School Committee Meeting Minutes 07/06/2020

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Farmington River Regional School District

Farmington River Elementary School

555 North Main Road, Otis, MA 01253

Via Zoom

Monday July 6, 2020 7:00PM

Meeting #387




Community Participation:                                                   7:00-7:15 PM




Members Present: All members present


Guests:  Nicholas DellaGiustina



  1. Reorganization of the School Committee: Eric Jesner is heading the meeting during reorganization.  Eric asked for motions for Chair of the Committee.  Billie Pachulski nominated Jess Drenga for Chair and Carol Lombardo seconded the motion.  Arlene Tolopko motioned to nominate Carol Lombardo and Jennifer Hibbins seconded the motion.  The Committee voted unanimously voted for Jess Drenga for Chair.  Jess took over the meeting and opened nominations for vice Chair.  Billie Pachulski motioned to nominate Carol Lombardo.  Arlene Tolopki seconded the nomination.  Jennifer Hibbins motioned to nominate herself.  The School Committee voted 5 to 2 in favor of Carol Lombardo for vice Chair.


Jess Drenga took a moment to welcome Roger Kohler as the new representative of Sandisfield.  Jess then proceeded to thank Nicholas DellaGiustina for all the years he has served on the School Committee.  The School Committee wished him well and will miss Nick.


  1. Principal/Superintendent updates. Tom Nadolny was absent from this meeting.  Eric Jesner and Teresa DellaGiustina will be speaking for him.  Eric started by stating summer school will be starting this week.  During July, all sessions will be off sight.  In August, the sessions will be here at the school in the conference room and a couple of classrooms.  Carol Lombardo asked who is eligible for summer school.  Eric stated the IEP children are scheduled for summer school.  We do not want any regression.


The first meeting for the reopening plan will be tomorrow.  The team consists of Michael Saporito, Laurie Flower, Eric Jesner, Teresa DellaGiustina, Jeffrey Gray, Kendra Rybacki, Denise Zuidema, Amy Maxton, and Terry Ferrara.  They are the heads of all departments.  There will be discussions on how to open school based on the state’s guidelines.  Roger spoke up and stated that the state is requiring 3 different scenarios.  He was just clarifying with us that we are going to put together 3 plans and not just picking which plan we would like to utilize.  Eric assured Roger that that is the plan.  The team will draw up 3 plans to hand into the state, but we would like to go with fully opening the school.


Eric wanted to discuss the Regional Contract between Otis and Sandisfield.  Eric researched the method of changing the contract.  The School Committee can bring the idea to the Selectmen of the two towns.  Section 7 for amendments, section B out of the MA General Law Book.  There are 2 ways to amend the agreement:


  1. The majority of the School Committee must agree on changing the agreement
  2. A petition signed by 10 percent of the registered voters of any one of the membered towns.


Jennifer Hibbins requested to put this discussion on next month’s agenda.  Jess Drenga

agreed to put it on next month’s agenda.


Teresa DellaGiustina updated the School Committee on the changes to the school’s

calendar.  The state added 3 professional days to our school year which will alter the

existing calendar.  A calendar is attached to the minutes.  BHRSD and Lee have the

same schedule as we do.  The Committee did not vote on since it was too late to add to

the agenda.  A meeting will take place next week to vote to approve the new calendar



Tom and Laurie Flower sent out a survey to the parents of Farmington River.

The survey asked parents how they would rate the online learning and how their

children responded to the online lessons.  The survey was reviewed and discussed.  The

main issue had to do with poor internet or no internet.  Roger Kohler brought up that

other towns are joining or consolidating into one group across Berkshire County to

alleviate some work for the schools such as the many emails that go out regarding

each school.  The schools that join will have the same information across the board.

Tom touched base last meeting about the group and did not think Farmington River

necessarily fits with the criteria that is involved, plus it would cost the school $5000

a year to participate.  We do not have the extra money to join each year.


Teresa relayed a message for Tom praising the ongoing process of food distribution.

