Monument Mountain High School upgrade is a must-do
Berkshire Hills Regional School District Superintendent Peter Dillon has been getting high marks for doing his job well. Dillon holds a doctorate from Columbia’s Teacher’s College and had an important job with the New York City Board of Education.
He is, above all, a conciliator. His school board is solidly behind him. He doesn’t contest for power, he listens and empowers others. Now Dillon and his board have a huge task ahead of them. Monument Mountain High School has to be brought up to snuff. If we don’t add up-to-date science and computer labs, our kids and their kids will be cheated.
Nothing ticks me off more than anyone who questions Roselle and me about why we didn’t send our kids to a private school. Both of our kids have done extremely well. Both hold doctorates, Sarah has tenure at the best public college in New Jersey and Jonas is running one of the most important educational nonprofits in the country.
It was our schools that helped make them what they are. Their high school teachers were incredible. My bet is that retired history teacher, Jack Spencer, may be the single most popular person in Berkshire County. Our kids graduated and went on to excellent universities because of the foundation they received at Monument Mountain.
The problem, of course, is taxes. People in our town have been supporting a lot of debt. We just authorized a fire truck that New York City would be proud of. Our firehouse has been described as the Taj Mahal of firehouses. We have a relatively new police station and a wonderful library that closes early. You name it, Great Barrington can be proud of its infrastructure.
Our sewer system keeps getting bigger and better. We have sidewalks that are the envy of the nation except maybe the one that comes out of the railroad trestle which is the main entrance into the town for most of us. Yes, we pay taxes. Our house is big so we pay a lot of taxes. If we lived in Westchester or Long Island, we’d pay a lot more.
On Nov. 5, residents of the district will vote on a proposed $56 million renovation of the school.
There are people in town who really are counting their pennies so this will be a tight vote. Those who want to see our kids get the best chance possible in a tight economy will do what’s right.
If the School Committee has its way and the town rebuilds Monument Mountain at a cost of $31 million, the state will kick in an additional $25 million and we’ll have a high school equal to our very good elementary schools and middle schools. Then we will be doing right by our kids. The new high school will be better for all our kids — college bound as well as those who do not want to go on to college.
This happens to be a great deal for the town. Because of the federal budget-cutting and sequestering we are lucky to get this. If we don’t take the money and bring the high school into the 21st century, there will be other hands in Berkshire County that will get the money. We may never get this chance again. I think we all should agree to do this for all of our children. They are our future and we really can’t fail them.
On Monday at 6 a.m., the WAMC fund drive begins. I keep meeting people who tell me how important the station is to them. It is not too late to put something into the locked box at WAMC.org. The more we get in before the drive, the shorter it will be. If anyone grumbles about the fund drive being too long, just ask whether they put anything into the locked box. In both cases, I know we’ll do the right thing.
Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 9/21/13