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Letters to the Editor

What's the score re: village store?

To the Editor at MontereyNews.org -
Hi, we are summer residents in Monterey who live in London.  Keeping in touch with events in Monterey is difficult and your Web site is potentially very valuable and welcome to us.

We have recently heard that the village store has closed - a potentially
devastating blow for the town.  Is there any information on this which
you could publish on your site?

IAN and CHRISTA LINDSAY  <Ian.Lindsay@morganstanley.com>

London, England
Tuesday, March 05, 2002


School options in Monterey

(Editor's Note: The following letter was published in The Berkshire Eagle on Wednesday, January 16, 2002.  It is reproduced on this Web site without permission.) 

See the Related Article below: Charter school foes voice objections
.
To the Editor of THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE:-

The January 9 article by Ellen G. Lahr on the proposed Greenriver charter school was fairly informative. 

Regarding the estimated 50 percent of school age children in Monterey who do not attend the Southern Berkshire Regional School District, it was noted those children are taught at home or are in private schools. 

I think it needs to be added that there are many students from Monterey who are school-choiced to other fine public schools in Southern Berkshire County.

Also, it was reported in the same article that $45 million was spent on the school construction project for the Southern Berkshire Regional School District finished in 1992. That figure should have read $25 million.

JIM EDELMAN

Monterey, Jan. 10, 2002

© 1999-2002 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc.


Charter school foes voice objections

(Editor's Note: The following article was published in The Berkshire Eagle on Wednesday, January 09, 2002.  It is reproduced on this Web site without permission.)

By Ellen G. Lahr
Berkshire Eagle Staff
January 09, 2002

NORTHAMPTON -- Nearly 20 Southern Berkshire County school administrators, selectmen and superintendents urged state officials to reject the Greenriver charter school proposal during a two-hour hearing here yesterday. 

Opponents repeatedly raised concerns about the potential financial drain on existing schools, the apparent duplication of public school services, and the disproportionate effect on a six-district South Berkshire region with fewer than 3,000 students.

"If one family with three children sees Greenriver as a 'private school' with no tuition and enrolls there, we could lose a teacher in our school," said Garth Story, superintendent of the Farmington River School District serving Otis and Sandisfield. "To take nearly $1.5 million out of [all] the local schools for this experiment is not the right thing to do at this time."

Parents of schoolchildren, though, voiced support for Greenriver, claiming it would bring innovative educational methods to the area.

Officials from Lenox, Richmond and South County's two largest school districts -- Berkshire Hills and Southern Berkshire -- echoed Story's remarks throughout the early evening meeting held by the state Department of Education at the Northampton Town Hall.  Five school superintendents made the trip, along with principals, School Committee members and other administrators.

Area officials said Greenriver is based on educationally sound principles, but it would badly undermine existing schools and duplicate initiatives already under way in their districts: team teaching, smaller classes, project-based learning and other teaching methods proposed by Greenriver. 

William Cooper, superintendent of the 1,100-pupil Southern Berkshire district, said the five-town district is already strained by the $45 million school construction project completed in 1992.

"If 30 parents transferred their students to a charter school, our district would forward $300,000 to this new independent school," said Cooper, touching on the funding mechanism for the new school. "The loss of students would not result in savings, but would force staff reductions and class size increases." 

DOE also took public comment on two other charter school proposals -- one in Greenfield and another in Worcester -- but the Greenriver School drew the most speakers, both for and against. 

Stockbridge Selectmen Chairman J. Cristopher Irsfeld said the Berkshire Hills district -- in which Greenriver would be located -- has done "a superb job" educating his six children and sees nothing in the charter school proposal that isn't available in local public schools. 

While he does not oppose the charter school concept, he said a charter school approval for Southern Berkshire could easily undermine the Berkshire Hills district's plans for new school facilities.

The school construction project, in the $30 million range, may not get the required voters' approval if they are facing added financial impact from a charter school in their area. 

While opponents were strong in number, proponents were strong in parental representation. Parents of public and private school students shared their anecdotes about shortfalls in the public schools, the fast pace required of students and the high cost of private schools. 

About eight proponents spoke at the microphone; a handful of others were at the end of the speakers' list and didn't get their chance.

Chandler Crawford of Monterey said half the children in her town don't attend the Southern Berkshire district schools; they are taught at home or in private schools. Her own daughter, she said, would "joyfully" attend a charter school. 

"I would like my tax dollars to go to a Greenriver School alternative," she said, for its "personal, thoughtful and rigorous education."

Another Monterey parent, who said she spends $10,000 per year on private school tuition for her daughter, commented that public schools could not meet her child's needs. A charter school would allow the innovation, slower pace and intimacy that fosters a solid education, she said.

Another parent, Tanya van Breevoort of West Stockbridge, said after the meeting that she's "outraged" at the trauma her bright daughter has experienced in public school. She can't home-school her child, she said, nor can she afford private school tuition.

"I don't feel there's a voice for people like me," said van Breevoort, who said private schools create a class division that a charter school could help to bridge.

Brad Lister of West Stockbridge didn't get his chance at the microphone, but after the meeting broke up, he said he would place his three daughters in the charter school. Presently, he spends $30,000 per year to send them to Berkshire Country Day School.

An educational researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., he said he's frustrated that the most effective educational practices don't seem to be in place in public schools. 

"I'd love to have my children in Greenriver," he said. "It would have a major positive impact and be a model school. It's just not possible to do what has to be done within the [public school system]."

Greenriver's founder, Ric Campbell of Ghent, N.Y., did not speak at the podium, leaving other proponents to voice their support. Campbell, a Harvard doctoral candidate who would be the administrator of the school, said he was disappointed at the seemingly fearful attitude among opponents worried about the financial impact of the charter school. 

Asked if the charter school would not siphon money from public schools -- a charter school is funded with a per-pupil fee from the students' home school district -- he said he's not aware of specific research showing that public schools are adversely affected.

During the hearing, though, Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins spoke forcefully to that issue. Northampton, with 3,000 students, also has two charter schools nearby. 

"I'd say to you in Berkshire County, watch out, because it's decimating the schools in smaller communities that end up paying the bills," she said.

The city of Northampton, where the schools have been ranked among the top in the nation, pays $661,000 per year to those charter schools, she said. A third charter school has now been proposed.

Next year, she said, Northampton could face a charter school bill of $825,000 if the funding formula is altered by proposed state legislation.

The state DOE is considering nine charter school applications across the state, and will now send the application to three different review boards, said Julie Lane, director of Charter School Development for DOE. 

Decisions on charter school applications will be made in late February. 

The Greenriver school, if approved, would open in Septem-ber 2003, with 140 students in kindergarten through Grade 8. By its fifth year, the school would potentially have about 230 students through high school, and a budget of about $2.3 million.



Ellen G. Lahr can be reached at elahr@berkshireeagle.com.

© 1999-2002 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc.

The articles above are reproduced on this Web site without permission.


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