The Berkshire Hills Regional School District campus. Photo courtesy of BHRSD.
Greater Barrington— As discussions and studies continue with the potential merger of the Berkshire Hills and Southern Berkshire Regional School Districts, members of the Eight Town Regional School District Planning Board appear frustrated with the lack of input from the public and members school staff. districts.
The lack of feedback was the main topic of discussion at the board’s outreach subcommittee meeting on Friday, September 23. At the start of the meeting, project manager Jake Eberwein spoke about the lack of responses to a SurveyMonkey survey from staff members at both schools. districts. “We received up to about 27 responses, and of these, 15 thought that a small group follow-up [to the survey] made sense,” Eberwein said. “I think we should call it done at this point. I don’t know how many times we can send it. It’s not a big answer, but it’s something.
“There’s a real investigation fatigue,” said Berkshire Hills Regional School District Superintendent Peter Dillon. “As a district, we try to limit the number of surveys people do. Some staff get more than two surveys a week, and that’s crazy. I don’t know how to handle all of this. »
Eberwein said he would work with Beth Regulbuto, superintendent of the Dillon and South Berkshire Regional School District, to identify people to serve on potential steering committees. “I don’t know how we’re going to get people to sit on these committees,” Dillon said. “I think SurveyMonkey said it would take two minutes and 45 seconds to complete, so it wasn’t a particularly long survey. But I understand teachers get a lot of email traffic. At this point, we can say we asked, so now we can tap people on the shoulder [to serve on the committees] If we want. We won’t accept people saying “I wasn’t included” because everyone had a chance to weigh in and participate, so now we’re moving on.
Board members also talked about the future of the community forums regarding the potential merger. “It’s kind of a struggle for me,” President Lucy Prashker said. “We organize these sensitization meetings and don’t get much attendance. I’m ready to continue, but I don’t know if it’s effective. I wonder if we can partner with the selected councils in the eight cities and ask them to help us identify a forum in the city and perhaps promote public participation? »
The board then discussed a video in the works that will promote the idea of a possible merger and serve as a form of community outreach. Eberwein said the video was still being worked on at the time of the meeting. “A video would be the biggest opportunity to capture the most people,” said committee member Nadine Hawver. “I did a forum not too long ago because Sheffield is writing a housing production plan. We had a forum and we only had a handful of people at the meeting. People want housing , but they won’t show up to help us. I hate to keep wasting your time, Lucy, and having low turnout. I think we need to go further.
The committee also discussed running advertisements in the Southern Berkshire Shoppers Guide area that would consist of updates from the committee, but no decision was made by the board. “We might get an answer, but then again, it could still be the same old sleepy band,” Hawver said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do when someone says we haven’t done enough community outreach other than going to their house and dragging them by the earlobe.”
Following the meeting, outreach consultant Mary Nash sent an update on the committee’s work over the past month to The Berkshire Edge. In the update, the committee reports that it is focused on the vision for education, including examining options for the delivery of educational programs, creating opportunities for members of both districts to learn getting to know each other and “creating a shared sense of belonging in creating an educational vision” for the region.
The vision will be organized by members of grade groups, including pre-K-4, grades 5-8, and grades 9-12, as well as a group for pathway programs professionals and careers.
The update does not list the meeting times for these groups or the duration of the viewing process.