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New England News

Pittsfield School Committee Candidates Debate Consolidation, Retention, State Funding

Candidates sit behind a long table in front of glass walls at Berkshire Community College while the moderator looks on from behind a podium to their left.
Josh Landes
/
WAMC
The candidates gathered in the Connector building at BCC.

Candidates running for school committee in the coming Pittsfield, Massachusetts municipal election debated at Berkshire Community College Monday night.

In the first installment of a series organized by BCC, Pittsfield Community Television, and the Pittsfield Gazette, the seven candidates vying for six school committee seats met at the college’s Pittsfield campus.

The school committee faces a number of looming issues – teacher and student retention, how to spend extra state funds, the climate inside the schools, the possibility of superintendent Jake McCandless leaving for a job in Eastern Massachusetts, and more.

In the race are incumbents Bill Cameron:

“I’m well acquainted with the Pittsfield Public Schools, having worked in the Pittsfield Public Schools for the majority of my professional career. I’ve held administrative positions in Pittsfield and other districts.”

Current chairwoman Katherine Yon:

“I spent my entire career as an English teacher in the Pittsfield Public Schools. After I retired, I continued working as a counselor advocate for Project Reconnect, where I dealt with the at-risk population, including soon-to-be-released inmates from the Berkshire County Jail and House of Corrections, and young people remanded to the department of youth services.”

Vice chair Daniel Elias:

“I offer my many years of service both within this body as well as many community involvements I’m with, and with it, its history and knowledge. I advocate to make sure every student is on a path to graduate, and educationally equipped to lead a successful life.”

And Dennis Powell, who is also the president of the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP:

“We raise money to take 100 students from the three high schools to Washington D.C. to the African American Museum, because to me, it was really important that a very diverse group of our student body have an opportunity to view real history.”

The candidates looking to join the committee for its next two-year term are Allison McGee:

“I have been a teacher in the Pittsfield Public Schools for the previous eight years of my education experience and I also worked at Hillcrest Educational Center in the therapeutic setting, so I’ve had a lot of experience working with the at-risk populations, including those who are struggling with poverty and those who are struggling with behavioral difficulties – which I think we are seeing an influx in the Pittsfield Public Schools with.”

Former committee member Tom Perrea, who says he lost his son to a drug overdose:

“Number one I want to make sure that we continue to do the most we can with our drug abuse resistance education, and I make no promises – I’m retired as a financial advisor for Berkshire Bank two years ago, so this would be a full time position, and I would have the time to do this. And I would appreciate your vote, because we have a lot of tough decisions to make in the future.”

And parent Mark Brazeau:

“It is time for our district to implement expanded programs and curriculum, to enhance the life skills and emotional development needed to prepare our youth in success of our diverse world. Our district is rebounding from a tremendous lack of funding over the past years, where we witnessed overwhelming layoffs of faculty, staff, and support services.”

The debate – moderated by PCTV Executive Director Sean Serre – brought up issues like school consolidation, alternative education programming, and shared services with other Berkshire County communities.

You can hear the entire debate here:

pittsfield_school_committee_debate_10-22-19_web.mp3

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