Letter: Learn from students -- collaboration works


To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Jenn Smith's article, June 2, on the collaboration that took place in Kari Giordano's Foundations of Design class at Mt. Everett Regional gave us a wonderful part of the picture of how the new children's book "Benny Everett's First Day" came to be published but there are some additional factors at play here.

First, the idea for this book came about as a result of Ms. Giordano participating as both a teacher and parent on the Southern Berkshire Regional School District's (SBRSD's) Ad Hoc Early Childhood Task Force, led by the district's Director of Student Services, Sandi Hubbard, and developed in cooperation between the school district leadership, the School Committee and the staff of both the district and the Southern Berkshire Child Care Center, which is under the direction of Amy Carpenter.

Anyone who knows schools and fiefdoms know how incredible it is that between October and December of 2013, this collaboration came up with a way to accommodate the needs of parents who may want to begin formal education for their children within the district before their children's fifth birthday, developed an outreach plan to make families throughout the district aware of programs in each of the district's community schools as well as the main campus and developed the idea for what became Benny Everett's story.

Two of the sophomore authors, Elyssa Johnson and Morgan DeGrenier, pointed out in Ms. Smith's article it is not easy dealing with so many opinions and having to swallow your pride, make changes and compromise. Ms. Giordano regularly does a book project as part of her curriculum; however, this year her class not only had to collaborate and compromise with each other, they learned how, if they should choose design as a career, they will often have to deal with the vagaries of their clients' opinions (they really stood their ground).

I was one of the people who pressed for a slight change to the end of the book and was thrilled at the way the students took my input and adapted it to make it possible for Benny to stand on his own on his first day of school and become friends with the little girl who found the pin his mother gave him for good luck that he thought he lost (a pin, hopefully, will also be included with each book).

Another example of collaboration is how the Eagle Fund (private funds raised throughout the district and managed by the Taconic Foundation) helped to pay for this project to go from idea to reality. The best part of the story is that the district is planning on making this book available on request in the area's libraries, doctors' offices, daycare centers, and as part of "swag bags" for babies entering the communities that comprise the district.

Not wanting to sound too preachy, I do believe we all can learn a lot about compromise and collaboration from the experience at the center of Ms. Smith's article and the collaboration that will turn a student project into what we hope will become a right of passage for the children of Alford, Egremont, Monterey, Mt. Washington, New Marlborough and Sheffield.



The writer is chairman of the Southern Berkshire Regional School District.


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