Berkshire Hills School District ratifies contract for shared superintendency with Shaker Mountain School Union

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GREAT BARRINGTON — A shared superintendency between Berkshire Hills Regional School District and Shaker Mountain School Union 70 is expected to formally take flight in the coming days.

A contract ratified last week by the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee will allow Superintendent Peter Dillon to also serve as leader of the Shaker Mountain district.

"When these talks started, we wanted to be leader in this movement," said Berkshire Hills School Committee Chairman Stephen Bannon, "I think this will lead to more cooperation between districts."

The contract must still be ratified by officials in the three towns in the Shaker Mountain School Union: Richmond, Hancock and New Ashford. Dillon said the contract was crafted by a subcommittee of that school union and Berkshire Hills. He said he expects the Shaker Mountain towns to approve the contract at their select board meetings in the coming week.

Shaker Mountain School Union members voted unanimously last month to hire Dillon to take the reins of the district, which had been running under the leadership of interim Superintendent William Cameron after the former superintendent took leave to deal with a family medical crisis.

Dillon retains his entire superintendent's salary of $152,000. He has a two-year contract with the two districts, under the assumption that one year might not be sufficient to assess how well the collaboration is going.

"Two years gives everyone a little breathing room," Dillon said.

Shaker Mountain has agreed to pay Berkshire Hills a total of $60,000 of the salary, payable in quarterly installments. The funds will be used to pay Dillon a stipend based on how much work he actually does at Shaker Mountain, which includes Richmond Consolidated and Hancock Elementary schools.

That sum does not cover Dillon's work solely, according to Bannon. If, for example, Business Manager Sharon Harrison' services are need at Shaker Mountain, her work will be paid out of that sum.

Or, added Dillon, if there is some needed maintenance work in one of the Shaker Mountain school buildings, Berkshire Hills Maintenance Director Steven Soules might be hired.

Any extra money would either be put into the district's excess and deficiency account or a revolving fund.

In answer to a question by committee member William Field, both Dillon and Bannon agreed that actual savings would be relatively small, including the $60,000 from Shaker Mountain.

"Not millions," Bannon conceded, "But there will be some savings."

In addition, he said, the collaboration will foster further cooperation and professional development.

Dillon said he was excited to begin. He said his initial plan is to visit the schools in the Shaker Mountain District and do some outreach with town officials and residents over the next few weeks. His start date is July 1.

Dillon said the preliminary plan will be to spend two days at Shaker Mountain and three at Berkshire Hills. He said he might spend more time at Shaker Mountain to interact with school officials, teachers and students.

He said that while the geography may be "challenging," business is now "done by email and cellphone these days. If I'm in Richmond and I get a call from Monument Mountain, I may not get back to them right away. But that's something we'll have to wait and see about."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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