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Southern school district letter welcomes consolidation talks

(Evan Triantafilidis)
Town and school committee officials discuss the district’s future at their monthly roundtable meeting.

SHEFFIELD — In an attempt to create a unified response, the five towns that make up the Southern Berkshire Regional School District will send a letter with their intentions of entering potential merger discussions with the Berkshire Hills Regional School District.

Representatives from Alford, Egremont, New Marlborough, Monterey and Sheffield came together for a roundtable discussion to collaborate on the written response, which would call for advancing talks while widening the scope of the consolidation conversation.

Jane Burke, chair of the Southern Berkshire school committee, which comprises the five towns, had sent a letter to Berkshire Hills calling the entering of a formal planning process “premature.” Burke has since clarified that she never meant for her individual statement to be perceived as not being open to talks in general, but still remained cautious of the idea as recently as Thursday.

“We are elected officials in charge of making sure that our kids are well educated,” said Burke at Thursday’s meeting. “It’s responsible that we do it in a financially sound way. We are dedicated to that and want to hear their ideas.”

Jon Sylbert, a member of Monterey’s finance committee, said he agreed with Burke’s intentions, but questioned how it could be perceived compared to the individual towns’ responses.

“I’m not disagreeing with that,” said Sylbert in response to Burke. “I’m just sorry that the school committee made a representation that was not really in line with four towns who had already submitted letters.”

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