Pioneer School Committee talks grants, Leyden identity

  • The Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee discussed two grant awards, Leyden’s identity within the district and the possibility of meeting twice a month during last week’s meeting. Staff File Photo/Shelby Ashline

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2019 6:22:01 PM

NORTHFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Regional School District School Committee discussed two grant awards, Leyden’s identity within the district and the possibility of meeting twice a month during last week’s meeting at the Northfield Elementary School.

Superintendent Jonathan Scagel said the district is part of a new Telebehavioral Counseling Program, made possible through a grant from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth. Telebehavioral health creates, promotes and maintains access to behavioral health services through technology.

“The two-fold purpose of the program is to use telehealth networks to increase access to behavioral health care services in rural communities and conduct evaluations of those efforts, to establish an evidence-base for assessing the effectiveness of telebehavioral health care,” Scagel said.

Maureen Donovan, program manager at both Athol and Heywood hospitals, will share details of this program at the next School Committee meeting on Dec. 12. Scagel said Donovan is encouraging the implementation of telebehavioral clinical training in academic institutions across the state.

The district was also recently awarded a computer science grant, which will embed computer science coursework in the curriculum for seventh and eighth grade students at Pioneer. Scagel said he applied for the grant last year with the Education Development Center and the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, along with 15 urban and rural districts that serve more than 10,000 students.

“In the last decade, changes in technology, communication and the information life cycle have contributed to significant changes in our world,” Scagel said.

According to Scagel, benefits from the computer science grant include a five-year sub-award of $7,500 annually per participating district middle school on a reimbursable basis. This will cover teacher stipends and mileage for travel to and from professional development sessions, and costs of classroom materials related to grant programs.

The computer science grant, which comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research program, is an intensive research grant that will be focused on documenting the expansion of and participation in computer science in underrepresented student populations, with a priority focus on rural schools and increasing student academic achievement. The grant will help students be prepared for personal and civic efficiency in the 21st century, so they may consider creative technology-based careers in the future.

Vote to accept grants

The School Committee will begin to vote to accept grants for the district, as a way to maintain further financial transparency. According to Finance Director Tanya Gaylord, the directive from the state is intended to expand the committee’s awareness of grant applications, acceptances and required uses.

Maintaining Leyden’s identity

School Committee member Sharon Fontaine, of Leyden, and Leyden Selectboard Chair Jeffrey Neipp expressed concern over maintaining Leyden’s “identity” within the school district following the closure of Pearl Rhodes Elementary School in the spring. Leyden students now attend Bernardston Elementary School.

Changing the wording in the school handbook, newsletters, website and possibly the name of Bernardston Elementary itself was proposed to reflect the attendance of Leyden students. The committee determined it will need to discuss these ideas further during its December meeting.

Meeting twice a month

School Committee members discussed the possibility of meeting twice a month or making changes to their agendas to avoid overly long meetings and ensure time for necessary discussions. The committee will reconvene on the idea during its December meeting.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.

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