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Gun Safety Resolution OK'd in North Adams Schools
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:20AM / Wednesday, January 03, 2024
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday reorganized for the new term, heard updates on a number of issues and approved a gun safety resolution promoted by the Be SMART campaign. 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey is the chair of the committee because of her office but the vice chair is elected by the committee members.
David Sookey was unanimously elected vice chair on the nomination of Richard Alcombright. 
Sookey had nominated Alcombright and Emily Daunis nominated herself; all nominations were seconded. Tara Jacobs was absent.
Daunis said she was interested in expanding her role but recognized Sookey was nominated by Alcombright, who has been vice chair. Sookey said he wanted to be more involved after the mentoring he'd received. Alcombright, who served last term as vice president and formerly as chair when he was mayor, asked that no one vote for him. 
"I very much appreciate the nomination and your faith in me from them," he said."But I also think that it's always good that we grow and that we grow the people in our leadership roles."
Daunis was elected secretary unanimously on Sookey's nomination and the committee approved committee appointments made by Macksey.
  • Negotiations for Professional Staff subcommittee: Daunis, as chair, Sookey and Macksey
  • Negotiations for Non-Professional Staff Subcommittee: Alcombright, as chair, Daunis and Cody Chamberlain
  • Finance and Facilities subcommittee: Macksey, as chair, Tara Jacobs and Alcombright
  • Policy subcommittee: Sookey, as chair, Chamberlain and Alyssa Tomkowitz
  • Endowment subcommittee: Jacobs and Tomkowicz
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said work as already begun on the fiscal 2025 budget in looking at enrollment and cost projections, including special education costs for out-of-district placements. This topic had also come up early in the meeting in looking at the balance sheet. 
"I had mentioned earlier that we've all been monitoring the increases to out-of-district placement tuitions, which have increased substantially in the last year and are scheduled for a second increase in the coming year," she said. 
The superintendent reminded the committee that the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER III funds, will expire in September. The first two ESSER allotments were part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the third and final from the American Rescue Plan Act. 
"That has been a great opportunity for the district to have additional funds to support these kinds of expenses such as special education, tuition and transportation for out-of-district placements," said Malkas.
The governor's budget is expected by the end of the month, which will give the district some idea of funding. Malkas anticipicated a draft budget to present to the Finance & Facilities subcommittee in March and for the School Committee to have its initial review in April or May. 
Macksey also pointed out that unknowns in Greylock School could have an impact on the budget. The 60-year-old school is proposed to be replaced by a new building but that won't happen for several years. 
"We still really worry about the mechanics going on at Greylock School — the electrical, the furnace, those kinds of things that could turn into some big-ticket items if something fails," she said. "So just be reminded that we are cognizant of that and trying to keep the school open as long as we can."
In other business: 
The committee heard a presentation on arts integration into the district curriculum by Leslie Appleget, the district arts integration specialist.
• The committee heard updates on a number of policies, including bullying, and voted to approve a Be SMART Safe Storage of Firearms Resolution. SMART stands for secure, model, ask, recognize and tell regarding unsecured firearms.
Massachusetts law states that a firearm should be locked and unloaded while in a home and vehicle and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends storing ammunition separately.
Resolutions have been adopted by several Berkshire County districts, and the document presented to the School Committee was developed and approved in Pittsfield
Malkas said the Policy subcommittee had declined to make a recommendation because it was not within the purview of the district as a policy.
"But it can be something that the School Committee elects to support as a resolution, encouraging our families to reduce incidence of gun violence through the safe storage of firearms," said Malkas.
The resolution warrants communications to parents, guardians, and students on the importance of secure firearm storage as soon as possible, distributed to each school at least once annually, and included in the district website and student registration materials.
"Unfortunately, we're in a position now where the schools have to do this stuff but it's way outside the purview of what needs to be happening in our schools," said Alcombright. "But I think it's necessary. Certainly support it."
He asked if public safety had been involved and if the police chief had signed off on it. 
Be Smart organization has provided workshops for parents and professional development for teachers through a grant, said the superintendent. "Our school resource officer, Stephanie Mirante, has been very actively involved in ensuring that parents are getting this message and being that representative of local law enforcement."
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