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The dawning of the Berkshire Hills ‘District Spring’?

In his letter to the editor, Housatonic resident Dave Long writes: "It is absolutely imperative that the School Committee demonstrate tangible progress in securing the health and well being of the district before town meeting season. While the process continues to open up, the Committee needs to formally establish the path to reform."
To the Editor:
Last Thursday’s vote by the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee to restore programatic cuts is a bit of an enigma. On one hand, we kept intact one of the most successful programs within Monument Mountain Regional High School and resisted the impulse to make damaging cuts purely for the sake of lower taxes. On the other hand, we have now passed a budget that not only exacerbates an already overburdened tax load, but is utterly unsustainable in the long run. The reason residents should consider last Thursday’s vote a victory is not because the School Committee passed a burdensome budget, but rather that there are real signs that the School Committee and residents are coming together to address the fundamental problems that currently plague the district.
As Winston Churchill once famously quipped: ”Never let a good crisis go to waste” — all of us, including the school committee and administration, are having to dig deep to find the common ground for rebuilding the district from the ashes of the Monument renovation vote. There are real signs of progress. Tuition agreements are being renegotiated, the District Agreement is getting a serious review, and most importantly, the district is increasingly reaching out to the community for help in finding solutions. To the extent we can capitalize on this moment, we can establish a new model of efficiency, equity, — and above all — a great education to carry the district forward for decades to come.
But the pressure is still on and the stakes have never been higher. In the worst case, Great Barrington votes down the budget at town meeting while Stockbridge and West Stockbridge pass it. In this case the ire of Great Barrington residents could derail the progress that has been made in the last few months. We need to keep moving on all fronts — including the high school renovation — if we wish to avoid an even larger crisis in the future. At the same time, we have a fiduciary responsibility not to let the district’s financial problems undermine our kids’ education.  

It is absolutely imperative that the School Committee demonstrate tangible progress in securing the health and well being of the district before town meeting season. While the process continues to open up, the Committee needs to formally establish the path to reform. Now is the time for residents to help them do so. What we (collectively) do now will set the tone for months, if not years to come.

I am optimistic. I have heard and explored more actionable ideas in the last two weeks than I have for the last two years. I have witnessed a level of dialogue that would not have been possible two months ago. To some, this is too little too late. But I would beg for patience. The truth will become apparent in time. For now, let’s all try to thaw the frigid relations of the past and embrace our inner strengths as a community.
Dave Long
Housatonic

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