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Region One needs positive leadership and better behavior

While the Region One Board of Education is embroiled in a controversy of its own making, forcing those in their communities to “take sides” (as if they should not all be on the very same side: that of finding the best ways to educate Region One students), Housatonic Valley Regional High School’s new principal, Matt Hartnett, and the school’s faculty are in the process of preparing a five-year progress report on shortcomings defined by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). What seems more important? The fact that one Region One board member, Falls Village representative Gale Toensing, was not able to attend a conference due to a miscommunication and has bombarded fellow board members, Region One administrators and staff with emails on that and other topics, or the fact that the high school is still in the process of addressing deficiencies defined by NEASC five years ago? Considering that those students who were freshman when the NEASC report was first released have now graduated, it would seem that more attention should be paid to academic quality at the high school. By the way, the emails among board, administration and staff members surrounding Toensing’s issues and the opinion of Region One lawyers Shipman and Goodwin released Monday, Feb. 6, are available on this newspaper’s website, www.tricornernews.com, obtained from both the Region One central office and from Toensing. In reading through the emails, one can’t help but have the impression that if during any of those exchanges someone, anyone, had just picked up the phone and initiated an open discussion, matters could have been ironed out in a timely manner.There is a new Region One board makeup since the November elections and a new Housatonic principal, in his first year. It is to be hoped that this is a time of transition, which will eventually even out, but that won’t happen without significant mutual effort on the parts of the board, faculty and administration.Serving on a board of education can seem thankless, even for those who are very committed to improving education for the students of their region. These boards are made up of volunteers, some elected and some appointed, and they are required to give up quite a bit of personal time to attend to their duties as board members. However, thankless or not, the work of boards of education is extremely important to all those who are connected with the school systems, whether they are employed there, being educated there, or paying taxes to support them. Board members operate under intense public scrutiny and are expected to maintain a certain level of professionalism despite their volunteer status.With the additional conflict going on between Toensing and Assistant Superintendent Diane Goncalves, WHDD radio’s Marshall Miles and others, one begins to wonder if this is not really all about them and has little to do with what should be at the base of all their thoughts and actions relating to Region One: the welfare of its students. Is this controversy being created out of a desire to provide the best education possible to the students of Region One? Some of those involved may believe so, but their approach is not achieving that goal. Instead, the entire situation has polarized the Region One Board, as well as others in the communities it serves. It’s time to minimize the divisiveness and find ways to cooperate to bring the board together in its mission of running an efficient, as well as a high quality, school.

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