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Virtual delay

New board’s first meeting postponed until Monday

GREENFIELD — A scheduled Tuesday night meeting for Greenfield’s new virtual school board of trustees was canceled earlier in the day, which means members will have to wait until Monday for their first meeting.

Edward Berlin, the unofficial leader of the group, said Tuesday that a number of things weren’t yet in place and that it would be more productive to wait until next Monday. He believes the board is still on schedule to get the newly organized Massachusetts Virtual Academy up and running for the coming school year.

The 3-year-old virtual school, which uses the Internet to teach 470 students across the state, including a dozen from Greenfield, is now a Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual School. The change brings both increased state oversight and a local transfer of power from the Greenfield School Committee to a newly appointed five-member board of trustees.

Berlin, who will likely become chairman at Monday’s meeting, said that the board hasn’t been able to secure liability insurance. Some trustees were hesitant to vote at a meeting until this happened, he said.

The trustees have spent weeks communicating via in-person meetings, conference calls and email exchanges. But, subject to Open Meeting Law as of July 1, the trustees can no longer make decisions outside of a public meeting.

At the first meeting, the board will need to approve the school’s bylaws and then immediately send a copy to the state.

The school plans to pay the Town of Greenfield for financial services and the Greenfield School Department for administrative services. The board will need to approve both of these agreements Monday, said Berlin.

The Massachusetts Virtual Academy has permission to expand to up to 750 students, including 250 in the high school, which the school can recruit for the first time.

A dozen students from Greenfield attended this year for free, and will continue to attend for free. The home districts of other students pay $6,700 tuition, plus extra for special education students. Greenfield residents need to represent at least 2 percent of the student body, which could limit the school’s ability to expand.

The school’s trustees

The Greenfield School Committee appointed the five-member board in May.

Paul Bassett, of Erving, spent his entire career as an educator. He served in administrative positions in the Gill-Montague Regional and the Pioneer Valley Regional school districts, before spending 28 years as Stoneleigh-Burnham School’s head of school. He continues to work there as a teacher and debate coach.

Berlin — an attorney, who served on the Greenfield Town Council and was a former mayoral candidate — currently works as a labor relations specialist for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Christopher Joseph, who chaired the Town Council’s Ways and Means Committee, has two sons in the Greenfield school system and sits on the Franklin County Technical School Board of Trustees. He works as a business analyst in the information/technology sector.

Greenfield resident Michael Phillips is an Internet strategist and web development manager for Yankee Candle and has applied his web knowledge to nonprofit and start-up companies.

And Christina Powell of Reading is the lone virtual school parent on the board. She is a medical and technical writing management consultant. She earned her Ph.D. from Harvard for the study of viruses and is a former trustee of Pennsylvania State University.

The board will meet Monday at 6 p.m. at the school department’s Davis St. administrative offices.

You can reach Chris Shores at:

cshores@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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