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Martin McEvoy is the new principal at Gabriel Abbott Memorial School. He has held a number of administrative positions at schools in the Berkshires.

Abbott Memorial School Welcomes New Principal

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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FLORIDA, Mass. — New Principal Martin McEvoy is happy to be part of the Abbott Memorial School and Florida community.
"It is a great place, and I am really happy to be here," McEvoy said. "... I am excited to be part of this community, and I hope to be here for a long time."
McEvoy, who started July 1, replaced longtime Principal Heidi Dugal, who retired at the end of the school year.
McEvoy was most recently superintendent in Hatfield for a year and had been principal of Lanesborough Elementary School and of Herberg Middle School in Pittsfield, and vice principal at Hoosac Valley High School in Cheshire.
McEvoy said he was drawn to Abbott Memorial because he wanted to get back to his roots.
"I really wanted to get back in a setting where I could be part of the fabric of a school and in the building, working with the teachers and the kids," he said. "I think that is something my career was starting to move away from, and I am glad I was able to remind myself why I got into education and what is important to me."
McEvoy said Abbott Memorial was the perfect size school — it serves about 80 students in Grades K-8 —and it would allow him to interact with every student and every teacher. He said he is happy that the tight-knit community has accepted him.
"It is a small family atmosphere, and I feel like that they are accepting me into the family," he said. 
School started with a half-day last Wednesday and McEvoy said it was good to see kids back in the building. 
"What was really striking was how happy the kids seemed to be and how happy the teachers were," McEvoy said. "It was a really great atmosphere and really great environment. The students are happy to be back."
He said the day was made even more special with the annual first day of school ice cream truck visit sponsored by the PTG.
"That put a smile on their faces," he said.
McEvoy said he is impressed by the school and doesn't see much he would change. He said any improvements he would make would be done holistically by working with teachers and other stakeholders.
"I think things are running on all cylinders and, of course, there are always places where you can look at things and see how you can make them even better," he said. "But I am not going to come in and make sweeping changes. I like to look, listen, and learn, and things that are working we will leave alone. Things that we can make better, I want to work collaboratively."
McEvoy also commented on Florida itself and the important space the school fills in the community.
"I really appreciate how much this town really cares about the school. It is very important to them, and they are always willing to support it," he said. "They always want to know how they can help, and I want to be able to do the same."
He said he wants to continue the community outreach Dugal supported throughout her tenure. He added he wanted the school to continue to be the hub of the town and community.
"I want to be helpful in any way we can and be a value to the town even if you do not have kids in the school," he said. 
McEvoy acknowledged the challenges COVID-19 is sure to impose on this school year but noted last year Abbott Memorial School kept in-person learning ticking along, except for a five-day spell.
"They were open every possible day they could be. So I am looking forward to working with a staff with that kind of commitment," he said. "To the community who entrust us with their children know that safety is first, but we know the importance of in-person schooling."

Tags: Gabriel Abbott School,   principal,   

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Adams COA, Town Seek Funds for Memorial Building Bathrooms

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — The Council on Aging is still waiting to transition its programming from the Visitor Center to the Memorial Building and is looking to the Community Development Department for help. 

The COA has been waiting for additional bathroom facilities to be completed for the facility, but the council and the town have so far been unable to obtain grant or other funding for the work.


COA Director Sarah Fontaine said they are working with Community Development to find funds for the bathrooms and other small improvements, including increased entrance accessibility, renovations to the former music room and fixed windows. 


"I had voiced my concern. It's a very extensive list, I don't expect that it will all be done before we transition over. The only need is the bathrooms," Fontaine said. 


At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin said he looked into using Community Development Block Grant funds for the project. He said, however, that the Memorial Building is ineligible.


"The guidance we received from [the state Department of Housing and Community Development] has basically told us that the building is ineligible for funding because we already received funding in 2018," he said. "There has to be five years between the application for senior-center type projects. So based on that guidance, I don't believe Memorial School is eligible for funding."  


Fontaine also mentioned the auditorium in the building, which the town plans to renovate separately as a future capital project. 


"It would be nice as a senior center to have the auditorium available for guest lectures and other things like that," she said. 


Moving staff to the Memorial Building now while keeping programming at the Visitor Center, Fontaine said, is not an option. She noted that the Hoosac Valley Regional School District had previously expressed interest in using the second floor of the Visitor Center for its office space. 


"I was very firm in saying, logistically, it's hard for us to manage things just being upstairs. It's going to be very difficult if we're off site to try and manage programs downstairs," she said. 


In other business: 


  • The Council on Aging is looking for volunteers to fill vacancies on its advisory board. It filled one of the vacancies on Wednesday, appointing Barbara Ziemba. Ziemba, an active participant in the COA, had already filled out the paperwork needed for her appointment. 


"I have attended many COA activities, volunteer, and am a member of the Friends of the Council on Aging and attend meetings. I have been interested in being a member of the Board of Directors for some time. Please consider my appointment to the board," Ziemba wrote, explaining in her paperwork why she was interested in the position.           


The group also discussed two other vacancies on the board and potential candidates to fill them. Two members have been unable to attend recent meetings for health reasons. 


  • The board voted to approve updated bylaws. The bylaws were revised and written primarily by Board Member Elizabeth Mach. 


"I just wanted to make a comment, or rather an appreciation, for Liz for taking this project on," Fontaine said. 


The new bylaws have a provision to allow honorary members. Fontaine said there are currently no honorary members. 


The board appointed Bruce Shepley as the board's chair to replace Barbara Lagowski, who filled one of the now vacant member seats. 

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