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Hoosac Valley School Committee Accept District Improvement Plan

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School Committee last week approved a District Improvement Plan for this school year.
 
The plan presented Monday by Superintendent Aaron Dean that was lauded before the committee's formal approval.
 
"This is a tremendous amount of information," School Committee member Mike Mucci said.
 
The plan is split into four objectives: curriculum and instruction, teaching all students, family and community engagement, and professional culture. Dean said these objectives were informed by district administrators.  
 
"This process I thought was awesome," Dean said. "We have a lot of talented administrators in this district and they brought great insight to the table."
 
Before diving into the presentation, Dean said he thought the district needed to do a better job prioritizing.
 
"A lot of what we need to do going forward is to prioritize instead of trying to fix everything all at once," he said. "We need to see where we can get the most bang for our buck." 
 
Dean said with curriculum and instruction, the plan to focus on the growth of all students by providing "high quality and coherent instruction" informed by student assessment and data.
 
This will be achieved through "rigorous standard-based unit design and "adjustments to practices" powered by focused walk-throughs, common planning, and rigorous standards-based curriculum.
 
He said this will extend to teacher evaluations and it will be clear what the district expects from teachers.
 
"We want to make this an environment of no secrets," he said. "There are no secrets about the work that we are doing and what we are looking for and we are holding each other." accountable."
 
He said the foundation of a lot of this work has already been set by the leadership teams.
 
Dean said the district needs to make sure it is teaching all students from all backgrounds equally. He said all students need to have an equal opportunity.
 
Community engagement is also a big part of his plan. He said he wants to reach out to parents and the community with regular updates and support learning not only in the schools but at home.  
 
He said he plans to deploy family surveys as well.
 
As for professional learning, Dean said regular benchmarks will be set along with consistent data meetings among other strategies.
 
Dean said his CARE (Consistency, Accountability, Reflection, and Equity) philosophy will guide the plan.
 
"I really went for this job because I care about what we are doing here," he said. "I want to make sure these communities have a top-notch school system."
 
In other business, the maintenance subcommittee reported that the districtwide security updates are on schedule and will begin this week.
 
"We are on track to finish all of the upgrades by the end of the year, which we agreed to to get full reimbursement," Mucci said. "Looks like we are ahead of schedule." 
 
This summer the district received a $50,000 Safe School Grant that will go toward major security upgrades in district buildings including security camera upgrades and access improvements.
 
Mucci added that they do hope to make some substantial improvements to the playing fields at the high school and will pull out plans from the original school renovation that never came into fruition.
 
In the interim, there will be some fall maintenance that should help improve the fields this spring.
 
"We want to rototill and fill some depressions to help it take better," he said. "It won't fix the problems out there but it will help."
 
Committee member Regina Hill reported out about the recent technology subcommittee meeting and said the district needs to consider a replacement plan for district computers.
 
She said, in general, they are taking stock of all technology in the district.
 
The district received a $3,000 donation from General Dynamics and a Barrett Fund donation of $2,000.

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Cheshire Selectmen Trying to Set Consistent Hiring Process

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen started to nail down the town's municipal hiring process at Tuesday's meeting. 
 
There had been a slight delay in the process as Chairman Robert Ciskowski had missed the previous two meetings and the board wanted to wait for his input.
 
The town was hit with an Open Meeting Law complaint in its hiring process of new Highway Department Superintendent Bob Navin and was threatened with another in the recent hiring of another Highway Department employee. The second complaint was never made as the interview process was deemed acceptable legally but the board felt the process lacked clarity and communication between themselves and Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV.
 
Ciskowski was clear about what he felt was within St. John's purview.
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