CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Interstate Merger Committee has received two proposals for a coordinator for the next steps in planning out a combination Clarksburg and Stamford, Vt., school district.
The committee will interview Public Consulting Group, which produced the feasibility report earlier this year, and the local Berkshire Educational Consulting Group on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in Stamford, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
The coordinator will dig into the details of what would have to happen for the two schools to merge, including educational standards, teacher contracts and licensure, transportation, education funding and state and congressional approvals.
PCG, out of Boston, will interview by phone; BECG is led by Howard "Jake" Eberwein III and William Ballen. Eberwein was dean of graduate and continuing education at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools. He is currently superintendent of the Lee Public Schools but will be retiring at the end of the year. Ballen was superintendent of what was then Mount Greylock School Union 69 and is now coordinator of professional development for the Berkshire County Superintendents Roundtable.
"So two very qualified groups, I mean, it won't be an easy decision," Superintendent John Franzoni told the School Committee last week. Franzoni, who has been a member of the merger committee since taking the position more than a year ago, added later, "We really think it's going to be a crucial decision for the community to decide who is their selection for that coordinator position."
He said the committee will likely use a modified or updated rubric that was utilized in selecting the feasibility study consultants to determine the coordinator.
PCG has communicated with the merger committee by phone in the past and, when asked if it could do so again, Franzoni had said yes initially. But, he continued, that would be up to the committee and could be revisited if this week the members indicated a preference for an in-person interview.
One element the coordinator would have to parse was how Stamford would affect the structure of the Northern Berkshire School Union, of which Clarksburg is a member with Florida, Monroe, Rowe and Savoy. Massachusetts' Department of Education has been pushing for greater regionalization and sharing of services and officials broached the possibility of creating a regional district with Franzoni some months ago.
The thought was that since the state was providing grant money for research into the merger, the scope should be broader in looking at a larger regional body as possible option.
"We had discussion at the NBSU joint committee meeting where it was made clear by primarily Rowe and Florida representatives that they're not interested in any type of discussion with the current interstate merger proposal," Franzoni said. "I'd shared with committee that one of the things that worries me is obviously the current structure of NBSU is five independent districts paying for all expenses, all salaries that are shared and in a method that is split five ways at sometimes and four or three ways depending on the situation."
Bringing in Stamford is a complicating factor because it can't be the sixth entity paying in. "I don't know how that would work," he said. "But that's going to be something that's got to be flushed out by the coordinator, working together with the two states and the towns, to see what would be the structure of that. ...
"Educationwise, the two schools fit together very well it's just a matter of can we work out all these other types of obstacles."
He said the push by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for regionalization is to strengthen and make the schools more effective. It would also open more areas for funding, such as regional transportation.
Franzoni said he respected the school committees' opinions, but added that "because they're small schools, as we know that the costs continue to increase and we can't find more funding, we're going to be in a position with that equation and it's just not going to work at some point."
The option that the coordinator will be sussing out is using Stamford School as an early education facility with pre-kindergarten to Grade 2; Clarksburg School will be Grade 3 to 8. The reasons are that both towns wish to keep their schools intact; Clarksburg does not have space for a preschool but Stamford has one; and the probability that Massachusetts will not allow testing for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (which starts in Grade 3) to originate from an out-of-state ISP.
"You know we were talking about heavy lifting before, this is gonna be really heavy lifting I think over the next six months to make a determination by June," Franzoni said. "I think we need to have an answer by June 30 about are we going forward with this or not."
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Clarksburg School Reopening Plans Affected by HVAC Issues
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Results from a survey of parents last month.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — School officials' plans for reopening this fall are being complicated by the condition of Clarksburg School.
The administration is recommending a hybrid plan of in-school and remote because of issues with the ventilation system.
"Ventilation as a very key piece in keeping our schools safe," Principal Tara Barnes told the School Committee on Thursday. "We have some preliminary results that are telling us that many of our classrooms are not up to code to be able to handle COVID. In particular, they're not exchanging air."
Barnes said the building is being evaluated as part of the plans being developed to deliver education during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is requiring schools to submit plans for in-person teaching, remote or a hybrid model of both by Thursday.
The state guidelines, so far, are requiring social distancing as well as masking for students in Grades 2 and up. Schools will also require a separated space for children who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.
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The meeting, held on the lawn of the Senior Center because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, swiftly approved a town budget of $4,565,710 and the purchase of a new Department of Public Works truck for $250,000.
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