Regional Agreement Working Group 7:05 PM
After three l-o-n-g years of mostly under-the-radar meetings, the Regional Agreement Working Group voted unanimously last night (11-0 with 1 absent) to support the draft report to the Regional School Committee outlining the purported benefits of e-x-p-a-n-d-i-n-g the current four town Region (grades 7-12) all the way down to Pre-K through 6.
The 12-page sales pitch extols standardization of curriculum, time savings for the Superintendent who will no longer have to deal with three separate budgets & School Committees, and better efficiency in assigning students to schools without regard to town boundaries.
But cost savings is pretty far down on their list of reasons, citing only a 2% overall savings for the Region as a whole (And that is probably based on everything going perfectly, which things never do).
A few minor tweaks were voted to this draft
The final report will be discussed at the upcoming January 13 Regional School Committee meeting as RAWG member Trevor Baptiste, who is also Chair of the RSC, said he has set aside 30 minutes on the RSC agenda for the presentation.
School Superintendent Maria Geryk handed out a draft "timeline" that shows the Regional School Committee voting on the matter at their March 10th meeting where it will require a two-thirds vote to pass.
Then it will be up to the four member towns -- Amherst, Pelham, Leverett, and Shutesbury -- to pass at their annual spring Town Meetings two questions: Should the Regional Agreement be amended to allow for this new expanded Regional entity? And if this new entity is allowed to form do we wish to join?
Interestingly enough, Amherst, who makes up the vast majority of the Region, will only vote the first question because in the body of the amendment it states that the new Region can only be formed if Amherst and one other town decide in favor.
But if even one of the other three towns votes No to the first question the issue is dead, because to amend the current 50+ year old Regional Agreement all four towns have to vote yes.
The only two Amherst residents in attendence last night both spoke about the lack of transparancy and outreach to the citizens of Amherst over the past three years, and another spectator, Dan Hayes from Shutesbury, complained, "I've had no information or input over the years, even though I requested it -- and I'm a school committee member!"
It is odd of course that this process has dragged on for over three years with little to no public relations efforts and yet now they want it voted up-or-down within the next four months.
Regional Agreement Working Group 9:45 PM