|Mount Greylock Committee Hears Concerns About Disparities at Elementary Schools|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
01:24AM / Tuesday, September 25, 2018
|The Mount Greylock Regional School District Transition Committee holds its first meeting in the new middle-high school's meeting room on Thursday.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Complaints about perceived inequities between the district's two elementary schools were brought to the Mount Greylock Regional School District on Thursday evening.
Mixed in with concerns about the ongoing labor strife in the newly expanded district were several comments about disparities between Williamstown Elementary School and Lanesborough Elementary School, where, committee members were told, pupils do not have access to the same opportunities for music instruction and a currently unfilled library position is straining resources.
"When I was hired eight years ago, I was asked to get the instructional music program off the ground," Lanesborough Elementary specialist Jacqueline Vinette told the committee. "When I spoke to parents, they were overjoyed. They were glad to see our students receiving an equal opportunity for success at Mount Greylock."
The current Mount Greylock Regional School's student population reflects that success in greater participation by LES-educated students in the middle-high school's band and orchestra, Vinette said.
"A few days before the current school year started, I was informed we would not be hiring a librarian … and I would be covering time in the library," Vinette said. "My time as an instrumental teacher was cut by half."
Vinette told the committee that instrumental lesson periods were down to 20 minutes and that given the time it takes to tune instruments and settle children down for lessons, "We're lucky if we get 10 to 15 minutes of productive time.
"Williamstown still has 30 minutes per week," she said.
Lanesborough sixth-grade teacher Marsha Vinette echoed the sentiment.
"Having worked eight years at LES, I've always been outspoken about the need for [the music specialist] position," Masha Vinette said. "For me, art and music and technology can be what makes a kid want to come to school. ... It almost brings tears to my eyes to see students who struggle in the classroom standing there [at a concert] with confidence and beaming with pride.
"What are we having to fight for such programs, particularly when our sister school [WES] has them?"
Later in the meeting, Mount Greylock Superintendent Kimberley Grady sought to assure the de facto school committee that there has been no diminution of opportunities at LES.
"There have been no programs eliminated at Lanesborough Elementary," Grady said. "It's the person in the front of the room doing the program who might be different.
"They still have instruments, they still have technology. They still have art, music and gym. The programs they receive are the same and in line with what they had last year."
Grady said the district has been working to maintain programs at the school despite changes to student population.
"As one of the parents said tonight [during public comment], it's a declining enrollment, and the staffing hasn't changed at LES from when they had 390 students," Grady said.
She said Jacqueline Vinette remains a music teacher first and foremost, and Grady likened the reallocation of staff resources — like splitting time between music and library — to a decision at Mount Greylock this fall to assign a gym section to an English teacher.
As for the library position itself, the district is actively trying to fill a currently vacant slot.
"We are looking to figure out the library role as we're becoming a 1-to-1 device school," Grady said. "So library at its core would focus on PreK-second grade, and 3-6 would have a media specialist approach."
As far as the bigger picture is concerned, Grady said the entire K-12 curriculum in the district continues to be aligned in order to maximize the success of all students entering seventh grade at Mount Greylock.
"I can sit here confidently saying our alignment PreK-12 is happening, and it continues to happen with the hard work fo the women in the back of the room," Grady said, indicating WES Principal Joelle Brookner and first-year LES Principal Martha Wiley.
In other business on Thursday, the Transition Committee heard a request from Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity to allow the non-profit to host more than 160 volunteers for one week next summer.
Andrew Hogeland of Habitat explained that the group is applying to a Maryland non-profit that organizes large groups of high school students to travel to various sites on the East Coast and volunteer on projects like the one the Northern Berkshire Habitat group is organizing in Williamstown.
Hogeland said that if the group chooses Williamstown, its students would camp on the gym floor and it would be willing to compensate the district for any expenses the district incurs during the visit.
"They're willing to cook prepare their own meals in your kitchen, but if the school wants its food service person there, they will pay for them," Hogeland said.
Committee members inquired about whether the district would have any liability issues to deal with it if ended up hosting the group, and Grady said she would address that with Mount Greylock's insurance carrier and legal counsel if the volunteer group chose to come.
Hogeland asked the committee for its approval of the idea so he could finalize Northern Berkshire Habitat for Humanity's application to the Maryland group in time for its Oct. 1 deadline.
After receiving assurance that both Grady and Mount Greylock Principal Mary MacDonald were OK with the idea, the committee voted 7-0 to endorse the plan.