CHESHIRE - "Back to business" was the prevailing message at Monday's Adams-Cheshire Regional School District meeting.
Members took a brief moment to celebrate the Hoosac Valley building committee update everyone's been waiting for - "The building's done" said Superintendent Alfred Skrocki - and the successful start to this school year last Friday. Then it was back to the grindstone.
Matters discussed thereafter will likely occupy the committee and administrators for months to come.
These included an ongoing project with developer JM Electric to see a solar array installed in the field across from Hoosac Valley Middle & High School's main office; implementing a new teacher evaluation system - a key component of the district's Race to the Top compliance push; working with subcommittees to follow through on plans to maintain district properties over time; refinancing the district's debt; taking "a hard look" at the regional agreement and strategic plan; and transitioning to the leadership of a new Superintendent after Skrocki's departure at the end of October - current Plunkett principal Kristen Gordon.
Skrocki said developer JM Electric is beginning to work on-site and develop a timeline for the solar project, an array that will produce 570,000 kilowatt hours of energy in the first year, or 80 percent of the school's energy needs. In addition, the district is planning excavation work on the property to clear the area to allow for
Regarding teacher evaluations, Gordon headed up a three-day professional development seminar last week that committee members hailed as a success at the meeting.
"Everybody went away a lot more comfortable [about the process]," Gordon said.
After the meeting, the future superintendent shed more light on the Race to the Top-derived initiative.
"Next we'll be meeting with representatives from the teachers union to come to an agreement on the contract for the evaluation system," Gordon said. "Once we have a final agreement, we can start rolling out the system."
The system will see teachers establishing SMART goals for students - standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely - in order to reshape curriculums to focus on the common core and to be observed and evaluated for performance-based benefits and employee improvement. Gordon said negotiations with the union "picked up quickly" last week and should see action soon.
Race to the Top, a federal initiative to push states to improve K-12 education, was adopted by the commonwealth in 2009 and its guidelines shape much of the district's goals and policies.
Skrocki also had a few pointers for the district's maintenance subcommittee- chaired by member Stephen Vigna. He said the district can prevent "major capital outlay" in the future by budgeting ahead of time, providing for the new track at the high school as an example. The surface needs replacing every eight to 10 years at a cost of more than $75,000.
Skrocki advocated a system where these expenses could be defrayed by planning and saving early.
"That's just one example, but it's a good one for people to understand [the maintenance process]," he said.
In the coming weeks, district treasurer David Hinkell will produce more definite numbers concerning the district's plan to refinance its debt and Skrocki and Gordon stated the goal of making progress on the district's strategic plan.
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