October 8, 2021
Dear Mohawk Trail & Hawlemont Families,
This week we have a lot to cover, so here's what's happening in this issue:
* COVID-19 pool testing begins at MTRS
* Family data needed for state reporting
* MTRS students participate in financial literacy programs
* MTRS awarded $450,000 from Barr Foundation
* Superintendent Stanton testifies at Rural Schools Commission hearing
* Happy Birthday, Lamby! (photo gallery)
* Educators in Action: Trailblazers. Leaders. Educators. What's YOUR superpower?
* School Spotlight: Sanderson 3rd grade visits Mt. Greylock
* Community Corner: West County to host free flu clinic (registration required)
COVID-19 pool testing begins at MTRS
As a reminder, POOL TESTING is required for athletics, extracurriculars, and before- and after-school programs. ALL information can be found on the district’s COVID-19 Information page at www.mtrsd.org/covid-19-information OR by clicking on the “Helpful Links” drop-down from any of the school websites. If you participate in one of the above activities (including coaches and volunteers) -- you MUST sign-up for testing! If you have any questions surrounding the process, procedure, or need additional information, please reach out to our district Nurse Leader Donna Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org or Superintendent Sheryl Stanton at email@example.com.
TO SIGN UP ONLINE: https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma?district
Select: Consent Now → Mohawk Trail → (select your school)
For staff, coaches, or anyone over 18 years of age, please select “Sign consent form for yourself.”
For caregivers who need to give consent for their child/ren, please select “Sign consent form for a minor.”
If you are unable to complete the online sign-up/consent, please contact Donna Weber for a paper copy to complete.
Click here to visit the district's COVID-19 information page and data dashboard.
Family data needed for state reporting
As you may know, our district receives additional state and local funding to support learning for students whose families are identified as "low income." The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) identifies most of these students already, by identifying students who receive public assistance, but not all.
We're reaching out to you in hopes that if your family falls within that category, but you've not yet filled out paperwork, please do so today! While breakfast and lunch is free for everyone this year, filling out these forms helps us to qualify for additional funding through the state, which in turn is a benefit to all of our students.
As a reminder, the information you provide (on this form and any supporting documentation) will be maintained by the district and only used by the district or DESE to verify household income to determine the state and local funding we receive.
IMPORTANT: This Supplemental Low-Income Data Collection Form is not an application for free or reduced-price school meals. Please refer to the School Meals Household Application in order to apply for those benefits.
Please be aware that this is a voluntary process. Families are not required to submit this information. If you need assistance completing any portion of the form or gathering other required information, please contact your building principal or front office staff.
DYK: MTRS students participate in financial literacy programs
This week the Greenfield Recorder included MTRS in their piece around financial literacy programs for students in the area. Read all about it HERE (or click button below).
Click here to read the story in the Greenfield Recorder: Area schools discuss benefits of financial literacy programs.
Superintendent Stanton provides testimony at Rural Schools Commission hearing
Superintendent Stanton, along with other rural school superintendents; select board, finance committee, and school committee members; provided the Commission with testimony outlining the financial constraints and struggles of educating rural students today and the impact it has on our local municipalities.
According to the Commissions' website, "the commission shall make recommendations for: (i) improving and expanding the rural school aid grant program and feasibility of including a low and declining student enrollment factor within the existing rural school aid formula; (ii) establishing and including a low and declining student enrollment factor within the foundation budget; (iii) expanding the use of technology to deliver instruction; (iv) enabling operating efficiencies; (v) exploring the use of shared services; (vi) optimizing schools and school districts; (vii) encouraging improvement of fiscal health and educational outcomes; and (viii) other matters related to educational opportunities in rural areas."
Stay tuned in the upcoming months as we hear more from the Rural Schools Commission and their work.
Click here to listen / watch the Rural Schools Commission hearing and testimony (including testimony by Superintendent Sheryl Stanton).
Superintendent Stanton's Testimony from the Rural Schools Commission Hearing on Oct. 6
My name is Sheryl Stanton and I am the Superintendent of the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont Regional School Districts. I am the former Superintendent of the Granby Public Schools and Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent in the Southbridge Public Schools, as well as a building principal in Ludlow and began my public education career as a teacher and instructional coach in the Springfield Public Schools. Thank you for taking the time to hear my testimony today. I know we share the same goal of providing the best education to all students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I appreciate the opportunity to shape the discussion regarding the Student Opportunity Act impact and hope for a Student Opportunity Act Round II, if you will, to support the unique and contextually needs of rural and small school districts and the municipalities we serve.
