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."
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Power Shutoff Leaves Cheshire Mobile Home Park High & Dry
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Staff
Workers work the phones on why the electric supply — in the box at right — was shut off and locked up.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Residents in Pine Valley Mobile Home Park found their water abruptly shut off Tuesday morning over an apparent billing disagreement between the park's owner and National Grid.
The water supply was disrupted shortly after 9:30 a.m. when an employee from the utility shut off power to a section of the park that turned off the well pumps. Water and septic are included in the lot rent but individual mobile homes are responsible for their own power, which was not interrupted.
The park was without water for more than six hours.
Dick Dodge, one of the residents in the park, said there was no notification and that the manager was also unaware of what had happened. The panel was unlocked, the power shutoff, and a new lock put in place that management can't open.
When the Cheshire Elementary School was closed two years ago, the only silver lining to be found was the potential revenue source it might provide to the town through leasing the space privately.
The Board of Selectmen are still working hard to figure out a formula that works. click for more
The board engaged in an hour of discussion when resident Gary Trudeau raised the possibility that the members might have inadvertently violated the state law again when interviewing candidates for the operator position.
click for more