In self-evaluation, Monument high school finds strengths, weaknesses — and $20,000 savings


GREAT BARRINGTON >> Advanced Placement and special education students are well served at Monument Mountain Regional High School, but the district has room to improve when it comes to those in the middle of the educational spectrum.

That was the result of a recent self-evaluation conducted by a team of local volunteers who spent about a year assessing how the school is meeting its goals, according to Superintendent Peter Dillon.

The results were shared at a recent meeting of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.

Many school districts undertake evaluations by outside organizations, notably the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, according to Monument Principal Marianne Young, because a positive accreditation is considered an indicator of a well-run district.

But in 2009, when the district first considered pursuing an evaluation, the $20,000 cost of professional assessment was prohibitive.

"That was a year we had to furlough several teachers and make some program cuts," she said. "Spending $20,000 on a survey would have taken away from our educational programs."

But, Young said, the district still wanted to assess its strengths and weaknesses.

"We decided to measure ourselves against how well we follow our own mission statement," she said.

The mission statement for Monument Mountain Regional High School is to "create opportunities that foster intellectual and personal growth and challenge all to become courageous learners, engaged citizens and individuals of integrity."

To that end, she said, the district recruited local business leaders, college professors, administrators from many local organizations, medical professionals and area residents.

The 41 people visited classes, interviewed students, teachers and paraprofessionals and sat in on administrative meetings for about a year.

Young said that because the evaluation committee members spent so much personal time carrying out the evaluation, they weren't asked to prepare a written report. Rather, she said, their comments were collated and put into report form.

In addition to more help for students in the college prep and vocational programs, the evaluators suggested more aggressive marketing of the school and students; better scheduling for some programs; and a need to continuously update technology.

On the other hand, according to the report, the school was lauded as a welcoming and inclusive place, with passionate and caring teachers and administrators. The variety of programming for a relatively small school also was highlighted.

The School Committee unanimously lauded the work of the evaluating group.

Committee chairman Stephen Bannon said that when the committee was initially approached by the district administration to carry out the work, "we were all a little skeptical, I think. It took a couple of votes, but we came around."

Young told the committee that other districts have contacted Berkshire Hills to glean information on how the district carried out the process.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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