RICHMOND — Two school districts are entering their first school year sharing one superintendent, and so far results look positive.
"My initial goals are about building relationships," said Peter Dillon, the new joint Superintendent of Schools for the Berkshire Hills Regional School District and the Shaker Mountain School Union.
Dillon was appointed to the position last May by unanimous votes in both Shaker and Berkshire Hills. The superintendent has been in his position at Berkshire Hills for eight years. 2016 marks his first full school year with Shaker.
Shared services in the school districts of the Berkshires are increasingly seen as the solution to declining school populations and aging infrastructure. State Rep. Smitty Pignatelli has said that he believes shared services are way of the future for the region's school systems.
Dillon's shared service across the two districts is one of the first moves towards that future in the Berkshires. It's also the first voluntarily entered shared services agrement in the state.
Dillon gave a report to the shared services committee on Thursday at the Richmond Consolidated School. He said that site visits in both districts are a top priority.
"I've always made it a goal to watch each teacher in Berkshire Hills teach at least once by Thanksgiving," Dillon said. "I'm confident I can include Shaker in that too."
Going forward, Dillon sees the big challenges to Shaker as operational. Hiring for open positions and union-wide improvements around safety have to be priorities, he said.
So far, both school districts are seeing positive results.
"There are no complaints from our side," said Berkshire Hills School Committee member Rich Dohoney. "I haven't heard anything bad from teachers or parents, and that's my gauge."
The shared services sub-committee will meet quarterly for the foreseeable future. Committee member Stephen Bannon described the ongoing role of the committee as operational, so more frequent meetings were unnecessary. Besides, things appear to working out.
"I think it's going really well," Bannon said.