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PPS Considering MASC For Superintendent Search

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The School Committee will review its options for the upcoming superintendent search but is leaning toward using the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. 
The committee heard from MASC Executive Director Glenn Koocher last week who outlined the free technical service offered to member districts undergoing a superintendent search.
"I think we have been served well by them over the years," Chairwoman Katherine Yon said. "... We have paid over the years to get other services, and I think they can do it as well as anybody."
Current Superintendent Jason McCandless was hired away by the Mount Greylock Regional School District and is seeing out the remainder of his contract.  
Koocher said many districts are capable of running these search processes by themselves and MASC member districts have been able to successfully find superintendents using the free technical service.
He said MASC can assist in setting up community focus groups as well as a search committee, posting the position and collecting resumes. He said they are a telephone call away and are available for in-person consultation.
A consultant service is available for an extra fee (around $10,500). There are other groups that offer consulting services, and the price varies, he said.  
Committee member William Cameron noted that the district, Mount Greylock, hired an "outstanding" new superintendent and asked if it had used a consultant or MASC.
Koocher said Mount Greylock used the free technical assistance and attracted a solid group of candidates from outside of the county. 
"There is a fabulous quality of life here in Berkshire County that is a terrific asset to which people aspire," he said. "People are going to find Pittsfield regardless of who you have assisting you."
Mayor Linda Tyer said she wanted to undergo a "robust" search process and asked what services would come with the extra fee. She specifically wished for MASC to facilitate focus meetings as an independent third party.
Koocher said the fee would allow this greater access but noted with COVID-19 much of what MASC would do would be through Zoom. 
Committee member Daniel Elias said if the district is unable to hold these in-person meetings there may not be a need for these additional services.
"We are in these COVID times so a lot of these things may not be practical anyways," he said.
Koocher added that the free service is pretty substantial.
"I just want you to understand you are a chartered member of MASC, and you have been paying us dues for almost 75 years," he said. "So it is not like this is a bargain-basement offer to you. Your investment allows you to access member services."
Koocher said he was not prepared to give the "sales presentation" but would send along what additional services the district would receive if it opted into the consultant service. He said this would be a decision for another day.
Committee member Mark Brazeau said he watched the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee meetings leading up to the hiring of McCandless and was impressed by what MASC offered.
"The process you guys go through and what you do is great," Brazeau said. "It was very out there and nothing was hidden. That was all done on a free service. I think this can be done without spending the money."
Yon said the school system has paid a consultant before and noted she thought it cost upwards of $20,000.
The School Committee did ask for a list of other consultants to consider as well as what services it would get for that additional $10,500.
In other business, McCandless said the district continues to distribute Chromebooks and mobile hotspots to ensure that all students have a computer and an internet connection to accommodate remote learning.
The district has handed out more than 5,000 Chromebooks and 112 hotspots and has requests for 710 hotspots.
Another 320 hotspots are ready to go and 700 cellular-enabled Chromebooks on their way, he said. 

Tags: search committee,   superintendent,   

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Invasive Spotted Lanternfly Found in Worcester County

FITCHBURG, Mass. — The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) announced Tuesday that a small population of the invasive spotted lanternfly has been found in the City of Fitchburg, close to where a lanternfly nymph was reported earlier this summer. 
Agricultural inspectors are in the middle of performing surveys in the area, but currently the infestation is limited to a single cluster of three trees. While MDAR has not been able to determine the origin of the infestation, spotted lanternflies have been known to travel out of infested states on cars, trucks, and trains, during shipments of produce, sheds, and gazebos, trees and shrubs for landscaping, and many other items that are regularly sent from states with known infestations.
As a result of this new find, MDAR is urging the public to be on the lookout for the pest, especially residents that live or work in the Fitchburg area. Spotted lanternflies may be found on sides of buildings, in or on vehicles, and on their preferred host plants: tree of heaven, grape vines, and maple and walnut trees. Anyone who has recently received goods or materials from states where SLF is known to have been introduced (including Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) should also be on the lookout.
"The spotted lanternfly can have devastating impacts on Massachusetts' agricultural industry, including on a number of farms and orchards in this part of the state that we want to protect from this pest," said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. "Early detection and reporting is the best way to slow the spread of spotted lanternfly. Members of the public, particularly those in the Fitchburg area, have seen this pest, they are asked to report it as soon as possible."
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