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The new School Committee talks school renovation and looming teacher shortage.

North Adams School Officials Talk Next Steps in Greylock Project

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — While Greylock School has been accepted into the first steps of a school renovation program, it will take years for the process to play out.
 
"There are lots of considerations and documentation to complete along the way that ultimately will inform our feasibility and design," Superintendent Barbara Malkas said. "We are looking at a seven-year time window from entering into eligibility to actually completing the process."
 
Malkas had been asked to update the School Committee last Tuesday on the status of the feasibility study with Massachusetts School Building Authority.
 
The MSBA Board of Directors voted to invite the North Adams Public Schools into the eligibility phase last month. 
 
No major renovations have been done to 60-year-old building since the 1960s, prompting the School Committee to submit statements of interest to the MSBA since 2017. 
 
Once entering into this eligibility phase, the city will have 270 days to complete an Initial Compliance Certification, form a school building committee, complete an educational profile questionnaire, compile a summary of district maintenance practices, complete a certification of design enrollment, and seek community authorization.
 
When that is completed, there will be the opportunity to enter into the next phase, the feasibility study.   
 
"There are a lot of requirements in the next three years and you are not automatically accepted into the feasibility study once you complete module one," Malkas said. "You still have to go before the MSBA to get their approval, which will take another year before you go in front of the voters."
 
Committee member Robert Moulton Jr. asked if the city is considering a renovation or new build but Malkas said this decision is a ways away.
 
She said they need to have three different scenarios in the application that will most likely include a total rebuild and renovation. She said many of these design choices are also a far off.
 
"The good thing is that at this point, it is still an open question," Mayor Thomas Bernard added.
 
In other business, Malkas gave a human resources presentation and noted in the coming years they are likely to have a large influx of teachers retiring but will have fewer younger teachers moving up through the ranks.
 
She said the majority of the 282.8 full-time educational employees in the district are either eligible for retirement or soon will be.
 
"A majority of teachers are in the age group where they currently are eligible or will be very soon eligible for retirement," Malkas said. "More of a concern is what happens in the next 10 years when the majority of our teachers are eligible for retirement so we have a pipeline issue and we are going to have a lot of open positions."
 
According to a graph Malkas provided, there are just under 60 educational employees in the 57 to 64 age bracket and just under 20 in the over-64 age bracket.
 
More concerningly, there are just more than 60 educational employees in the 49 to 56 age bracket. There are also just over 60 staff members in the 41 to 48 age bracket.
 
The following age brackets compound the issue and becuase there are just under 40 employees in the 33 to 40 age bracket and barely more than 20 in the 26 to 32 age bracket and about the same in the under-26 bracket.  
 
Malkas said there is a huge drop off coming.
 
"We have fewer people pursuing careers in education ... and the job has become far more complex than it was when I first started my teaching career," she said. "It is a much more complex job and less people are attracted to it."
 
She said when this mass exodus of veteran teachers happens, a lot of experience and institutional knowledge will be absent from the schools.
 
Malkas said school district has partnered with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to help foster educators to, hopefully, supply this pipeline. The goal would be to keep incoming teachers in the Berkshires and optimally in North Adams. 
 
Bernard added that this is a national issue so North Adams is not alone. However, this also creates challenges because he said this will create more competition for the dwindling pool of teachers. 

Tags: Greylock School,   MSBA,   

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'Downhill': It's all Relative

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
"Downhill," an Americanized adaptation of Swedish writer-director Ruben Östlund's "Force Majeure," a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, doubtlessly lost something in the translation. Indeed, this variation on a comedy-drama about a family on an Alpine ski vacation evokes a smidgen of its Continental DNA. 
 
Yet, in taking its uncertain path to some hoped for humanistic revelation, it seems like it'd be much happier if only it could jump the tracks from classically cerebral comedy to safely domesticized farce.
 
Not to say that Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell as the marrieds with issues just bursting to unravel don't give it as successful an old college try as the scenario will allow. But to quote a hobo I once met aboard a southbound freight I hopped, describing a French version of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" he had recently seen in New Orleans, "They just didn't impart that je ne sais quoi."
 
Still, I suspect the plot's central bugaboo, meant to epitomize and hence hold the epiphanic key to the chronic dysfunction every family worth its weight in Sturm und Drang embraces, is as thought provoking in English as it is in Swedish. And, unless you've emanated from the picture-perfect world of the nuclear family as it was depicted in 1950s sitcoms, there are in this film niches of behavior and modes of coping that assure you are not alone in your experience.
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