take care of ourselves' and not worry so much about everyone else," he said. "Quality programming makes people want to stay. That's the focus I'm taking."
Selectwoman Michelle Francesconi asked Dean if there has been a decline in elementary school enrollment in the wake of the closing of Cheshire Elementary.
"I think the encouraging number is 90 in kindergarten," he responded. "That to me says we are starting to heal a little bit. The communities have to work together because it's all of our kids."
DeAngelis wanted to know if there would be a breaking point in declining enrollment at which Hoosac Valley Elementary would eventually have to be shuttered.
"What does the number drop below where it doesn't even make sense to have the Adams school?" he asked. "There's got to be a number where, if you can't bring more students in, you're going to have to work something out. As [the numbers] drop and you need to maintain the schools the assessment to Cheshire is going to have to go up."
Dean remained bullish on the elementary school numbers but spoke in generalities should the day arise for total K-12 consolidation.
"I'm not deep enough yet in this to say there's an exact number. I would say right now if we maintain where we are it's a pretty healthy number. We're very sustainable around the number that we are at." he said. "That's a decision [about consolidation] that is going to be made by both select boards. That's not a decision I'm going to make. Like you said, you're going to reach a point where the assessment might get out of control. I hope we don't get there but if we do it's a decision we'll be talking very closely about with the two towns."
Francesconi ended Dean's visit on a positive note.
"The middle and high school principals are doing an excellent job keeping people informed. I want to give them credit for engaging the community. That's a really big piece of it," she said. "Building confidence in choosing to send your child to the district. The whole district. It's a really good thing watching what's going on."
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Cheshire Town Meeting Approves $6.6M Budget, Rejects Pot Bylaws
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Carol Francesconi takes the gavel as moderator for the meeting.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Town meeting on Tuesday night rejected four citizens' petitions that would have greatly limited marijiuna facilities.
Voters did approve amended versions of the 16 other articles on the annual town meeting warrant during a nearly three-hour session held in the Hoosac Valley High School gym.
That included a revised fiscal 2021 budget of $6,640,131.64, authorizations for purchasing a number of vehicles and the redirection of $60,000 approved last year but unused toward a design work for turning Cheshire School into a municipal complex.
The marijuana bylaws would have required any growing facility to file a water usage report annually to the town; allowed only one non-retail cannabis facility in town; broadened the definition of "facility" to include accessories such as fences, plants and related items; set up a 24-hour odor control; and asked the Planning Board to revisit its approved bylaw.
iBerkshiresTV host Jeff Snoonian speaks with Selectmen Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi and Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV about the upcoming annual town meeting, the budget voters will decide and the precautions being put in place because of COVID-19.
The annual town meeting is being held... click for more
On Friday morning, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association released the sport-specific modifications that on Thursday unanimously were approved by the associationís COVID-19 Task Force. click for more
The Finance Committee recommended using $376,000 in free cash to offset the tax increase necessitated by the town's rising costs. The Selectmen had decided to reduce last year's offset number from $140,000 to $110,000.
click for more
The MIAA Board of Directors Wednesday morning approved a plan that moves football and other sports the commonwealth considers at a high-risk for COVID-19 transmission to a newly created Fall II season that will be wedged between the winter and spring. click for more