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Hoosac Valley Gets STEM, Curriculum Grants

By Gregory FournieriBerkshires Correspondent
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School District has received $6,000 in donations from General Dynamics.
 
This donation came in the form of three $2,000 donations — one to each school in the district. 
 
At the high school and middle school, the grants must go toward science, technology, engineering and math initiatives, the School Committee was told at its meeting Monday. The elementary school is planning to use its donation toward a beautification project.
 
"Third-grade students and volunteers spend a day planting flowers and beautifying the landscape in front of the school," Superintendent Aaron Dean said in an email correspondence after the meeting. "It's a service learning project that promotes pride in our elementary school."
 
Dean added that this is a yearly donation.
 
Other maintenance projects are planned for the elementary school. Working with the town of Adams, the district is tapping into an account with around $160,000 that is reserved for school improvement purposes. The school district may also use some money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act for various projects.
 
Jacqueline Daniels, the associate director of student services for the school district, discussed the details of the new English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum.
 
She said the district received a number of grants "that helped train a group of teachers in the science of reading" and that another grant "will give us $60,000 towards [the] K-5 curriculum."
 
Daniels also addressed other grants aimed mostly at literacy and evidence-based learning programs.
 
The committee also discussed the school choice program for the district. Because enrollment is strong at the elementary school, the school is not going to open up school choice for the fall.
 
Some committee members were disappointed at this news, but recognized that having too many students would put an undue strain on the school system.
 
The reduced number of school choice spots at the elementary level reflects the lack of resources due to COVID-19.
 
The committee also reorganized and re-elected Mike Mucci as chairman and Bethany DeMarco as vice chairman.
 
Mucci was also confirmed as the assistant treasurer, as it is the custom of the committee for the chairman to also serve as the assistant treasurer.
 
The committee generally reorganizes after an election, which was held Monday, May 3. However, there were no new additions to the School Committee.
 
Committee member Erin Milne closed out the meeting by acknowledging Teachers Appreciation Week. She wanted to "echo again how much we really do appreciate all of the teachers, and what they do for our students in this district."
 
The committee also met in executive session for more than an hour to discuss collective bargaining agreements, presumably with the teachers' union.
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Cheshire Selectmen Discusses Town Meeting Results, Considers Job Descriptions

By Gregory FournieriBerkshires Staff

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen is excited to welcome a new full-time town administrator to Cheshire.

The board discussed at its regular meeting Tuesday the results of the town meeting earlier this week. Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi said that Monday's town meeting brought "amazing news with the approval of the town administrator position."

The rest of the board agreed. Member Ray Killeen said that "early on … you knew which way [the vote for the full-time town administrator] was going," based on the comments by the town members and the applause that greeted those who supported the measure.

Francesconi said the town's selection for the post, Jennifer Morse, will be able to start soon after July 4. The board, however, has not yet negotiated her contract.

Some board members expressed disappointment that the recall measure, Article 17, did not pass. They said that in hindsight, they should have had some guidelines as to what type of behavior rose to the level of recall. They also said they should have upped the required signatures to oust a current member to more than 3 percent of registered voters, or 100 signatures, whichever was lower, as many of the criticisms of that measure centered around the low number of signatures.

Killeen said some voters may also have been confused about the change of some town officials (town clerk, tax collector) from elected to appointed. He said they may not have been aware that this would come up for a vote later, and that their vote at the town meeting was not final.

In other news:

  • The board reviewed job descriptions for some of the appointed officials in town. Members spent a lot of time discussing the harbormaster position, saying they wanted it to be a more educational position, rather than a punitive one.
  • Francesconi asked Police Chief Tim Garner if they could re-letter the harbormaster boat to say "Harbormaster." Currently it says it is owned by the Police Department, but because the harbormaster position is not a law-enforcement officer, Francesconi argued that the current boat-lettering could confuse some swimmers and boaters.
  • Garner reported that he is retiring next year, in 2022, and that he should be succeeded by a full-time police chief.
  • Garner also said police reform efforts in Massachusetts could have some drastic consequences for small-town police departments like Cheshire's. Since Cheshire's department is staffed by mostly part-time officers and its budget is a relatively small part of Cheshire's overall budget, additional training requirements for police departments will likely eat into Cheshire's police staffing.
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