Monument High

Monument Mountain Regional High School, in Great Barrington, is the recipient of a $300,000 grant that will help rethink how teachers teach and how students learn.

GREAT BARRINGTON — Monument Mountain Regional High School has been awarded a one-year, $300,000 grant to help in its ongoing efforts to reexamine, well, everything.

“Schools have largely been the same for 100 years, right?” said Berkshire Hills Regional School District Superintendent Peter Dillon. “So, this is helping us to really rethink what we value and what we care about.”

The money was awarded by the Barr Foundation, in Boston. It comes on the heels of a $336,709 grant received last year from Mass IDEAS that was used for similar purposes.

The end result for Monument?: “Students are going to have more voice. Teachers are going to work together in more interesting ways. And the curriculum is going to be more meaningful and more relevant,” Dillon said. “At the end of the day, what we hope is that young people are more engaged and leave school better prepared to go on to college or to the workforce or the military than they previously have been. That’s no small feat, but that’s really what we’re trying to do.”

The grant will pay for what?: Dillon called the money “significant.”

It will pay for:

• A consultant with the nonprofit Great Schools Partnership, based in Portland, Maine, that helps schools redesign their educational offerings;

• Site visits to schools such as the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (known as “The Met”) in Rhode Island, whose approach to teaching has won it accolades from educators;

• Compensating staff to participate in training outside their normal work schedule;

• Substitute teachers to allow time for staff to observe or oversee new models for learning;

• Professional development led by the nonprofit Teachers Development Group, based in Portland, Ore. (the group’s specialty is mathematics);

• Consultation from UP for Learning, based in Montpelier, Vt., to help institute ways that students’ voices can be heard in matters regarding school reform;

• Consultation from the Yale Child Study Center to help foster best practices regarding social and emotional learning.

“That pretty much amounts to $300,000,” Dillon said.

What is the Barr Foundation?: From the group’s website: “There is so much potential all around us. We aim to serve as both stewards and catalysts of that potential. As stewards, we nurture and enhance vital community assets. As catalysts, we cultivate and advance the breakthrough ideas that will shape our collective future.”

Why are these grants important?: The district needs them, Dillon said.

“We’ve made a commitment to trying to raise a lot of private money through private philanthropy,” he said. “That gives us all sorts of flexibility to do things that we might not otherwise be able to do, and it also reduces the impact on our taxpayers.”

The district’s budget is about $30 million a year. The district now brings in about $2 million a year in grants.

Felix Carroll can be reached at or 413-496-6391.