NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 1, 2013

Donations aid programs in Pentucket district schools

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY — The School Committee accepted more than $15,500 in donations this week aimed at improving educational experience for students in the Pentucket Regional School District. The bulk of the funding came from the nonprofit Pentucket Education Foundation (PEF).

At a meeting on Tuesday PEF President Anna Marie Beech presented the school board with two donations totaling over $10,000. In collaboration with a group of Pentucket alumni led by Sandy Berkenbush, her brother, Scott Berkenbush, and his wife, Jeannie, the foundation contributed $5,050 toward a multi-curriculum project slated for later this spring at the high school.

The project, titled “Civil,” ties together ninth- and 10th-grade social studies, English and fine and performing arts classes in an investigation of both the Civil War and Civil Rights eras in America. Students and teachers will conduct research at the National Archives and the JFK Library in Boston, visit the Custom House in Newburyport, speak with local historical organizations and read Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

At the conclusion of their research, students will offer an artistic interpretation of the topic to the public. The donation was funded from the proceeds of Pentucket Rocks, an annual chicken and steak barbecue held at the Berkenbush home. To date, the alumni event has raised $14,000 in support of the high school.

Beech also presented a $5,000 grant PEF secured from Boston Center for the Blind for the purchase of iPads, accessories and professional development to be used by students with autism in classes at Sweetsir Elementary School in Merrimac. The equipment should help students communicate more effectively and improve literacy and other academic skills. “For some students, the iPad will provide their primary means of communication during the day,” Beech said.

The district received a $5,100 award from the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank’s Richard A. Eaton Charitable Foundation. The foundation, established last May to honor retired CEO Richie Eaton, aims to help offset user fee costs for athletes in grades K-12 in the Amesbury, Newburyport, Pentucket and Triton school districts.

The third-grade Colonial Garden at Page Elementary School got an $810 boost from Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc., and parents in Hilary Seager’s fourth-grade class at Bagnall Elementary School received an area rug valued at $276.88.

Lastly, Ray Gouly, who presented an electrical safety program to Bagnall students, donated $100 to be used at the principal’s discretion because he was impressed with the operation of the school and its students.

In other business on Tuesday, the board OK’d a side letter in its contract with the Pentucket Association of Teachers. The additional agreement provides Pentucket High School librarian Rachael Costello with four comp days during the 2012-2013 academic year as compensation for her leadership role in the district’s Technology Initiative.

“This is an unusual person who’s done an extraordinary job. I wouldn’t want to take advantage of her good nature,” said Mulqueen.

Eichhorst agreed, saying, “She’s helping our teachers so they can help our children — how can you go wrong with that?”

The board approved new policies governing a Gifted and Talented program and Communication. They approved a portion of language in a lease for West Newbury’s Page Elementary School. Before all three town leases can be considered formalized, the School Committee must vote to approve the three documents and have the school board chairman sign them, according to business manager Michael Bergeron.

The board approved an out-of-state field trip for the high school Science League to compete in Maine. Merrimac’s Wayne Adams made the case for picking up the transportation costs for these students in the future. He contended they were among the district’s brightest stars and deserved support for their willingness to represent the school in this highly competitive contest. But Mulqueen said he could not provide transportation for one after-school group without having to provide for all groups.

David Mansfield of West Newbury was reappointed as the town’s representative to the Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School Committee.

The board went into executive session at the end of the open meeting in order to discuss collective bargaining strategies for non-union personnel.

Groveland’s Jack Willett was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.