Lanesborough School Committee considering move from School Union 71


LANESBOROUGH -- During a well-attended meeting Friday, School Committee Chairman Robert Barton stressed the town could save money by withdrawing from its superintendency union with Williamstown and possibly joining with another.

The committee will consider an intent to withdraw from School Union 71 at its meeting Wednesday.

Barton said the intention would be to withdraw by the end of June 2015, at roughly the time Superintendent Rose Ellis' contract is up for renewal.

"Voting an intent to leave is different from voting to leave," Barton said. "It puts everybody on notice that the School Committee is not ready to see contracts beyond that date of that intention."

He cited studies by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and Donahue Institute that showed a sharp decline in countywide population and school enrollment.

During the discussion, member Regina Dilego stated the committee had not discussed withdrawing from the union before Friday. Conversation had centered on how to reduce administrative costs, she said.

The School Committee was also not involved with Barton's request, as a private citizen, for $5,000 from the Selectmen last week to send a survey through the mail to Lanesborough residents and to conduct an enrollment projection for the union's three schools through 2040.

Barton said a separate study he conducted this winter on his own found Lanesborough has a relatively expensive cost per student -- $809 per student compared to Central Berkshire's $452 and Pittsfield's $381. The entire tri-district, which includes both town's elementary schools and Mount Greylock Regional, is $617, he said.

"You can use numbers to show whatever you want," Dilego said. "I don't think that is a reason to withdraw from [the union]."

Dilego stated she felt it would have been more "collegial" to inform the union members and called for input from Ellis. The superintendent was not able to attend Friday's meeting.

Mount Greylock School Committee member Chris Dodig, a Lanesborough resident, expressed concern over dismantling the union. He questioned Barton's assertion the town could save money, and requested more specific details.

Lanesborough was formerly part of School Union 69 and shared a superintendent with Hancock, New Ashford, and Richmond. In 2008, the Lanesborough and Williamstown committees joined together to form School Union 71.

In 2010, School Union 71 members formed an agreement to merge its senior administration with that of the Mount Greylock Regional School District. The three schools share administrative positions including a superintendent, business manager, and director of curriculum and instruction.

Barton's suggestion coincides with the Mount Greylock Regional School District seeking to renovate or rebuild the aging Williamstown campus. The district is also considering expanding to include pre-K through grade 12.

To reach Edward Damon:
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On Twitter: @BE_EDamon


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