Farmington River Regional School District
Farmington River Elementary School
555 North Main Road, Otis, MA 01253
Monday June 1, 2020 – 7:00 PM
Meeting #386, Via ZOOM
Members Present: Nick DellaGiustina, Jessica Drenga, Deb Fogel, Carol Lombardo, Jennifer Hibbins, Arlene Tolopko, Tom Nadolny, Eric Jesner, and Teresa DellaGiustina
Guests: Kendra Rybacki, Candy Chaffee, Linda Curtiss, Meaghan Martin, Amy Maxton, Dawn Lemon, Laurie Flower, Roger Kohler, Linda Curtiss, Kelly Kennedy, Karen Yvon, Terry Ferrara, Terri Digrigoli, Rebecca Hamill
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by the chair, Nicholas DellaGiustina.
- Approval of minutes #386. Nicholas DellaGiustina motioned to pass Minutes #386. Carol Lombardo motioned to approve the minutes; Arlene Tolopko seconded the motion. Minutes #386 were approved unanimously by the School Committee.
- Principal/Superintendent Updates: Tom Nadolny began by stating Jenna Daley constructed a virtual field day. She made event cards and score cards with instructions on the events/activities. This was to be done with the parents and family members.
There was a school wide dance party via Zoom put on by Laurie, which was well
Flower and Terri Digrigoli, it was well attended.
Mr. Keller has broadened his video “Day in the Life of Mr. Keller”. He now has a
YouTube channel. Anyone can visit the channel on YouTube.
Summer cleaning has started early due to the school closure. Teachers were in to clean
and pack up their rooms.
Mrs. Digrigoli and Mr. Nadolny discussed putting together a document of information on
the transition between 6th and 7th grade. There are links for the students to visit with
answers to questions they may have. Mrs. Digrigoli will also be available for questions
from the students as well. Usually the 6th grade visits Monument Valley and Lee Middle
School, but due to COVID that was cancelled.
The food service program is still in place, thanks to the people helping distribute to
families and seniors. Laurie Flower and some teachers wrote a grant to give free books to
the students. The grant was approved. On June 4th, the teachers will be here to distribute
the free books to students who are interested in picking one up here at the school. Proper
PPE will be used when distributing.
June 11th is the last day of school. There will be a wave parade here at the school.
Tradition is to have the teachers and staff stand outside and cheer on the students as they
leave the building. This is a modification to that. Parents will be driving through with
their children to wave and say goodbye and to pick up T-shirts, provided by the PTA. The
6th graders will drive by at 11:15 to pick up their certificates of completion and
Parents and staff still want to have some event for the 6th grade as a last get together before
they start the new year at different schools. We just have to wait to hear what is
Marji Middleton submitted a letter of retirement to Tom. She was a huge asset to students
and staff, she will be missed.
We still implemented screen free week. Some packets and information went home filled
with ideas how to stay away from the screen. The students have had homework via screen
since day one of the closure, so the teachers want to send them something different.
The Otis Observer did a great job on recognizing all District graduating students. On the
front page there was also a nice article on the food distribution program. Tom thanked
Tom discussed the startup of the next school year. Not much information has come out.
On, the last Zoom meeting with the Commissioner, the state would like every student aged
4 and up to wear a face mask during the day. Next week they are supposed to
supply some guidance about the mask wearing and reopening. There were talks about
hybrid teaching, which is possibly a couple days in school and a couple days remotely.
More information will be coming out, but nothing at this point is clear.
The next meeting in July will be the reorganizing of the Committee.
Jennifer Hibbins asked Tom if a survey is going out on remote learning. Tom said there is
a survey that is on his desk that he is working on to go out to all parents. Tom also
mentioned the Berkshire County Task Force. They are in the process of developing a
countywide curriculum. The initial cost of joining is roughly $15,000 or so, but they are
writing grants to try to waive or reduce the cost of joining. Tom has asked if this applies
for K-12. There was not a concrete answer to his question. If it is only geared towards the
upper grades it would not apply to our school. Tom stated if there are grants to fund this,
and the curriculum is geared towards our school, Tom is in for joining the “countywide
common core, if you will”.
- School Committee to vote on accepting school choice for the FY21 school year:
Jen Hibbins had a question first before voting. Jen heard from other districts that they
are not allowing school choice due to COVID. Is it feasible not to accept the students?
