|Lanesborough School Chair 'Re-Energized' By Task Force Vote|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
03:57AM / Monday, July 24, 2017
|At a short meeting Friday morning, School Committee Chairwoman Regina DiLego expressed excitement about the Berkshire County Education Task Force's vote.|
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — School Committee Chairwoman Regina DiLego participated in 32 meetings of the Berkshire County Educational Task Force over the past two years.
And it was exhausting. But as the group voted last Saturday to recommend a single school district for all of Berkshire County, she's become "re-energized."
"I'm really excited about it all. I think we can do something for our kids," DiLego said.
DiLego said she was somewhat surprised by the vote. She was expecting the group to come to the conclusion of recommending three separate districts. But, the more discussion the group had and the more issues arose with that, DiLego believes that one district is really the way to achieve the group's goals.
"Nobody, including me, thought that was going to be our vote," DiLego said.
She said the focus was on providing high-quality education for all children in Berkshire County, equal access to the services each child needs, and financial sustainability. She said the best way to do that is to eventually move to a single district.
"One school district really answers the best for all of those," DiLego said.
Educational equity for all children stood out for DiLego. She said the discussions had already descended into parsing out where schools would fall under the three-district option, with some schools not wanting to be lumped in with others. She said there are distinct financial differences between the regions and school districts.
"It starts to turn into a 'we're already good so we aren't going to bring ourselves down,' " DiLego said. "It'd be one large school district, where the teachers are all paid equally, the paraprofessionals are all paid equitably."
The city of Pittsfield is already at its levy ceiling, meaning it has little more it can contribute to the schools. And DiLego said there are about a half-dozen towns inching ever closer to the same place. Combining resources throughout the county will help save money through a number of different ways.
"Once we are at the ceiling, you can't spend any more money," DiLego said.
That gives her fellow School Committee member Danielle Taylor a pause of uncertainty. She'd like more information on what the educational system would ultimately look like when towns with greater wealth and towns of lesser wealth meet in the middle.
The bold vision is expected to take a decade to achieve. And, not all school districts and towns will want to be part of it. But the task force spent numerous hours coming to the best pathway forward. And now it is time to craft a roadmap to get there.
"The hope is people will not stop moving forward," DiLego said.
And the timing is right, too. DiLego said there are numerous superintendents in the district looking to retire soon so the opportunity for towns to combine resources is near.
The single district plan does not mean there would only be one high school. There would still be multiple schools but the administration of them would be shared. DiLego expects gradual steps with districts starting to share services, then sharing administration, and finally going to full regionalization.
That is exactly the path the towns of Williamstown and Lanesborough have been following and in November, the full regionalization comes to a vote. The elementary school committees have been asked to take the lead on that process and DiLego says she has a number of meetings coming up to dig into those details and ensure a new regional agreement is one both towns can get behind. The Board of Selectmen also has a community forum on the topic on July 31.
The Berkshire County Educational Task Force still has Phase 3 to work on, which will address the details of how a single district would work. DiLego isn't the only school official who has voiced excitement for the possibilities and the outcome of the vote. Others have praised the recommendation since Saturday's vote.