Richmond school group to weigh renewing shared superintendency

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RICHMOND — The Richmond School Committee is putting together a community advisory committee to help determine potential renewal of the shared-services superintendency arrangement after it expires on June 30.

Since the start of the 2016-17 school year, the supervisory Shaker Mountain School Union 70, which also serves Hancock and New Ashford, has shared Superintendent Peter Dillon and his team, including Business Administrator Sharon Harrison, with the Berkshire Hills Regional District. Dillon has been superintendent there for 11 years.

"We're in the fourth year of the shared superintendency agreement and from an educational and organizational perspective it's going quite well," Dillon said Wednesday.

However, he acknowledged, "from a time perspective, it's challenging. We're in ongoing conversations about how to move forward and how to find a better balance."

Dillon voiced hope that "we'll continue to expand the relationship." Pointing out that after eighth grade, most Richmond students attend Monument Mountain Regional High, "I think there's a nice connection there. The Richmond school is doing great and they are a wonderful partner."

Richmond Consolidated School wishes to continue working with Dillon and his team, said Dewey Wyatt, chairman of the Richmond School Committee. He's also one of three Richmond committee members on the Shaker Mountain School Union 70 Committee, along with representatives from Hancock and New Ashford.

All three towns have an equal say as the school union explores future options, Wyatt told The Eagle on Wednesday.

"We want to ensure for Richmond students that we can continue to provide programs and services to sustain the high performance at the school." Wyatt said. "However, doing that is not simple at all; it can be quite complex."

He expects a commitment from appointed members of the advisory committee "to dig in on what we need to have in the future contract" with the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, which includes Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge.

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Allocation of time for Dillon and his team between the district and the school union is a challenge, Wyatt said. "Things have been good, but need to be improved upon in certain areas," he said. "We need to lay out our expectations to make sure we're giving the Richmond students what they need within the will of the Richmond taxpayers."

The Richmond advisory committee is seeking community members to weigh in on the future of the joint superintendent arrangement to ensure the necessary levels of administrative and support services for the town's school, which enrolls 179 pre-K through eighth grade students.

With enrollment stable and town residents now outnumbering school choice students from Pittsfield and other communities, Wyatt added, "we're not resting on our laurels and our staff is working hard to ensure students are getting a solid education."

The new advisory committee will include Principal Jill Pompi, school staff members, parents, other town residents, a selectman and a Finance Committee member.

The goal is to consider financial and operational issues to support negotiating and settling a contract for the next superintendency arrangement, according to Amy Scott, secretary of the Shaker Mountain School Union 70 and administrative assistant at the Richmond school.

"We want to ensure that RCS remains a top performing school and the education provided to all of our students continues to be seen as high value to the town of Richmond and beyond," Scott wrote in an e-mail message to the community.

The advisory committee will have the direct support of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and also will have guidance from the Richmond School Committee's attorney.

Scott is seeking email responses to ascott@richmondconsolidated.org from potential participants on the advisory committee by noon next Tuesday. She asked for respondents to include a brief statement on how they feel they could contribute.

The Richmond School Committee will hold a public meeting next at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 4 in the school conference room to review the applications and potentially to appoint the members.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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