12 member RSDPB outnumber spectators in the audience
The 12 members Regional School District Planning Board, made up of three representatives from all four towns (Amherst, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury) in the current 7-12 Region, struggled with developing a "model" palatable to all four towns, but still allowing one (Shutesbury) not to participate at the pre-K through 6 level.
But leaving the door open -- using the term "on ramp" -- for them to fully join the expanded Region at later date, but within a deadline. And in the meantime allow for a possible sharing of the Superintendent who would be in charge of the expanded Region.
At one point in the somewhat contentious meeting the facilitator asked "Is there anything you all can agree on?" To which Pelham representative Trevor Baptiste waxed philosophically, "Aligning curriculum among all four towns is a laudable goal." Dead silence. "I was just trying to be positive" he quickly added.
Almost three hours later the entire Board voted unanimously to support the motion:
"To amend the current 7-12 agreement to a preK-12 agreement with the option that one of the existing four towns can remain 7-12 as long as that town is not Amherst, and that the town that remained 7-12 has the option to become a preK-12 member within a specified period of time, and that the town that remained 7-12 can negotiate with the Regional School Committee regarding shared superintendency services for their preK-6 school."
The motion is more of a memo that will be sent to the Mass Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education for a preliminary finding on whether the state would consider the creation of such a "Hybrid Region" legal.
The RSDP Board also discussed turning over the process from here on in to the Regional School Committee but decided they want to stay involved. The Regional School Committee could appoint them as a sub-committee to continue shepherding the process.
The Leverett representative to the RSDPB, Kip Fonsh, is also Chair of the Regional School Committee and he reported their plate is full enough now without taking on this added burden.
During "public comment" Town Meeting member and parent Janet McGowan brought up the issue of governance, concerned the make up of a new Regional School Committee would disproportionally water down the voting power of Amherst who has a population that comprises 88% of the Region.
"Regionalization can't be at the expense of our constitutional rights," said McGowan.
If the state approves the RSDPB memo and the Regional School Committee votes to amend the Regional Agreement to form this "Hybrid Region" all four towns would then have to approve it, each at their individual Town Meeting.
At the end of the almost three hour meeting Chair Andy Steinberg thanked the entire Board saying it was an honor to work with them these past two years, but he was stepping down as chair.
Andy Steinberg (left) announced he is stepping down as RSDPB Chair
Steinberg on Monday announced he is running for the Amherst Select Board.