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November 2, 2023

Minutes of the 

Monson School Committee

Regular Business Meeting

November 2, 2023

Members of the public were able to participate virtually in this meeting at  Meeting ID: 885 2445 6879

Present: Chair Emily Graves-Harrison; Vice Chair Alison Morgan; Secretary Jamie Murphy; Committee Member Colleen Flynn; Committee Member; Karen Nothe-Valley; Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Clarke; Director of Business and Operations Leah Zippin; Director of Student Services Colette Bidus; Granite Valley School/Early Childhood Center Principal Joseph Trivisonno and Monson High School Principal Arthur Murphy (via Zoom)

Note:  This meeting was recorded by M-Pact TV and Zoom.

Ms. Graves-Harrison called the meeting to order at 7:01p.m.

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.

Ms. Nothe-Valley read the Mission & Vision Statements.


There is a Town Meeting on November 6, 2023 at Granite Valley School.  

The Early Childhood Center will host a Family Night on November 8, 2023.

A Veteran’s Day assembly will take place at Granite Valley School at 9:30 a.m.,

which is also an early release day for students. 

November 10, 2023 there is no school for Veteran’s Day.  


Dr. Clarke congratulated A.J. Linkenhoker for winning the Class B 500- meter race at the Western Mass Cross Country championships.  

Congratulations were given to the Boys Soccer Team for making it to the Western Mass finals though losing 2-1 in the game which kept them from making it to the state level.  

Congratulation to the Girls Soccer Team for their 4-0 win last night over Mt. Greylock capturing the new Western Mass Championship.  Next game at the state level is Monday at 2:00 p.m. home at Rogers Field.  

Student Representatives Report:

There were no student representative reports.


  • Motion by Ms. Flynn to approve the October 11, 2023 Regular Business Meeting Minutes as presented.  (Second by Ms. Morgan)            

  • No discussion

  • Motion carries 5-0

Superintendent’s Update:

Dr. Clarke thanked everyone involved in making the Community Soccer Night a great success, adding it was a beautiful night with several vendors and food choices.  Dr. Clarke thanked Northern Construction for the lights.

The Fans in the Stands Unified Basketball game on October 24, 2023 was another wonderful event. Dr. Clarke commented on the excellent sportsmanship and comradery of the team.

Dr. Clarke gave her thanks to the Parent Teacher Student Association for sponsoring the Trunk or Treat this past weekend.  It was a great event, well attended and a beautiful night for all.

Dr. Clarke noted that she and other Committee members attended the Finance Committee meeting on Monday evening and specific information will follow in the Subcommittee and Liaison Reports.  She stated that the Finance Committee Chair, Mr. Fimognari, has accepted Dr. Clarke’s invitation to tour all the buildings in the district to get a better grasp on the learning spaces, capital improvements and the ESCO project enhancements.  

The Monson Substance Use Partnership continues its work. Interviews were held this week for the Director and Project Coordinator and one of those positions will be offered to one of the candidates tomorrow and an introduction will be made at the next meeting.

The homework survey is going out to staff and families on Monday. It will be discussed and reviewed at the District Team Leader meeting on November 15, 2023.

Dr. Clarke gave an update on the Kindergarten class she is teaching.

Public Session:

Ms. Graves-Harrison opened Public Session at 7:07 p.m. 

No one came forward to address the Committee.

Ms. Graves-Harrison closed Public Session at 7:08 p.m.

Subcommittee and Liaison Reports:

Finance Subcommittee:

Ms. Nothe-Valley reported that Subcommittee members met on October 23, 2023 to receive 3 brief financial updates prior to the Town Finance Committee meeting and to go over the warrant articles for the annual town meeting.  They also looked at the draft articles affecting the town and school department, including a few bills that need to be paid that arrived after the start of the new fiscal year.  Finance Subcommittee members also attended the Town Finance Committee meeting on October 30, 2023 where they discussed the warrant articles and also heard from the town’s energy consultant who helped to explain some of the complex arrangements that effect the electricity costs. There was a brief review about the budget in preparation for the upcoming annual town meeting.

Policy Subcommittee:

Dr. Clarke distributed the requested revisions to Policies ECAC and ECAF prior to approval of a second read.  

