CHESHIRE -- With a newly regrouped administrative team, the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District is working to reach out to the stakeholders in its communities, particularly parents.
On Tuesday at 9 a.m., the superintendent and three principals gathered in the cafeteria at Cheshire Elementary School to hold its first "Community Conversation" forum, designed for parents and community members to join school leaders to share "conversation, questions, concerns and compliments."
Only one parent, Patrick Hanbery, a school council member for Hoosac Valley Middle and High School, showed up.
"Lesson learned," said Kristen Gordon, who replaced superintendent Alfred Skrocki in the leadership role in November.
"In April, we'll have to try this at 6 p.m.," she said.
Still, it didn't stop Gordon from hosting an hourlong meeting with Hanbery, Cheshire Elementary School Principal Peter Bachli, and new principals Vinnie Regan and Michelle Colvin of Hoosac Valley and C.T. Plunkett Elementary School, respectively. Regan and Colvin took on their roles at the start of the school year.
"We want our communities to be involved because the communities have been so good to our schools," said Gordon.
Student attrition and retention, communication, budgets and funding were among the major topics of discussion.
Gordon said that about 24 percent of the students who live within the Adams and Cheshire communities don't attend schools within the
"That's unacceptable," she said.
For a small district, students and families have a lot of schools to choose from, Gordon said. She noted that families often opt to send their children to St. Stanislaus Kostka School, the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter School (BART) in Adams, and McCann Technical School.
The school district assumes the cost of sending children who live within its boundaries to educational institutions outside of the Adams-Cheshire public schools. Gordon said it costs the district between $800,000 and $900,000 annually to send children to BART.
Gordon said the district has hired a marketing consultant, John Krol of OneEighty Media, to promote successful school programs to people who aren't aware of them.
She and Regan are expanding and promoting college preparatory programs, such as Advanced Placement courses, where students can earn college credits.
Regan said the school is also developing a plan to pilot a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career pathway program next fall.
Other things the school district will soon be touting through events and programs include a new cable access television show on education issues, the new track at Hoosac, the district's solar panel project, and a "move up day" for students heading from fifth grade into the new middle and high school building, which also opened this academic year.
The biggest challenge to school improvements and growth, according to school officials, is funding.
As the district enters budget season, it will examine what it can and can't afford for the coming year.
"Doing more with less is becoming very difficult," said Cheshire Elementary Principal Peter Bachli.
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