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Board finalists chosen for cyber school

GREENFIELD — Seven finalists for the town’s next generation cyber school board of trustees include a former school committee chairman and a former town councilor.

The board would autonomously run the 3-year-old Mass. Virtual Academy when it transitions into a state-authorized independent virtual school, presumably starting July 1.

Those chosen include four Greenfield residents: former School Committee Chairman David Lanoie, former Town Councilor Christopher Joseph, Changegreenfield.com founder Michael Phillips, and YMCA Executive Director Robert Sunderland.

Former Stoneleigh Burnham School head Paul Bassett of Erving, Christina Powell of Reading, and Erica Nahey of Dover were also chosen from the 15 who expressed interest.

Greenfield School Committee Chairman John Lunt said that 15 individuals expressed interest in becoming a trustee. That number was reduced to seven by Greenfield School Committee’s Innovation School Subcommittee, which consists of Lunt, Doris Doyle and Mayor William Martin.

The subcommittee voted to recommend to the full school committee that Lanoie, Phillips, Powell, Bassett and Joseph serve on a five-member board, with Nahey and Sunderland serving as alternates.

Lunt said once the board is formed and working, its five members may decide immediately, eventually, or not at all, to keep it a five-member board or add two more members.

The subcommittee said it will send its recommendation to the School Committee, which will interview finalists and then vote on them during a special meeting scheduled for May 21.

Lunt said members of the new board will serve staggered terms of one, two and three years to begin.

“Who will serve how many years to begin will be determined by a lottery,” he said.

Lunt said that when a trustee’s term is up, the remaining board members will appoint someone to fill that seat.

He said the new board will report directly to the state.

A majority of the trustees had to be Greenfield residents, according to the school department’s proposal, and at least one had to have a financial background and one had to be a parent.

Each trustee will be paid $200 a meeting, not to exceed $2,400 for an entire year, or $1,200 for a half year, according to the proposal.

The subcommittee met for about 90 minutes in executive session on Thursday to discuss and choose the board members it will recommend to the School Committee. State officials will interview the proposed trustees during the last week in May.

The Massachusetts Virtual Academy, the state’s first and only cyber school, uses the Internet to teach about 470 students. A dozen local children attend for free under the agreement struck between the School Committee and its for-profit online education provider, K-12. That arrangement is expected to continue under the town’s proposal to the state for spawning the new cyber school.

At a meeting in April, the Greenfield School Committee approved the virtual school proposal to become overseen by the state in a 5-2 vote, with members Maryelen Calderwood and Francia Wisnewski casting dissenting votes.

The new state-authorized virtual school could teach as many as 750 students next year and as many as 1,750 in five years.

The entire proposal can be read online at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/odl/cmvs/app-process.html.

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