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Virtual School

Virtual school board votes to add two new members

GREENFIELD — The new five-member Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School board of trustees voted to expand by two members at its nearly five-hour kick-off meeting Monday.

Board Chairman Edward Berlin said the positions are open to anyone. The board hopes to appoint the new members as soon as possible, although it will first need state approval.

Two potential applicants, Greenfield residents Doris Doyle and Jeffrey Hampton, sat in the audience as public observers. Until two weeks ago, Doyle sat on the Greenfield School Committee and chaired the innovation subcommittee, which dealt directly with the virtual school. Hampton is a member of the Franklin County Technical School Committee.

Interested applicants should send resumes and letters of intent to board member Paul Bassett, newly appointed chair of the trustees/policy committee, at pbassett@gcvs.org. One seat will initially be a one-year term and the other will be for three years, said Berlin.

State spokesman JC Considine said that any changes to the virtual school’s certificate, including the number of trustees, must first be approved by the state’s board of elementary and secondary education. Commissioner Mitchell Chester does have the temporary power to approve changes during the summer months, he said.

‘Opening’ the school

With all other major local and state hurdles now cleared, the virtual school board got down to business Monday, blazing through a number of tasks needed to kick off the newly state-authorized cyber school.

Berlin, who was unanimously elected chairman, said that establishing a new school typically takes a year. But the board, who inherited the 3-year-old school from the Greenfield School Committee on July 1, has been forced to do most of these tasks more quickly so that the school can be operational this year.

The school — officially called the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School and given the acronym “MAVA@GCVS” — will use the Internet to teach students across the state who may otherwise struggle in standard brick-and-mortar schools.

The trustees will contract with for-profit education provider K12 for curriculum services, with Greenfield for managerial services and with the Town of Greenfield for financial services. The trustees spent about 90 minutes in executive session Monday, where Berlin said they outlined the specific tasks that will be performed by each of the three groups — which will help them prepare for upcoming negotiations with K12.

Berlin is hoping to have contracts and agreements finalized with all three groups in the next few weeks. The board must send the state a draft contract with K12 by Aug. 1.

The school can enroll as many as 750 students this year, but officials said Monday the number will likely be closer to 600. A dozen Greenfield students attend for free.

Trustees spent about 45 minutes discussing and approving the school’s bylaws — which were then sent to state officials at 11:20 p.m, just meeting a required midnight deadline.

A preliminary budget was discussed, based on the assumption of 600 students. Berlin said it will be finalized later in the summer.

The board hired Greenfield attorney Donna MacNicol, voted to set up bank accounts at Greenfield Savings Bank and to pursue a $100,000 credit line, purchased liability insurance, chose a student data software provider and elected officers.

Greenfield Superintendent Susan Hollins, who the virtual school board also intends to hire as its superintendent, sat at the meeting table with the trustees and MacNicol. Hollins has run the virtual school since its inception.

Mayor William Martin, a voting member of the Greenfield School Committee who sat on the innovation subcommittee, sat in attendance as a public observer. School administrators Ryan Clepper and Carl Tillona were also present.

The board contains three Greenfield residents — Berlin, Christopher Joseph and Michael Phillips — as well as Paul Bassett of Erving and Christina Powell of Reading. Since the majority of trustees must be from Greenfield, the board will need to select at least one resident from town when choosing the sixth and seventh trustees.

Powell, a virtual school parent, was appointed the board’s vice-chair and is serving a three-year term.

Bassett, serving the other three-year term, will chair the board’s trustees/policies committee. Phillips, who is serving a two-year term, will sit on that committee.

Joseph, a former town councilor and a member of the Franklin County Technical School board, will act in a dual role as the board’s secretary/treasurer. He is serving a one-year term.

Joseph will also chair the board’s finance and facilities committee. Berlin, serving a two-year term, will sit on that committee.

You can reach Chris Shores at:

cshores@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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