Along with our kitchen staff, Kendra Rybacki and Candy Chaffee, we have Susan

Olds and Karen Yvon helping as well.  There is no longer a delivery service, parents

Are picking up at the school.  Otis Council on Aging is still delivering to the seniors

In both Sandisfield and Otis.









  1. Update on the Food Distribution Program: Kendra Rybacki state that we are still providing for 51 students.  A lot of parents are back to work and do not need the assistance that they needed before.  We are still getting donations from the AMVETS, the Salvation Army, and other resident groups to help provide the students with much more than just food.    Books, games, and puzzles, to name a few items, are being donated as well.  The children love coming to school on pickup days and “shopping” through the donations.  Everyone has been very generous.  Teresa mentioned Farmington River did receive a $4000 grant from Taconic for the food program, which can go towards paying our kitchen staff through the summer.  The Berkshire Botanical Gardens granted the school with garden beds.  The Green angers installed the beds and planted some vegetables for us.  Eric, Tom, and Teresa spoke about the possibility of having an after-school gardening program for the students.



  1. Discuss and vote on tuition for the Pre School Program. Michael Saporito spoke on behalf of the Pre School Program.  He explained how the program started and was funded by a state grant that no longer will be granting money for the program.  The school has always charged a minimal fee for attending the program.  This year since there is not grant money, we switched to an Early K program that is funded by the state in our Chapter 70 money.  We still must have a fee for the 3year old Pre School Program.  The tuition always helped fund the program.


The vote would be on the percentage to increase the tuition.  Carol Lombardo motioned to increase the Pre School Program 10%.  Deb Fogel seconded the motion.  After a short discussion, the School Committee voted unanimously to approve the 10% increase for Pre School.


  1. School Committee to vote on school lunch and breakfast cost. After discussing the current rate, the School Committee unanimously voted to increase school lunch and breakfast by 5 cents.  Jennifer Hibbins made the motion and Carol Lombardo seconded the motion.