I applaud the legislature in working with the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, municipal and community leaders, students and families to draft and pass the Student Opportunity Act and establish this Commission on Rural Education. Since the inception of the foundation formula and Chapter 70 aid, there has been an inherent flaw in calculating the true costs of education the Commonwealth’s children. As you know, the Student Opportunity Act has addressed to a large degree, the gaps in funding for districts with substantial significant needs, primarily Gateway Cities whose student demographic subgroups by their nature, are known to require substantially more resource support to close the persistent gaps in student achievement. Adjustments to address underfunding of special education, English Language Learning, and economically disadvantaged subgroups has been long overdue.
However, the Student Opportunity Act has failed to provide substantive relief to rural and small school districts for whom the foundation formula and Chapter 70 aid has inherently underfunded since the beginning. Two main points here: The formula assumes a minimum school size of 300 students and a district size of 2,500 students. NONE of my four schools, that serve nine towns over a 250 square mile geographic area, nor does the district or has the district ever reached the thresholds assumed in the original formula. Fast forward to today, with declining enrollment, flat Chapter 70 and hold harmless provisions, rural and small school districts are faced with devastating decisions regarding what programming to cut, a retraction to core academic programming, keeping overall district increases as low as possible to alleviate increasing minimum contributions that towns are now required to make due to the Student Opportunity Act which has shifted the burden and acknowledgement of increased costs of educating students to our towns. No one wants to say they don’t support the schools. The reality is, our towns can’t. The growing difference between the aid received in our district and fixed cost increases alone, are borne by our municipal partners.
So the questions become, do you really need a principal in all the buildings? Do you really need a curriculum coordinator at central office, do you really need an athletic director? Do you really need the assistant principal at the middle school high school and the largest of our elementary schools. Do you really need all those paraprofessionals? I can’t blame our municipal partners for asking…but…do we tell the student, who is in crisis and the family who needs our support beyond the classroom, the principal isn’t in today? Sorry, there’s no one here to help you. When the teachers ask, how can we implement the new expectations from DESE regarding scientifically-based approaches to reading instruction, do we tell them, sorry, you just need to figure it out on your own? When the athletic teams need scheduling, transportation, training for coaches, who’s going to do that…coaches themselves? When students report conflict, who follows up, investigates, disciplines, provides for mediation and restorative justice, sets expectations for equity and inclusion for all…without a principal and assistant? To the special education student trying to maintain themselves in a classroom, for their families trying to navigate for their child with special needs, and for the district, trying to create programming aligned to the least restrictive environment for the students, do we say..sorry, we don’t have the resources to provide paraprofessional support? These are the questions we face at every finance committee meeting and decisions regarding reductions result in our community losing faith in our ability to provide the academic and enrichment programs our families consider essential to their child’s education…families begin to make difficult and different decisions regarding where to send their children to school.
As has been already been mentioned, as district leaders we often hear you need to do more to be more efficient. I want to share the ways that we have leveraged efficiencies. We have a shared services agreement between our two districts, sharing the costs of central office expenses. We have contracted services for our business office and technology support. In addition to improved service to the district, we reduce our burden of health insurance and retirement benefit costs through these contracted services by eliminating district employees. While we continue to look for and leverage more efficiencies, there are fewer opportunities that will result in our ability to shift resources to programming. Our current Mohawk Trail school redesign is funded by the Barr Foundation (private funding) as we are not competitive when applying for DESE funding due to our rural student demographic. We continue to explore further regionalization and school reconfigurations, but these solutions are years away from realization, and are difficult to actualize.
I truly believe that we are poised at the most pivotal point of this common goal of providing the high quality education program for every student, in every classroom in every community in the commonwealth. It is my hope that this commission creates substantive change in the funding formula to address the inherent inequities in funding as the student opportunity act has done for our Gateway Cities.
MTRS receives $450,000 from Barr Foundation
Buckland, Mass.—The Mohawk Trail Regional School (MTRS) was awarded $450,000 in funding from the Barr Foundation to continue to support the school’s Trailblazer model which puts students at the center of their learning experience.
Funding from the Barr Foundation will be used over a two-year period to continue to support the all-school redesign initiatives at MTRS which began in 2018 with seed funding from Mass IDEAS (an initiative of Next Generation Learning Challenges designed to incubate high-quality, innovative school models in order to transform K-12 public education across the Commonwealth) to create the school’s Trailblazer model. MTRS was the recipient of three grants from Mass IDEAS, which receives generous funding from the Barr Foundation, to “rethink and reimagine” the student experience. Through the Trailblazer model, students “blaze their trail” to graduation through real-world experiences and acquire 21st century skills at MTRS while pursuing their individual passions. MTRS breaks down the “traditional” classroom environment and offers co-taught, blended classes; intern- and externship opportunities; and high-quality instruction.
MTRS Principal Marisa Mendonsa said she’s excited about this next phase of funding and working with the Barr Foundation to continue the redesign work through the Trailblazer model.
