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Lanesborough Officials Presented FY22 Mount Greylock Budget
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
12:50AM / Thursday, April 01, 2021
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Superintendent Jason McCandless speaks to a joint meeting of the Finance Committee and Selectmen on Monday.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Town officials got their first look Monday at the proposed fiscal 2022 budget for the Mount Greylock Regional School District.
The total budget is $24,082,474, up $1,244,351 over this year. Lanesborough's assessment under the proposed budget stands at $5,876,831, a hike of $114,995 from last year's $5.7 million school bill.
The town is responsible for the cost of operating Lanesborough Elementary School and is assessed its share of Mount Greylock Regional School.
The elementary school's budget is $4,628,377, up about $400,000, and the high and middle school is $12,006,635, up about $60,000. The capital apportionment is $466,541, down $120,051 from this year.
Superintendent Jason McCandless told the Select Board and Finance Committee that the budget is focused on the recovery of a historically difficult year and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
"We want our budget to do quite a bit of work. We wanted to inform the community how we spend our money, we want it to inform our staff the kinds of things that that we believe about them, we wanted to say to our parents, what we believe about their children," he said. "And so we believe this year's school budget says that we value classrooms, and we keep what happens in classrooms at the center of our efforts."
McCandless compared the last year to the stories his parents used to tell him about attending school during World War II. 
"Every generation goes through its defining moments, our kids are living through one of their defining moments right now, and we want to make sure that we're ready to welcome them back after this most difficult year," he said.
New district investments for funding growth and recovery at Mount Greylock Regional, Lanesborough and Williamstown include:
  • A school social worker at Lanesborough Elementary
  • A full day pre-kindergarten teacher and paraprofessional
  • English language arts curriculum for Lanesborough and Williamstown elementary Schools
  • A social worker at Mount Greylock Regional School
  • A Student Resource Center teacher at Mount Greylock
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Work and Planning for the whole district
  • Summer programming for the whole district
McCandless highlighted the need for "Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging," or DEIB, efforts. DEIB work will likely begin in April and will cost around $30,000 for a consultant who has been working with the district for several months. Costs will be covered by this and next year's budget.
The consultant will be conducting conversations with families and students along with surveys and other data collection tools to "make sure everybody in the community knows they can say exactly what their experiences are, and what's on their mind in this world."
This outreach will include Zoom sessions, conversations in group settings and individually, and a series of documents by early August that are produced from this work. An additional consultant/consultants will be brought in to assist with districtwide training for every position.
In February, the district's two elementary schools announced that they want to completely overhaul their ELA curriculum starting in the 2021-22 school year.  Lanesborough Elementary Principal Nolan Pratt told the committee that the writing component currently is "not strong at all and the spelling part, the language acquisition is all over the place."
Along with the district upgrades, the district's principals are asking for an additional staff position to aid with the ELA improvements.
This includes the MGRS teaching social worker and the Lanesborough Elementary social worker.  
These change will cause a $45,000 budget increase for district professional development from FY21 to FY22, a $60,217 increase for the LES social worker salary, and a $63,428 increase for MGRS social worker salary.
McCandless said this year seems "particularly right" to invest in early education. His intent is to offer the prekindergarten program free of charge. It will prioritize students with identified special needs, and include children who are 4 years old who are about to start kindergarten. The district is required to provide special education and by opening it to all, it will count for Chapter 70 education funding.
The LES special education teacher salaries will increase by $73,311 for FY22 and paraprofessional wages by $58,052.
Summer education is part of the district's recovery plan in "trying to help kids recover from this bizarre school year that they've just lived through full of lots of stops, lots of starts and get back to school."
The district will be running regular and special education programming from July to August and sending 16 students to Camp Russell in Richmond to have a summer camp learning experience. Subjects will include math, history, science, languages, visual arts, and the acceleration academy. 
This will mean about a $1,000 increase for a total of $26,000 that includes transportation.
"We have let the state know that we're very interested in grant funding for an additional summer program that that grant funding if we were to receive it, we'll come in on top of that $26,000 for Lanesborough Elementary," McCandless said. "Again, we're looking at running the programming way, way above and beyond what normally happens at that beautiful school up on the hill in Lanesborough."
He said the district was committed to being good partners with the town to provide for its students.
"You don't exist solely to fund the school district although every superintendent occasionally acts as though that is the case," McCandless said. "We know that that is not the case, we know that you have lots of things that you have to do and we want to work together to make sure that we're doing our work but we're also not being hogs and allowing the community to do all the work that needs to do for all of its residents."
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