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North Adams School Committee Sets Date With Adams-Cheshire
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
02:39AM / Wednesday, April 04, 2018
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New Business Manager Carrie Burnett, standing, is introduced to the School Committee on Tuesday.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee has set a tentative meeting for Monday, April 9, with the members of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee to enter into discussions about the possibility of sharing a superintendent.
 
The talks are coming on the heels of the looming retirement of Adams-Cheshire's superintendent and a push toward collaborations between districts encouraged by the research of the Berkshire County Education Task Force. 
 
The Adams-Cheshire committee on Monday reviewed a brief report on sharing leadership by District Management Group, a fast-tracked portion of a feasibility study on sharing a range of services that is being funded by a two-year grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. (The report can also be found here.)
 
The report, however, offered little detail in how such a superintendency union might operate. Superintendent Barbara Malkas, who would presumably become the superintendent for both districts, said setting specific times to be in each district wouldn't work. 
 
"I would not think about a shared superintendent in terms of quantifying it with time," she said. "It would be one superintendency with seven schools as opposed to four schools. I think that's the only way to wrap your head around the workload and meeting the needs of both districts."
 
The concerns about permanence could be addressed in the contract, Malkas said, and as for the loss of autonomy, she felt strongly that "schools are cultural artifacts of the community." 
 
But where Malkas thought the report did a good job in identifying the challenges and benefits, longtime School Committee member and Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger was disappointed it did not contain more data and research.
 
"I was hoping for a little bit more substantive data, more evidence-based reasoning why we should pursue this possible opportunity," she said. "I don't think that enough stakeholders were included. I'm not sure who was interviewed at this table, but I wasn't and being the longest attending School Committee member, that would have been important to be included. The community leaders and the parents should have been engaged in this process as well."
 
Boulger said she wanted to see both the assets and challenges that both districts will bring with them. Malkas' introduction of the report included more data than the report did, she said. 
 
She was also concerned that North Adams has particular challenges right now, including being a Level 3 turnaround district. The administrative team is still fairly new, the district's just completed a reconfiguration of grades and its entered into two new shared services this year alone — the new collaborative North Berkshire Academy for special education and a new business manager shared with North Berkshire School Union. 
 
"There are a lot of new initiatives under way and I want to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row before we started to explore other possibilities," she said. "I am 100 percent in support of collaboration and cooperation when it makes sense for our district and our students and our administration."
 
Boulger said she could not support sharing a superintendent at this time but was open to exploring the possibility with Adams-Cheshire with more concrete and evidence-based data on hand. She also noted that the North Berkshire School Union will be searching for a superintendent, which might be another possible collaboration. 
 
All the School Committee has approved so far is to consider exploring the possibility of shared services, Malkas noted. "Any agreement that happens would have to meet the approval of the School Committee before it moves forward as well as the School Committee of Adams-Cheshire Regional."
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard, chairman of the School Committee, asked Malkas how the agenda for the joint meeting would look and where would it be held. Malkas said it would most likely be at Hoosac Valley High School and that she planned to invite William Cameron, chairman of the Education Task Force 2.0, to do an introduction on work that was done by the task force and about other districts that have shared superintendents. The superintendent said she would present her vision on what had to happen for it to be successful and then open it up to discussion. 
 
Both Boulger and School Committee member Tara Jacobs said it was important to get community feedback in some form should the school committees decide to move forward on exploring the opportunity.
 
In other business, the committee also approved researching the use of so-called "blizzard bags" to reduce the number of snow days. The new policy subcommittee appointed by Bernard on Tuesday — Chairman Ian Bergeron, Karen Bond and Nicholas Fahey — will develop the blizzard bag policy with input from stakeholders. 
 
It also approved a Drury band trip to New York City with 16 students. Students have been fundraising over two years and band parents have provided scholarships.  
 
• New Business Manger Carrie Burnett was introduced to the School Committee. 
 
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