School Committee Considers Educational Changes at RES


Communities / Sep. 28, 2017 9:13am EDT

By Martha Slater

The Rochester-Stockbridge School 706b Study Committee met Wednesday, Sept. 20 at the Rochester School.

At the committee’s previous meeting, consultant Steve Dale had explained that Rochester would not be able to carry its phantom students into the new merged district, thus the higher per-student expenses would raise the tax rate in the new district, affecting property owners in both towns significantly.

As a result, the Rochester members of the committee had given WRVSU Supt. Bruce Labs “the task of reducing the overall Pre-K-6 to a figure under the per-pupil spending cap,” committee member Amy Wildt, who is also a member of the Rochester School Board, told The Herald last Friday. “The cap is a dollar for-dollar penalty, which would raise taxes fast. At the September 20 meeting, Supt. Labs presented a budget that did fit those criteria.

“He did this by changing the way kids will be educated,” she noted. “The elementary teachers would specialize in one content area, such as math, and would teach that subject, with the students taught in groups, according to their ability They would no longer be in specific grade level groups.”

Wildt said this method of teaching is what the Williamstown School system is using, “and they are reporting a big increase in test scores. This method addresses proficiency-based learning, which is a state requirement.”

The Williamstown teachers are reportedly very pleased with this new method, which they said not only increased test scores, but decreased the amount of special services needed.

WRVSU Special Ed Coordinator Debbie Matthews noted that she had visited that school and confirmed those findings.

Wildt said a Stockbridge board member who works as a teacher in the Randolph area, “said her school uses a similar method and she is very pleased with it.”

During the comment period at the September 20 meeting, residents expressed both positive and negative impressions of this new direction for the school.

If a proposed merger with Stockbridge is approved, the students in grades 7-12 would be tuitioned out. The function of the study committee has been to explore the possibility of this particular structure.

“The bottom line is that the actual program and budget would be the responsibility of the newly formed combined school board, which would be made up of three members from Stockbridge and three from Rochester,” Wildt said.

At the nearly three-hour meeting on September 20, the committee reviewed the articles of agreement for the proposed merger, but no decisions were made.

The next 706b study committee meeting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at Stockbridge Central School.

“At that meeting, it has to be decided whether or not this proposed merger plan will be presented to the state,” Wildt said. “If the committee chooses to do so, and the state accepts it, the two towns need to set a date for the voters to make a final decision.”

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