  • Motion by Ms. Murphy to accept the second read of Policies EB, EBB, EBC, EBCD, EC, ECA, ECAC, ECAF, EDC, EEA, EEAA, EEAE, EEAEA, EEAEA/B, EEAEC, EEAG, EEAJ, EFC and move to a third read(Second by Ms. Morgan)            

  • No discussion  

  • Motion carries 5-0

Ms. Morgan had questions regarding acceptance for a first read on Policies GCBC, GCJ, GBGB, GCK and GDO.  There was discussion regarding each recommended change.  A lengthy discussion was held on Policy GBGB on whether or not physical examinations should be required prior to hiring an employee.  Dr. Clarke has reached out to school counsel who informed her that this was not a mandate.  Individual members explained their reasoning, pro and con, on this Policy wording.  

  • Motion by Ms. Flynn to accept the first read of Policies GBEA, GBEB, GBEBC, GBEC, GBJ, GBK, GCA, GCBB, GCBC, GCJ, GBED, GBGB, GBI, GCBA, GCE, GCF, GCG, GCK, GCRD and GDO and move to a second read(Second by Ms. Murphy)            

  • No discussion  

  • Motion carries 5-0

Ms. Morgan will provide a complete update on the Boosters Association meeting at the next meeting as she was only able to attend half of their meeting this evening.  

Ms. Graves-Harrison confirmed that there will be a  bonfire as planned on November 9, 2023 for grades 7-12 from 5:00- 8:00 p.m.

Pending many questions from the community, Ms. Morgan clarified that in order to became a Monson Hall of Fame athlete, you have to be nominated by someone.  

Dr. Clarke spoke with the district counsel regarding the negotiations process that is set to begin.  Attorney Roche has reached out to the Monson Teachers Association and meetings will start to be scheduled.

New Business:

Town Clerk, Mary Watson, addressed the Committee about having the 2024 and possibly 2025 elections at Quarry Hill Community School (QHCS) to be mindful of the Fire Department renovation that is slated to begin after the June 2024 Town elections.  Parking has always been an issue at Memorial Hall but the renovation will cause a bigger issue.  Ms. Watson noted that the 2012 Presidential election was held at QHCS due to destruction of Town Hall from the tornado and the 2020 Presidential election was also held at QHCS due to COVID restrictions.  Ms. Watson stated that if there is a change in polling location, all of the towns 6,400 registered voters need to be notified and she would like that information to go out as an insert to the Town Census in January 2024.  She added that though the state has not yet confirmed the September 2024 election date, historically it has been the first Tuesday of the month.  Dr. Clarke expressed her concern about the loss of 3 school days for staff and students.  It was noted that past elections at QHCS did occur while school was in session and was set-up to be very safe, keeping the public contained only to the voting area with no access to classrooms or administrative offices.  Ms. Graves-Harrison expressed her concerns with conducting voting on a school day.  Ms. Flynn stated that it has been done successfully in the past.  Ms. Morgan added that she works in a district that has the voting polls at school buildings, while in session.  Ms. Watson stated that the town maintenance department would set-up with minimal interruption to Physical Education classes held in the gym.  Dr. Clarke inquired on the smaller 2025 Town Election date of June 10, 2025 noting that it could possibly be the last day of school with a lot of activity throughout the building making parking an issue.  She offered the Central Business Office entrance/area for this date, adding that she would make it work for the Town.  

  • Motion by Ms. Flynn to approve the election location request for September 3, 2024, November 5, 2024 and June 10, 2025 as presented by the Town Clerk.   (Second by Ms. Morgan)            

  • No discussion

  • Roll Call Vote:

  • Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

  • Ms. Flynn Yes

  • Ms. Murphy Yes

  • Ms. Morgan Yes

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 5-0

High school principal Mr. Murphy, proposed an overnight field trip to a Nature’s Classroom location for grades 7 and 8.  He stated that the trip had been a huge success in his former district.  

The following information was taken from the website:

With campuses across New England, our variety of scenic sites allow schools near and far to bring students on the field trip of a lifetime.  

From hiking trails to forests, mountains to beaches, each site presents students with different and exciting outdoor experiences. While the natural surroundings vary from site to site, each is equipped with cabins and facilities perfect for fun-filled learning.  At Nature’s Classroom, we abide by the four Cs: communication, cooperation, commitment, and care. These four tenets guide us in all that we do, serving as the foundation for our philosophy. Many educators we’ve worked with have adopted the four Cs for use in their classrooms to foster teamwork and encourage collaborative problem-solving.

