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Deputy Superintendent Joseph Curtis introduces the School Improvement Plans.

Taconic Rain Garden Dedicated to Late Maxymillian Employee

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Brian Simard
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A rain garden at the new Taconic High School is being dedicated in memory of one of the workers who helped build it. 
Brian Simard was J.H. Maxymillian Co. employee who was killed in a worksite accident just over a year ago at the age of 26.
The School Committee voted last week to place a plaque near the rain gardens in the North Adams native's memory.
"We all felt it was really appropriate to honor the memory of this young man whose profession really took off on this construction site with a memorial by the first project he was really in charge of himself," Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said. 
Simard was a foreman when was killed on Nov. 15, 2018, while working on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
McCandless said Simard was promoted to foreman at a young age and one of his first projects was the rain garden at Taconic during the school renovation project.
"He was tragically taken just about a year ago this time of year. He was a Drury graduate and a Berkshire County kid," McCandless said. "He excelled at this work to the point where they made him a foreman at a very young age." 
McCandless said Maxymillian approached the school district about placing a plague near the garden.
School Committee member Katherine Yon read the plaque:
"In honor of Brian Simard, the City of Pittsfield, the Pittsfield School Department and all site contractors would like to dedicate these rain gardens in Brian's memory."
In other business, the School Committee accepted school improvement plans from Allendale, Conte, Capeless, Morningside, Herberg, Allendale, and Pittsfield High schools after listening to presentations from each of the principals.
Each principal presented their school's "laser-like focus" and Conte will focus on constant student writing, Capeless will focus on standards-based report cards, and Morningside will focus on visible learning by doing.
Allendale will focus on having students explain, justify and clearly convey their own thinking through accountable discourse and Herberg will focus on students supporting claims with relevant evidence and analyzation that displays their understanding of content.
Pittsfield High School will focus on making thinking visible using actionable feedback to improve student performance through active participation and deep learning experiences.
The School Committee asked questions during the presentations and member Cynthia Taylor asked every principal about their homeless population.
"If you don't know if you are going to move that night, if your family can afford to eat if, or if your car works," she said. "If you don't have the stable roof over your head how are these students paying attention in class?"
McCandless said the district's homeless population has increased over the years.
"There is no question that as years go by the trend has increased,not decreased," he said.
He said the state has changed the definition of homeless and it can include children living outside or in cars but also shelters or living with people who aren't their designated parents or guardians.
He said currently there are 55 homeless children in the district identified in the program but he was certain there were more they have not yet identified.  
He praised the teachers and administrators for understanding that many students have more to worry about than just academics. 
"A school has to be compassionate and it has to be understanding that life is bigger than what the plan for the day is in school," McCandless said. "I think all of our principals have this belief. For a lot of kids, school is the only constant."

Tags: gardens,   memorial,   school improvement,   Taconic High,   

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Berkshire Humane Still Caring for Animals Despite Financial Struggles

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society has been forced to change operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic but its and care and support for animals will not waiver.
"We understand that this is a tough time for everyone. We just want people to know that the homeless animals in our care are still getting the same, nurturing level of care that they always do and we are continuing our programs to help pet owners keep pets in their loving homes," Executive Director, John Perreault said. "We appreciate the support the community has given us at this time. We'll work through this together and look forward to better times for both people and the animals they love."
The novel coronavirus has forced many businesses and organizations to close their doors or modify how they do business and this has been the case for the Berkshire Humane Society.
The nonprofit animal shelter has closed its doors to the public for the time being but is still allowing surrenders and adoptions, but only by appointment. Human contact has been limited and these appointments take place in a sterile area.
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