Lanesborough School Committee chair gets pushback on withdrawal idea


LANESBOROUGH -- The Lanesborough School Committee chairman continues to stress the school explore withdrawing from School Union 71, though members question the process and residents have raised numerous concerns.

In previous meetings, Chairman Robert Barton has stated Lanesborough pays more in administrative costs than average and has recommended the town explore joining another school union or region.

"It may be that we continue exactly as we are," he said this week. "But unless we look at alternatives, we may miss something that's even better than where we are."

Lanesborough has shared a superintendent with Williamstown and Mount Greylock Regional School District since School Union 71 formed in 2008 when it left a neighboring school union. The union differs from the district formed in 1958 between Lanesborough and Williamstown.

After lengthy discussion Monday night, School Union 71 members did not vote on whether to continue with the shared superintendency.

Barton has stressed a need for his committee to vote on an intent to withdraw from the union, which they will take up on March 5, and that the committee not be locked into a multi-year contract with shared staff.

In 90-minute executive session to discuss non-union personnel contracts, members voted to have the business manager's contract expire June 30, and to renegotiate a one-year contract. They also voted to renegotiate the director of pupil personnel services' contract for three years, and to take no action on the curriculum coordinator position.

School Union 71 Chairwoman Regina DiLego, a Lanesborough School Committee member, has repeatedly questioned why Barton has not raised his concerns at a union meeting.

"It should have originated here with us, and together we should have decided if we were going to form a committee to look at other options," she said.

Member Valerie Hall, the Williamstown School Committee chairwoman, said she was concerned by Barton's repeated requests for information from administrative staff, who have complained that he is causing them too much additional work.

Resident Michelle Johnson said she was concerned that Lanesborough would "get lost" in a larger district, in which the town with the most children could be a driving force in making decisions.

And resident Richard Cohen noted that the union has brought important benefits to students, bringing Lanesborough's music program and math curriculum into alignment with Williamstown students. By contrast, he said, students were at a disadvantage when they went to middle school at Mount Greylock, he said.

Cohen also expressed concern over a Dec. 4 e-mail Barton sent to Mount Greylock School Committee Chairwoman Carrie Greene. In the e-mail, which Greene has made public, Barton writes of "emerging political realities" in Lanesborough and a "readiness to entirely withdraw" from the regional agreement with Williamstown.

Barton suggested Williamstown and Lanesborough establish a multi-town region and build a new high school with North Adams.

"If this kind of multi-community collaboration doesn't begin coming together in the next six months, I think there is a real chance Lanesborough will decide to withdraw from the [Mount Greylock Region]," Barton wrote.

To reach Edward Damon:

or (413) 663-3741 ext 224.

On Twitter: @BE_EDamon


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