Jen understands that we rely on the money that does come in from school choice. Nick
DellaGiustina did say we need to consider this. We are on the positive side of the
school choice issue. We do receive more students coming in than choicing out. Nick
asked Tom if we could not allow school choice in, but school choice out. Tom did not
know because it has never come up before. Usually when voting you must agree on
yes, to school choice both ways, or not to school choice both ways. Roger Kohler asked
if there has ever been a survey done asking why parents school choice out of the district.
Roger stated that he knows we had 48-49 students school choice out of district, do we ask
why? Tom stated that as far as he knows, the school has never sent a survey asking this
to parents. Tom does know that for some families, its demographics. A parent works
out of town and they send their child closer to work. Also, a bus from Southern
Berkshire was provided for Sandisfield students who want to attend. Some families live
closer to Sheffield than Otis, Great Barrington, or Lee. At this point Nick asked for more
questions, there were none. Nick then asked for a motion to approve school choice.
Jess Drenga motioned to accept school choice, Billie Pachulski seconded the motion.
The vote was unanimous accepting school choice.
- School Committee to vote on the FY21 School Year Calendar. Jess Drenga asked
if our calendar matches Lee and Great Barrington. It does. Jess also asked Tom if the
subject of discontinuing snow days could be brought up. Since parents schooled their
children for 3 months, schooling their children 5 days should not be an issue. Tom
agreed and said he would see if that is a possibility. Arlene Tolopko asked if that
would have to be agreed by the Teachers. Tom said a new agreement would have to be
written up. Nick asked for a motion to pass the FY21 school calendar. Carol Lombardo
motioned, Jess Drenga seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous to pass the
- School Committee to vote and discuss on funding summer meals for both
Sandisfield and Otis. Kendra Rybacki was asking if we could continue to supply meals
throughout the summer. Nick did ask Kendra if the state is going to reimburse meals
after June 30th. Kendra stated that at this point no, but she cannot see the state not
funding summer meals. Districts are pushing for summer meals to help our families.
Kendra wants to send out a survey to see if the families and seniors will still need
support. Nick asked the Committee, what if the state decides not to fund the summer
meals, what should we do at this point? He stated possibly sending out a survey to at
least the free and reduced lunch students and not extend the program further than that.
Kendra replied that she is doing that. Also, Kendra reminded everyone that we are
still receiving food from The Salvation Army and from Otis residents. Food is not
the issue at this point. Teresa DellaGiustina asked Eric Jesner if there is any way to
use money that is reimbursed to us since the amount is more than usual? Eric explained
the lunch program already works in a deficit, therefore there is a subsidy from the
General Fund. Even with the accelerated rate of reimbursements, the deficit will not be
as large as previous years, but not enough to carry anything over for next year.
Carol Lombardo asked if anyone has gone to the Town’s to ask for help. Teresa has been
been in touch with the Sandisfield COA and Kendra has been in contact with the Otis
COA. Sandisfield COA asked the seniors if they needed help, no one replied for help,
but through word of mouth, we are feeding 20 Sandisfield seniors. Otis COA was more
successful. Seniors did reach out to the them and signed up for food. There does need
to have kitchen staff at the school to maintain the state’s guidelines. At this point, food
is not the issue, it is paying staff to come in all summer to manage the food and kitchen’s
guidelines. Nick DellaGiustina mentioned that the School Committee could probably
fund the gap between June 30th and July if the State is going willing to reimburse
throughout the summer. Nick would like to get another update for next month’s meeting
to see where the program is at financially with the state. Kendra and Teresa have both
written grants and are waiting to hear from the organizations. Nick thanked all staff and
volunteers who are keeping the food program going and afloat. He feels the school
should help our struggling school families by keeping them fed the best we can.