At Nature’s Classroom, we immerse students in authentic, real-world, hands-on activities in spectacular natural settings. Students enthusiastically share how much they’ve learned about themselves, their peers, and how life-impacting their time at Nature’s Classroom was.

The dates proposed for this trip are March 26-29, 2024.  Mr. Murphy stated that though these days are prior to MCAS testing, he does not feel there will be a negative impact to students.  The approximate cost for the field trip is $350 per student with an additional bus fee to be determined.  He noted that there is time to fundraise to offset the cost for a family.  He added that the controlled environment, having a nurse on site at all times, and the itinerary executed by the Nature’s Classroom staff helps to alleviate the stress to school staff and chaperones.  Dr. Clarke added that she is totally on board with this trip.  Mr. Murphy said that there is a no cell phone policy allowing students to be unplugged and present with peers their own age while exploring all types of outside learning activities.

  • Motion by Ms. Morgan to proceed with the planning process for the overnight field trip presented by Ms. Murphy.   (Second by Ms. Flynn)            

  • No discussion

  • Roll Call Vote:

  • Ms. Nothe-Valley Yes

  • Ms. Flynn Yes

  • Ms. Murphy Yes

  • Ms. Morgan Yes

  • Ms. Graves-Harrison Yes

  • Motion carries 5-0

Dr. Clarke is requesting that the School Choice slots for the 2023-2024 school year be closed out adding that the district currently has a total of 66 School Choice, with 18 new students accepted this year.  

  • Motion by Ms. Flynn to close out the School Choice slots for the 2023-2024 school year as recommended by Dr. Clarke.   (Second by Ms. Murphy)            

  • No discussion

  • Motion carries 5-0

Ms. Zippin addressed the Committee regarding a proposed van disposal.  The district kept one van after the takeover of the van department by J.P. McCarthy and Sons LLC.  Originally it was thought that keeping a van would be beneficial to the district though Ms. Zippin explained that keeping the van requires the hiring of a 7D driver and keeping up with certain training which comes at a cost to the district.  She stated that McCarthy’s has been great at assisting the district with smaller transportation needs, sometimes at no cost.  They also offered a bus, free of charge, to take fans to a recent state level Girls Soccer Team tournament.  At this time, Ms. Zippin feels that keeping one van is not cost effective to the district and could benefit the town by disposal or sale.  

  • Motion by Ms. Morgan to dispose of the district van by gifting it to the Town.   (Second by Ms. Murphy)            

  • Brief discussion followed

  • Motion carries 5-0

Ms. Flynn left the meeting at 8:03 p.m.

Old Business:

Granite Valley School Principal Mr. Trivisonno distributed information on the playground fundraiser project and provided a detailed overview of what has been done to date.  He stated that next steps in the process are approval of the allocated CPC funds, at the upcoming town meeting, which will give ample finding to the complete the process which is slated for summer 2024.  

Action Items:

Ms. Graves-Harrison would like to add a second Regular Business Meeting to the December schedule.

Dr. Clarke explained that members of the Monson Substance Use Community Partnership will attend the November 29, 2023 Regular Business Meeting to review the results of the Spring 2023 health survey administered to students in grades 8, 10 and 12 and that will be the focus of the meeting. 

Dr. Clarke also stated that other big topics she’d like to go over include results of the homework survey and MCAS results.  

Schedule a Working Meeting for November 29, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. prior to the Regular Business Meeting.  

A Regular Business Meeting will be scheduled on Monday, December 11, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. with a homework survey update as one of the Agenda items.

December 20, 2023 will be kept as a Regular Business Meeting at 7: 00 p.m. for an MCAS update, from building principals, as one of the Agenda items.

Cancel the November 8, 2023 Policy Subcommittee Meeting and reschedule to November 13, 2023 at 5:00 p.m.

Schedule a Facilities and Long-Term Planning Subcommittee Meeting for November 21, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. with one Agenda item, Capital Planning.


  • Motion by Ms. Morgan to adjourn Open Session.  (Second by Ms. Nothe-Valley)            

  • No discussion                                                                                                                                             

  • Motion carries 5-0

Open Session closed at  8:17 p.m.  

Documentation for this meeting:

November 2, 2023-Regular Business Meeting Agenda

October 11, 2023-Regular Business Meeting Minutes (For Approval)

Distributed/Presented at meeting:

Approved by Committee:


Jamie Murphy, Secretary

November 2, 2023
Download PDF • 495KB

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