North County selectboards support sharing school superintendent

  • Bernardston Selectman Robert Raymond speaks during a joint selectboard meeting regarding potentially sharing a superintendent with another school district on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 at Bernardston Town Hall. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Sunday, November 05, 2017

BERNARDSTON — Representatives from the four North County selectboards agreed to recommend the Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee to pursue sharing a superintendent with another school district.

During a joint meeting Thursday, members of the four boards agreed to draft a letter outlining their support for sharing administration, an idea that will be presented to the School Committee during a future meeting.

Given tight finances for the district and an approximately $14.1 million budget that have led town assessments to increase year after year, Bernardston Selectman Robert Raymond hopes sharing administrators will save the district money.

“What are we gonna do?” Raymond wondered. “How much are our taxpayers going to pay?”

Based on recent discussions by the district’s Superintendent Search Committee, it seems like the two groups are on the same page. In their first meeting last month to discuss replacing Superintendent Ruth Miller, the search committee agreed to look into sharing administrators with another school district, with each member assigned a school district to contact.

The search committee was formed as a result of Miller’s June announcement that she won’t be looking to negotiate a new contract once her current three-year contract is up. If nothing changes, Miller’s last day as superintendent will be June 30.

Members of the four selectboards echoed their support for sharing a superintendent, as well as a business manager, on an interim business.

“I think there are other school districts that are suffering … and willing to share a superintendent or business manager,” Raymond said. “If we try it for one year and it doesn’t work out, and we don’t save money or we don’t have enough input on what the superintendent does, forget about it. We’ll go in a different direction.”

The boards proposed arranging a year-long agreement with a superintendent, re-evaluating partway through the year and, if the arrangement is satisfactory to the district’s public officials, seeking to extend the contract.

Given Miller’s announcement, board members said it seems like the opportune time to regionalize.

“This sort of thing is resisted in most districts because the incumbent superintendent wants a job,” said Warwick Town Coordinator David Young, who is also a School Committee member. “We have an opportunity here.”

Sharing a superintendent and business manager could be just the beginning, board members agreed. Young proposed sharing administrators with multiple districts, and aligning class schedules to support learning between districts.

“If this did work, you could see tech directors being shared, curriculum coordinators being shared,” Raymond said.

During October’s School Committee meeting, the committee finalized a letter to send to nearby districts to gauge their interest in sharing a superintendent or business manager, including Frontier Regional School District, the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, the Gill-Montague Regional School District, Franklin County Technical School, the Mohawk Trail Regional School District and Greenfield School Department. According to Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent Pam Lawrence, the letter was sent Wednesday.

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257