Derek Gentile: Can't we all just get along?



Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen several school districts in Berkshire County take preliminary steps toward sharing a superintendent and -- possibly -- merging.

This has been a long time coming, as far as I’m concerned. Educating young people is becoming more and more expensive, and some kind of major consolidation makes sense to me.

Before I get too many letters about school budgets going out of control, it must be understood that a very large factor in all this is that state aid that was promised to school districts, has been shrinking exponentially over the last several years.

Some kind of consolidation made sense to me 15 years ago, actually. There were several attempts by different school districts to explore sharing services, or equipment. But back then, the shadow of parochialism was a long one. Lee people didn’t like Lenox people. Great Barrington people looked down on Sheffield people. And on and on.

The other factor, of course, was the duplication factor. A merger would still leave the larger district with two superintendents, two sets of administrators and two sets of buildings.

Some of that was fixable and other factors, like extended bus travel for some students, had to be dealt Regardless, it would always require a lot of work.

As someone who grew up in the Berkshires, I understood the parochial factor. When I lived in Adams and North Adams people often seemed, to me, to be a very different type of human.

This, of course, is laughable, since my mother was from Adams and my father from North Adams. They always seemed to do OK, for the most part. But the irony is that I never thought much about that when I was being partisan and obstinate.

In some cases, I found that sports was a great leveler. I can recall hating, as only a teen can hate, the late Tom Kately of Drury when I was in high school. Not because of anything Tom ever did to me or my friends, but because he was so good at so many sports. Hoosac teams didn’t beat teams Tom Kately was on too often.

But then I started going to Noel Field in North Adams to play pickup basketball games. Not only did I get to know Tom, but we played on the same pickup teams, sometimes. I really enjoyed talking to him and I really, really enjoyed playing with him, it being a relief that all that athletic skill was on my side for once.

When I heard he had passed away, I was very saddened.

But I’ve always thought that some kind of inter-school intramural program would be beneficial toward eliminating those odd prejudices.

I understand that financially, it probably doesn’t make sense. And, in fact, there are various co-op programs up and down Berkshire County that, in my opinion, help high school kids understand peers from other schools.

Berkshire Community College was another leveler. It’s mostly a commuter school, and I met a lot of male and female students from Pittsfield and South Berkshire County. The Hoosac guys bonded with the guys from other Berkshire schools over sports and a few beers.

But obviously, not everyone in Berkshire County played high school sports, or went to BCC. I was always dismayed when individuals for whom I had enormous respect would disparage a school merger.

Human nature being what it is, I was dismayed, but not surprised.

To reach Derek Gentile:,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile


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