Counterpoint on Mohawk school needs

Friday, January 12, 2018

A recent “My Turn” column in this newspaper argued that the educational model at the Mohawk Trail Regional High School is badly broken, that the superintendent is distracted by his other professional involvements, and that our region would be better served by a return to individual, town-run schools rather than a regional district.

Such a position is at odds with the 21st-century realities we face as a region struggling with declining population and slow economic growth.

Careful, transparent planning for the future of the district, with full knowledge of applicable laws and a thorough evaluation of benefits and costs, is the best path to addressing the financial challenges faced by ALL rural school districts, not just Mohawk.

It’s hard to see how operating individual town schools — each with its own set of state-required administrators, teachers and special educators — would be a benefit to any of the “shareholders” as defined in the earlier column. What about the real customers in any educational endeavor — the students? It is disturbing that a column written with the supposed intent of fixing a “broken” school system seems relatively unconcerned with the most important shareholders — the students.

By any objective measure, the students at Mohawk are doing well. Many individuals have legitimate questions about standardized statewide testing to measure academic growth and performance.

However, Mohawk students consistently perform at or above the statewide average on these tests in a state where Massachusetts consistently leads the nation, no small achievement. These students are the key to the future health and economic growth of our region.

Providing them with opportunities to collaborate with Greenfield Community College in expanding their skills in science and technology is but one example of how the superintendent and the School Committee are committed to fostering educational advancement at Mohawk.

Shared services and opportunities (like the Mohawk-GCC Robotic program) are the way of the future in a region that is being forced to transform from its past industrial and manufacturing base to a more mixed economic model where a wide range of innovative small businesses can take hold and thrive.

The column cited our superintendent’s reserve military service as another “distraction.” Frankly, I am surprised to hear anyone label a commitment to serve as a distraction.

If an anything, Michael Buoniconti is providing a model of public service that our students would do well to emulate, whether in the military, in local government, at their place of worship, or in any other forum that serves the collective good.

David Parrella