“It’s an honor to receive this funding from the Barr Foundation and their support of our Trailblazer model and the vision we’ve reimagined for our school,” said Mendonsa. “This funding will allow us to continue with our redesign initiatives and consider new courses that align with our focus on culturally responsive teaching and anti-racism practices.”
The student experience is at the heart of the Trailblazer model. This includes providing educators with the tools they need to support students in their journey through school. Educators are encouraged to be leaders and actively participate in distributed leadership at MTRS; and they are encouraged (and supported) in the development of new courses and assessments that engage and enhance the student experience.
Barr Foundation funding will also allow MTRS to continue professional development with their existing partners who help to support the Trailblazer model including EL Education, Next Generation Learning Challenges and Firefly Worldwide, Inc.
Since 2019 when MTRS began the redesign process, numerous advancements have been made school-wide including the implementation of a daily advisory for all students; community workgroups to provide feedback and insight; and co-taught, blended courses which provide students with a more in-depth look at a subject or topic. Other key features of the MTRS Trailblazer model include student-centered learning (independent study, internships, work experience, Capstone); and high-quality instruction and courses. Additional funding provided by the Barr Foundation will assure this critical work can continue.
Mohawk Trail Regional School currently offers 11 Advanced Placement courses and the opportunity to take any course offered at the Honors level. Students are challenged and encouraged to dig-deep into their learning, while MTRS provides them with the tools to be successful post graduation.
“We are excited to partner with Mohawk Trail Regional School as they continue to redesign the learning experience to connect all students with success,” said Ali Gross, Barr’s Program Officer for Education. “This partnership will support the continued iteration of the school’s Trailblazer model, with a focus on supporting high-quality instruction, student experiences, and community engagement, and integrating principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the redesign process.”
ABOUT THE BARR FOUNDATION:
The Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. Based in Boston, Barr focuses regionally, and selectively engages nationally, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts, advance solutions for climate change, and connect all students to success in high school and beyond. Founded in 1997, Barr now has assets in excess of $3 billion, and has contributed more than $1 billion to charitable causes. For more information, visit barrfoundation.org or follow @BarrFdn.
Happy Birthday, Lamby!
Happy BIRTHDAY to our incredible MTRS therapy pup, Lamby! This sweet girl provides so much care and comfort to our students and staff at Mohawk Trail Regional School.
We hope she had a PAWsome week of celebrating with students, staff, and of course - her beloved family! (That's right she celebrated ALL week, just like all Divas should!)
Last week, MTRS French students enjoyed a beautiful fall day visiting Clark Art Institute in Williamstown to view many impressionist works by artists such as Renoir and Monet. Students had the opportunity to tour the Williams College campus; check out the reflecting pools; play a little guitar outside; and enjoy the beautiful New England foliage. It was a great day of learning and exploring!
Last week MTRS 8th grade STEM students conducted hands-on experiments to learn how changing an object's mass impacted speed and collision.
MTRS students work on their art projects. DYK you can check out more student artwork on the MTRS Arts Instagram page? Follow them @mtrs_arts!
MTRS Volleyball visits BSE
We spotted some serious potential volleyball players amongst this group of future MTRS students! And we can't wait until they blaze their trails with us next year!
(From left) MTRS volleyball athletes Elly Patnode and Octavia Crawford test out their old seating at BSE.
BSE 6th graders had a chance to learn volleyball basics with MTRS athletes.
Starting the day with a little stretch.
Trailblazers. Leaders. Educators. What's YOUR superpower? MTRSD Educators in Action
We love seeing our educators as students - learning and growing together!
School Spotlight: Sanderson 3rd grade visits Mount Greylock
Third graders in Carole Fisher's classroom at Sanderson Academy recently had the opportunity to visit Mount Greylock for a field trip. The class has spent the first part of the school year studying the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In learning about the state, they learned the highest peak in Massachusetts was right here in western Massachusetts at Greylock. Students started the day with park rangers at the Visitors Center, then drove up to the summit for some beautiful views. They even climbed up ALL the stairs in the Veterans Memorial tower to see five different states!
To learn more about Mount Greylock or plan your own visit this foliage season, visit: https://www.mass.gov/locations/mount-greylock-state-reservation.
Community Corner: West County FREE flu clinic on Oct. 16 - REGISTRATION REQUIRED
The FREE West County flu clinic will be held on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mohawk Trail Regional School. PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED and a COVID-19 self-screen is required prior to attending. Face masks and physical distancing also required.
For full clinic details and to register, please visit the FRCOG website at: https://frcog.org/flu-clinic/ *Please visit the site regularly as information is updated frequently.
The SEPAC is a self-governing body (creates its own by-laws and operational procedures) and is open to all parents of children with disabilities and other interested parties. All are welcome.