- School Committee to discuss and vote on busing contract. Eric Jesner explained that
he had conversations with Bill Dufour and our Attorney about the busing contract. Eric
has a modified MOU from what Central Berkshire District negotiated on behalf of
six or seven districts who use Dufour. At this point our legal counsel is not opposed to
us signing the MOU. Eric just needs a vote on the percentage we want to ask for. The
Central Berkshire District voted for 50%. If we go with the 50%, that will save us
43,000 dollars off the cost of what the contract states. We would not have to pay in
full from March 16th through the end of the year. Jennifer Hibbins asked Eric if we have
to pay for the buses that were eliminated. Eric stated that yes, we must pay for any
discontinued bus throughout the school year, 50% per route per contract. The new
contract, starting July 1st we will not have that stipulation written in. We already have
Dufour’s bid for next year, so this MOU has nothing to do with next year’s bid. Eric
feels we need to keep a good relationship with Dufour since they are such a big vendor
of ours. Most of the surrounding districts are going with 50%. Nick reminded everyone
that Dufour is the only bus company that bids on our school. Jennifer would like to see
if we could get the percentage even lower. Nick stated that when the percentage was at
75, the School Committee offered 60%, Dufour came back at 50%. The concern is the
PPE money that Dufour may get. If they do get the money, why should we have to pay
any percentage. Jennifer did say some other schools are not paying anything. Carol
asked what is the comparison between our schools and the schools that Jennifer listed?
The districts listed are much bigger than Farmington River and have more bus
companies to choose from, we have one bus company. If Dufour does not like our
decision, they may not bid on our district and we would not have a bus contract with
anyone. We do not have a lot of options. Eric, Nick, and Jess stated that Dufour still has
to pay for overhead, their employees and upkeep of the buses that are sitting for the past
3 months making sure they are ready to go for the beginning of the school year. We
would not like to see anything happening to the company because we will not have
anyone else to rely on for busing. At this point, Nick asked for a motion to pay 50% to
Dufour. Arlene made a motion to pay the 50%, Carol seconded the motion, the vote was
unanimously passed at paying 50%.
- Financial Updates. Eric wanted to remind everyone of the Annual Town Meetings in
Otis and Sandisfield. Otis is Tuesday June 16th and Sandisfield is Saturday June 20th.
Most school districts are applying for a 1-12 Budget. Our paperwork is filled out, Eric
has not submitted it yet. He wanted to wait until this meeting to do so. This meeting is
the last chance to use E&D to offset potential cuts from state funding. There is no solid
information to what the state may or may not be cutting, but there will be cuts. The only
available money in E&D that we will have come July 1st is $45,000. Recertification is in
Eric quickly reviewed the ending balances for each department. The school has a
savings of $280,000, but with the cuts that the state will be making, that money will
easily be absorbed. The School usually gets roughly $280,000 for Regional
Transportation. Cuts are rumored to be in this area. If that is the case, Eric suggests
transferring the savings into the Regional Transportation Revolving Account. This way
we can cover a deficit if need be.
Tom spoke about the Superintendent’s Roundtable. Everyone is nervous about a
cut to Chapter 70. If the state cuts Chapter 70 by 15%, it effects not only the state aid,
but a reduction in local contributions as well. If we needed to go back to the Towns
for help, they would not be able to help, since more than likely their state aid will get cut
Nick asked Eric if we utilize 100,000 dollars out of the FY20 E&D and not use the
money if cuts are not made, does the money go back into the FY21 ending account?
It does. The 100,000 dollars will help pay the deficit until the FY21 E&D gets certified,
which is normally in November. Any money not used will go back into E&D at the end
of the fiscal year. Nick went on to ask Eric, if the state does not give us the E&D and we
use the money, we are looking at a much smaller number going into FY22? Yes. Now
the start of next year’s E&D would not cover any unexpected changes that may occur.
An example would be a high needs student needing services. That bill could more than
wipeout E&D. Nick went on to state if they keep E&D at the same amount, and the
state makes cuts, then the School would have to come up with the remaining money.
This is an offset in case of anticipated cuts from the state. Otherwise, the School
must go to the Towns to ask for more money to pay the deficit. Carol Lombardo made
a motion to move 100,000 out of E&D to Chapter 70 to offset the account. Arlene
Tolopko second the motion. Vote was unanimous to move the funds to Chapter 70.
Eric wanted a vote to prepay up to 3 months tuition for an out of district private school
student. The prepayment would come out of FY20’s budget instead of FY21’s budget.
Jess Drenga made a motion to prepay the tuition for an out of district private school
student. Carol seconded the motion. Vote was unanimous to prepay the tuition.
The Executive Meeting is not needed.
- Adjournment. Carol Lombardo motioned to adjourn, Jess Drenga second the motion
All votes were unanimous for adjournment. Meeting ended. 8:45pm
Assistant to the Superintendent/ Secretary to School Committee