  1. School Committee to discuss and vote on possibly changing the day of School Committee meetings. Jennifer Hibbins spoke first on behalf of Sandisfield.  She first informed the committee on the Sandisfield Annual Town Meeting in June. Once again, the Schools budget was contentious the Select board did not support the budget.  They were not happy with the communications between the School Committee and themselves.  Jennifer stressed at the Town Meeting how many times she reached out to them via email and in person to please come to a meeting.  The School Committee even held off the budget vote to attend a Selectmen’s meeting.  At that meeting the Selectmen along with Eric Jesner, Tom Nadolny, Jennifer Hibbins and Nick DellaGiustina read the budget line by line and explained why the budget was like it was.  Jennifer asked them point blank what can we do to have you on board with the Committee?  One Selectman responded to Jennifer that the School Committee should change their day of their meetings so they could attend the School Committee meetings.  Also, they would like to have more information about the budget before February.  Jennifer would like to see if we could make the effort to change the day.  That would be an olive branch to the Select board.  Jennifer would like to try to rekindle the relationship between the two parties because the relationship is very hostile right now.  Arlene Tolopko asked how many meetings do the Selectmen have a month and how many members are on the board?  Could they possibly change their meeting once a month because the School Committee has 10 members who need to rearrange their schedules over 3 Selectmen?  Jennifer brought up that Nick DellaGiustina tried asking them that last year and they refused to be flexible with that option.  Billie Pachulski spoke up and thanked Jennifer for all her hard work in being designated as the liaison between the School Committee and the Board of Selectmen.  She stated that Jennifer reached out on several occasions to the selectmen and they would not even acknowledge Jennifer’s emails.  Billie stressed that no matter what the School Committee does to accommodate the Select board, nothing will please them.  Billie believes they have thrown Jennifer under the bus on several occasions.  Billie can not change her days.  As it is, she changed for Mondays.  Jess Drenga can not make a different day other than Thursday.  Roger Kohler stated that he is on a bunch of other boards and Mondays are hard for him.  Carol Lombardo suggested that the Committee should keep their day, but during budget season possibly changing a day or adding a day for them.  Mondays seem to be a night that all School Committee members can be present.  Billie mentioned that the Selectmen have moved their meetings in the past to accommodate others.  In the summer they have daytime workshops on Mondays, so they are available at night to attend School Committee meetings. Also, in the recent past, there was a Selectman who was a School Committee member that never missed a meeting even though the meetings were on the same night.  So, the Selectmen have been flexible, but they refuse to be for the School Committee.  So, the feeling is that they need to be just as flexible as what they expect from the Committee.  Arlene feels that they need to be flexible during budget season.  Not one Selectmen showed for the Budget Hearing, which every year up until now has not been an issue.  It was brought up that the Selectmen did not have a meeting this evening, why are they not attending tonight?  Roger agrees that we should invite the Selectmen a couple months ahead of time and if they show they show, if now we just continue to conduct business as usual.  Eric Jesner stated that one thing is forgotten, he does not get the information that the Selectmen are looking for until late January.  February is the earliest we can get accurate numbers out to them.  Jennifer did tell the Selectman that information as well.  Roger brought up that we were one of the first to hand in a budget in the area.  We handed it in before COVID hit, which made a huge difference for Sandisfield.  Eric then replied that per our contract with the towns we must have the budget to them by March 31st.  Also, the budget needs to be in 45 days prior the Annual Town Meetings in mid-May.  So, the Committee needs time for adjustments from the towns if necessary.  Jennifer is going to get back in touch with the Selectmen, tell them that changing the date will be a conflict between some members of the Committee and could they come if we invited them on a Monday could they come at 6pm on ZOOM.
  2. Discuss and vote compensation for mileage to School Committee Meetings. Jennifer Hibbins wanted to see if the Sandisfield members can get compensated for mileage to and from meetings.  Due to the Selectmen not funding or cutting the School Committee Members salary, can they get compensated for travel?   One Selectman said the members do not contribute anything to the town.  Jennifer feels that is not true because the school is for the children of their town.  Jess and Carol feel that the meeting above and beyond the monthly meetings, should get reimbursed for travel, but not monthly meetings.  The School Committee would have to increase their budget by 1300 dollars.  Sandisfield will not allow that.  Plus, Jess brought up the fact that if they reimburse for monthly meeting, then all the members should receive the same benefit.  Now the budget would go up even more.  Jennifer brought up that the issue of cutting is not the monetary value, it is more of a personal issue.  The School Committee did not do anything for the town.  The $400 used to be the compensation for any expense such as gas money.  Per Eric, financially, any member can be reimbursed for attending a meeting other than a School Committee meeting.  No vote needed.


  1. Financial updates. Eric Jesner got the results from the FY19 audit.  There were 5 findings.  All minimal.  We need better tracking for receipts, which has been resolved.  New tracking documentation has been applied.  One journal entry was entered incorrectly, that has been resolved.  The entry was one sided.  Timing on cash reconciliation.  That is resolved.  The issue was the new accounting system.  The new system was difficult to maneuver and learn.  An unresolved bank account that a retired teacher set up for an award.  The award was supposed to be paid by the interest of the account.  Eric had to get in touch with the teacher to see what to do with the money and close the account.  The last finding is on paperwork for a part time employee.  One form was not signed for their pay rate.  That has been resolved as well.  Jennifer asked how frequently are we audited?  Eric told her every year a full audit is run. The audit was sent electronically and if anyone wants a copy let Eric know.


Fiscal 21 budget was mailed to both towns along with their assessments.


Eric discussed the ending budget line by line.  A copy is attached to the minutes.


As always if anyone wants a copy of any attachment, they call Teresa DellaGiustina at the school for a copy.


  1.   Jess motioned to adjourn the meeting.  Carol seconded the motion.  The vote was unanimous to adjourn the meeting.



Respectfully Submitted


Teresa DellaGiustina, Secretary