An opportunity has arrived for North Berkshire to explore what would seem to be inevitable — a shared school superintendent.
Most Berkshire communities are confronting economic challenges, and neighbors Adams and North Adams may be the most severely tested. Losses in population and manufacturing jobs are straining both communities and it is reflected in the school systems.
Earlier this month, the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District approved a fiscal 2017 budget that represents a 0.58 percent decrease and results in the cutting of 12.5 full-time positions, including six teachers. The district, which has for some time spent far less per pupil than the state-wide average, may consider closing one of its elementary schools.
With the resignation of Kristen Gordon, Adams-Cheshire will be looking for a new superintendent. In North Adams, a search committee has begun the process of searching for a school superintendent to replace James Montepare, who is retiring. The logistics of a shared superintendency are challenging, as Lee and Lenox have discovered, but there is no time like the present to begin the process.
A combined superintendent for North Adams/Adams-Cheshire would serve 2,824 students according to statistics from the state Department of Elementary and Second Education website. Pittsfield has one superintendent for 5,608 students, so the concept is feasible and a substantial salary by Berkshire town standards would be shared.
Many Berkshire communities have been pursuing shared services, with the public school districts out front by combining athletic teams at some schools to serve a sport in which interest has become low. Shared services have moved from the wave of the future to a present need, and Adams, Cheshire and North Adams should be at the forefront of this movement.