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Virtual School

Virtual school exec ready to chart independent course

Carl Tillona, hired as Greenfield's virtual school principal in January 2013, was named the Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School's first executive director in October 2013. (Recorder/Paul Franz)

Carl Tillona, hired as Greenfield's virtual school principal in January 2013, was named the Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School's first executive director in October 2013. (Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School board of trustees is preparing to run the school on its own, independent of Greenfield School Department administrators. The board has appointed Principal Carl Tillona to serve as the school’s first executive director.

The school broke off from the Greenfield school system in July, becoming an independent state-authorized virtual school, and has been paying the department for administrative services ever since — for an estimated cost of about $250,000 by school year’s end.

Greenfield Super-intendent Susan Hollins, Business Manager Elizabeth Gilman and other school officials have continued investing time into the virtual school. But with Hollins announcing her retirement earlier this month, and trustees now feeling more confident about overall operations, the school is ready to have its own internal administrative team.

Tillona, who has served as the school’s principal since January, will oversee the school and report to the board. He’ll work with Greenfield administrators, who will continue for now to perform “central office tasks” like special education administration, data services, payroll and financial management, grant development and personnel hiring.

And he’ll work alongside Ryan Clepper, an employee of education company K12, who oversees the school’s teachers. The board is contracting with K12 for curriculum services, which includes teachers.

Hollins said her staff is happy to help the board transition to a self-sufficient school, in part because it has been a time-consuming project for the school department.

“The work of this school far exceeds what anyone had thought,” she said. That’s not due to poor planning, she said, but rather because of time spent figuring out logistics with state officials. The school is the first and only virtual school in Massachusetts.

New regulations

Trustees and virtual school officials needed to invest some time this week to respond to new virtual school regulations that the state is developing.

Officials from the department of elementary and secondary education sent the trustees a summary draft of the new regulations last Friday, asking for comments. Tillona and trustee Christina Powell traveled to Malden this week to share their responses in person at a meeting of the state’s digital learning advisory council.

Trustees and school officials were concerned by several of the proposed regulations, including ones that would prevent private school students from enrolling in a virtual school. Students from outside Massachusetts also would be prohibited from enrolling in the schools.

Hollins said that public brick-and-mortar schools can enroll either of these types of students and wondered why virtual schools should be any different.

The summary of proposed regulations also said that the state could revoke a virtual school certificate at any time for “lack of evidence of academic success.” Again, Hollins wondered if this was fair since the state funding for virtual schools is significantly lower than for brick-and-mortar public schools.

The state has stressed that the regulations are still being formed. It is taking input from its advisory council and comments from stakeholders, including Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School officials, before submitting the regulations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. That’s tentatively scheduled to happen around December, said state officials.

A period of public comment, which will include the chance for written responses, will then take place. The state will make revisions and then submit the final version to the education board for approval.

Other updates

The trustees will send out a request for proposals this week on a new space to house the school. It would include two classrooms, three to four administrative offices, a reception area, work cubicles for teachers to talk online with their students and meeting space for in-person tutoring.

Chairman Ed Berlin said that trustees have toured two spaces in town and were pleased with one of their options.

There is another opening on the school’s board of trustees. Doris Doyle, a former Greenfield School Committee member, has withdrawn her application to join the board.

In August, the board voted to add Doyle and Jeffrey Hampton as new trustees. But they haven’t officially joined the board yet because of delays at the state level.

Interested applicants can talk with the board by filling out a contact form at www.gcvs.org.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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