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McCann School Committee Meets For Last Time in 2019

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
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Principal Justin Kratz updates the School Committee on the switch to standards-based scoring.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Williams College gave McCann Technical School a gift that will brighten up its football field — but it needs some expertise to get it assembled. 
 
Superintendent James Brosnan informed the School Committee at its final — and brief — meeting of 2019 that he would need to issuie a request for proposal for electrical engineering services to get the ball rolling in an effort to illuminate the field. Williams College recently donated a full set of athletic field lights to McCann after the college refurbished Weston Field. 
 
"We've got a garage full of lights and everything that was given to us by Williams. It's a whole set up. But to evaluate the project I really need someone with engineering expertise," he said. "To figure out the feasibility of this, the implementation, what other additional costs might be involved. [Someone] to put the whole package together. I want that professional expertise so we have some facts on what it will cost. Right now we don't have that."
 
The superintendent's report only had one other topic: A request to waive any potential conflict of interest issue with his vote on the Berkshire Health Group board. 
 
The board exists to give school districts in the county greater buying power when negotiating with a health insurance provider. Teachers cannot be on the voting board so they have always empowered Brosnan to represent them with his vote. Recently a voting member from another district raised the issue that it might be a conflict of interest since administrative positions are also on the health plan in most cases.
 
"Apparently someone on the Cape filed a question with the Ethics Commission regarding if it was a conflict for staff members (Brosnan and alternate Maureen Senecal) or any other employee to be on the board. The Ethics Commission said no BUT … ," Brosnan explained. "Erring on the side of caution their legal counsel sent to our legal counsel [a motion]. It's a little bit laborious but I have to read it verbatim."
 
What the motion basically said was that even though the Ethics Commission ruled it was not a conflict of interest for him or any other voting representative to negotiate with health insurance providers, the superintendent still disclosed on record to the board that there is a potential for one because he also participates in the health plan. The motion passed unanimously for both Brosnan and Senecal.
 
Principal Justin Kratz in his report told the committee that the planned transition from the traditional A-F grading system to a standards-based system will be implemented in 2021 instead of the planned 2020. A standards-based system breaks down a subject matter into smaller pieces and is supposed to give a greater understanding of a student's grasp of a given subject when compared to traditional letter grades.
 
Kratz said more time was needed to roll it out correctly and have both teachers and the incoming freshman class feel comfortable.
 
"We looked at the body of work so far and how far we've come. We've come a long way but we still have a lot of heavy lifting to do, so we've adjusted our timeline," he said. "We are not going to roll it out with our freshmen next year. We want to do this as right as we possibly can. There will still be some bumps in the road I'm sure but we want to make sure our faculty are completely comfortable. We're going to adjust and look at [implementing it] for the freshmen of 2021."
 
His last update for the committee was a recap of the always popular Showcase to Success open house. McCann annually invites community members and eighth-graders to come and tour the shops and meet the faculty for one night in the fall.
 
Kratz was particularly impressed with the student participation and engagement this year.
 
"We received about half a dozen emails from parents saying it really had an impact on their child. Our kids love to talk about what they're doing. When they get the opportunity to talk to people about their programs they take advantage of it," he said. "And we'll have a pretty similar number of students helping out at the eighth grade after school program. We always have three, four, five of our students who stayed after school to help instruct the eighth-graders. Thats always great to see."
 
The committee's last order of business before breaking for the holidays was a heartfelt thank you to Rachel Branch of North Adams for her four years of dedicated service to the McCann School Committee. Chairman Gary Rivers thanked her on behalf of the whole committee for her dedication and her extraordinary effort. 

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Berkshire Food Project Recognizes Hours Put in by Volunteers

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Three generations of volunteers with Linda Palumbo, left, Cindy Bolte, Alicia Rondeau and Cassandra Shoestack.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Five days a week a troop volunteers helps the small staff of the Berkshire Food Project feed hundreds of people. 
 
On Monday night, the tables were turned. 
 
More than 30 volunteers and attending family members were served up a choice of beef wellington and potato, salmon and rice, or a vegetarian meal, along with appetizers, dessert and beverages.
 
"Just from 2018 to 2019, [we served] 10,000 more meals, right, a 28 percent increase in 2019. So the numbers on the stove, same amount of counterspace. The only thing that changed is the capacity of our volunteers. So thank you, guys," said Executive Director Kim McMann. 
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