The teachers are developing 'visible thinking' to engage students and visualize goals.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The School Committee is pushing to have a new secure entryway installed before the end of February -- the deadline to use a $35,000 state grant.
The aggressive time frame means that teachers will be asked in upcoming negotiations to agree to a two-week holiday break, starting with a half day on Friday, Dec. 20, and ending on Friday, Jan. 3.
"It would be ideal to be able to start that on that day, given our timeline and the aggressiveness of getting this project done while students are not in the building," said Principal Tara Barnes at Thursday's meeting.
School Superintendent John Franzoni said starting work on that Friday would be part of the bid process, which also would outline work being done over Thanksgiving, Christmas break and, if necessary, February vacation.
"That's the backup plan," agreed Business Administrator Jennifer Macksey. "But we've specified everything to be done over Christmas break with a contingency that if the building is not clear in that time span, then we have February. We're not going to rip it apart until we're sure."
The original plans for renovating the school had included upgrades in security to the 60-year-old building. But the failed renovation vote means the school is trying implement priority upgrades piecemeal. This is only the second major project after since failed vote.
"I think it's been amazing the work that Jenn Macksey has done to push this forward," Barnes said. "It's all coming together ... we're like leap years ahead of where we've been ... we've been kind of stuck in the mud."
The new entry will include a safety glass airlock that will allow the office personnel to see who has entered and be able to buzz them in. The office on the right side of the entry will have a safety window installed and dropbox and the office's exterior door will be replaced with a safety glass window.
"It's going to improve significantly the entrance of the building, to make it more safe and secure, and also some cameras will be part of that," Franzoni said. "We're also looking into options to, as part of this work, to include having a PA system that will be functional in this building so that we can make announcements that can be heard by everyone in the building."
A second phase of work is hoped to start later in the year to create a second office within the administrative area.
The funds are coming from a $35,000 school security grant secured by Barnes with the balance coming from the $1 million in borrowing approved by town meeting earlier this year for capital projects for the town and school.
"Even though the town owns the building, we're taking ownership of the project ... to try to make sure it gets done and to use this grant funds effectively," said Franzoni, noting the boiler project had not gone as smoothly.
The initial deadline for the grant was the end of the year but because it was not received until August, the school was able to work with state officials to get it extended to the end of February.
Macksey it will be tight: once the bids are opened, the glass will have to be ordered and Select Board will have to authorize the spending debt exclusion funds, and the company will have to work during the limited period when school is closed. And to start, an asbestos abatement will have to be done with the tiles in the entryway.
"It's gonna be a push but we can get it done," she said. "Provided, you know, that nothing crazy doesn't happen."
Barnes also gave a report on professional development, saying she's been participating with a principals' advisory committee for the state and with Research for Better Teaching, a group that does professional development. Her latest work shop focused on developing a positive school culture.
"I tried to think about how to integrate the things that I'm learning when I come back. So for example, this leads into the next thing of just what we did here in school," she said. "So one of the things that's been an emphasis on the beginning of the year has been making thinking visible and so when I'm doing PD with teachers, I try to model it."
The most recent was about "thinking visibly" through displaying priorities on posters and having the staff determining where their strengths are and what they need to work on. Those efforts are being integrated into the students' work as well.
"Students are wondering things, puzzling about things, asking the questions and we're trying to capture what they're thinking on paper in some fun, new creative way that's motivating for them," Barnes said, showing some of the illustrations being used by the children. "So this is one way to get their thinking visible in the classroom."
Teachers are also putting visible instructions up in the classrooms to aid students in puzzling through problems and concepts. "Students are reacting to that," she said. "We want them interacting with their thoughts, with each other, and again, making it visible."
"It's such a heavy lift for teachers ... it's a lot of work and when they're organizing and doing something new," she continued.
In other business,
• Franzoni reported the North Berkshire School Union approved for central office to relocate to the Wall-Streeter mill on Union Street. The landlord is Moresi & Associates, the same as the current location in the Puccio building on Church Street.
"It's not ADA compliant, it's not confidential (the conference table is in the business manager's office) ... we made the best of it for many years," he said.
The administration has been seeking a new space that would be larger, more comfortable, confidential and secure, and be handicapped accessible. The space on the first floor of the Union Street building at 2,500 square feet would cover all those areas and also provide an office for the school union's information technology director, who's been working out of his car and from the schools over the past year.
• Macksey explained that state has passed a law that would allow a designated person to sign warrants, rather than have all three board members sign, so bills can be paid.
"The catch to this is whoever signed has to report at the next meeting," she said, adding that her office can provide the warrant and attached bills by hard copy or digital. "It would save on running around."
The town of Clarksburg recently instituted this, designating the chairman, and Rowe is interested, Macksey said, but Savoy was not. She had not yet spoken to Florida.
The board wanted a discussion first and agreed to put it on next month's agenda. The board also put off to the next meeting further discussion on tightening the school choice policy but voted to close the four open school-choice slots for the school year.
• The eighth-grade boys advisory group is holding its annual "Soldiers, Dice & Dragons" game event on Saturday from 10 to 4 in the gym. There will be board games and raffles available all day for a donation to Soldier On; new items such as toiletries, socks, T-shirts, sneakers, sweat shirts, linens, and gift cards for men and women.
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Pittsfield Native Killed In Air Force Crash
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The body of Staff Sgt. Jacob Galliher was recovered off the coast of Japan after the military aircraft he was on crashed Wednesday.
The Pittsfield Police Department released a statement noting that Galliher was a 2017 graduate of Taconic High School.
The statement included that Galliher leaves behind his wife and 2-year-old and 6-week-old sons.
The Associated Press reported that on Nov. 29, an Air Force Osprey based in Japan crashed during a training mission off the country's southern coast. It was reported that the crash killed at least one of the eight crew members.
At this time, the status of the seven other airmen is unknown. The cause of the crash is also unknown.
Taconic High School Principal Matthew Bishop said the school is in mourning after learning of Galliher's death.
"Jake was a proud member of the Class of 2017 and was known for his exemplary character, leadership qualities, and commitment to Taconic High School. He was an outstanding student, an integral member of our football program, and an active participant in our school community. Many staff members remember his kind, fun-loving spirit and how much he positively impacted our school," he wrote in a statement released Friday afternoon. "After graduation, Jake chose to serve our country with valor and dedication, joining the Air Force. The news of his tragic and untimely passing has left Taconic in mourning, as we reflect on the loss of a bright and promising individual who embodied the values that we hope to instill in all of our students."
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