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Gill-Montague, Franklin Tech, Pioneer in regionalization talks

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School. ANDY CASTILLO

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School. ANDY CASTILLO

  • Franklin County Technical School is in need of a new roof. Recorder/Paul Franz PAUL FRANZ



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee gave tentative approval to a set of grant proposals that would allow the district — along with the Pioneer Valley Regional School District and the Franklin County Technical School — to study the possibility of shared services and regionalization.

The grants, which are offered by the state’s Department of Revenue, would give the districts up to $200,000 for the study of regionalization or efficiencies of school districts.

The Gill-Montague School Committee formally authorized and voted on the possible grant applications, ranking its three preferred scenarios on Tuesday night. Franklin County Tech School then gave early approval to the broad idea of a regionalization study grant on Wednesday night, but did not vote or discuss any possible scenarios. The school’s aim is to have a broad grant application and let the consultants who would conduct the feasibility study determine any possible scenarios.

“There’s nothing etched in stone,” Tech School Committee Chairman Rich Kuklewicz said. “It’s really just, let’s go gather information.”

The Pioneer district’s committee is set to discuss the issue tonight.

District Superintendent Michael Sullivan has laid out three scenarios for the board to discuss after he had met with the Franklin Tech Superintendent and representatives from the Pioneer district.

Both school committees made mention of the idea that it’s important to be proactive about the situation, considering state government in Boston favors the idea of regionalization of the smaller districts in the western part of the state.

“We’re simply asking some questions and getting some answers,” Gill-Montague committee member Jane Oakes said. “I think particularly at the state level, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has been on the bandwagon of too many small districts in Western Mass.”

Several members said pursuing the grant now gives the district more flexibility and control if they do decide to pursue regionalization or cost-sharing measures.

“Sometimes, I think asking the questions ourselves and getting real information about our district, that we could then plan with, is much better than taking someone else’s information in Boston that they think would be helpful to us,” Oakes said.

The scenarios

The first scenario was the most ambitious of the three, and included a proposal to combine the three districts into two that would be organized by grade level. There would be one regional high school, which would become its own regional district, and then another preschool through eighth-grade district. Both districts would serve all students from Leyden, Warwick, Bernardston, Northfield, Gill, Erving and Montague.

Franklin Tech and Turners Falls High School would combine to create one high school with two campuses, where vocational students would take academic classes at Turners and some vocational classes would be available for academic track students.

The Pioneer Valley Regional School would become the middle school for all of the students.

The second proposal would include two different grants to study regionalization between Gill-Montague and Pioneer while also looking at shared services between Gill-Montague and the Tech School.

The third would exclude regionalization with Pioneer and just study the feasibility of shared services with the Tech School. Examples of shared services include athletics, employees and possibly, classes. The two schools would remain separate entities.

“We haven’t crunched any numbers yet,” Superintendent Sullivan said. “This would be the first step in all of this.”

The committee ranked their preference for all three and then authorized Sullivan to move forward with the grant process: the second, the first and then the third. The board didn’t select a particular proposal in case the other two schools selected a different one. The committee discussed the proposals at length on Tuesday night. Most members leaned toward the second proposal, but the group was open to all of them.

Sullivan said all three school committees need to be on board with the grant proposal application for it to be accepted by the state.

Reach Miranda Davis
at 413-772-0261, ext. 280
or mdavis@recorder.com.