An educational partnership


 by Jenn Smith

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, in partnership with Berkshire Community College and the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education, has been designated one of six so-called Readiness Centers for public school teachers in the state.


These first-of-a-kind partnerships aim to develop a network of institutions and organizations focused on supporting the teaching profession, according to state Secretary of Education Paul Reville.


Locally, the partnership will be known as the Berkshire Readiness Center.


At a Readiness Center, teachers throughout the county will be able to learn proven instruction methods from lesson planning to helping all students understand complex content.


The Readiness Centers initiative was unveiled last spring in Gov. Deval Patrick's Education Action Agenda. By the summer, MCLA, BCC, the Compact, and the Berkshire County Superintendents' Roundtable teamed up to organize for Readiness Center status.


"I'm looking forward to what we can do with this initiative," said Mary Grant, president of MCLA.


"This is going to open up doors for continuing education and professional development, and at an affordable cost right here in the Berkshires," said Andy Mick, chairman of the Compact, who is also publisher of The Berkshire Eagle and president of New England Newspapers Inc.


The goal is to operate the Berkshire Readiness Center in three locations. It will be headquartered in North Adams at MCLA, with additional sites at BCC's main campus in Pittsfield, and BCC's South County center in Great Barrington.


There is no plan to build an actual center. Grant said the Readiness Center's work will be visible in sites and programs that already exist in Berkshire communities.


The Berkshire Readiness Center's board of directors includes Mick; Grant and Paul Raverta, presidents of MCLA and BCC respectively; members of the Berkshire legislative delegation; representatives from the education sector from early childhood through higher education; representatives of workforce development initiatives; and members of the local business community.


Representatives from the kindergarten through Grade 12 sector will include members of the Berkshire County Superintendents' Roundtable. Donna Harlan, former superintendent of the Central Berkshire Regional School District, will serve as a consultant and liaison between the Berkshire Readiness Center and the state education department.


The Berkshire Readiness Center partners hope the center will be able to better train and provide resources for educators working on existing programs such as the Berkshire STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) Pipeline Network, MCLA's Center for Professional Development, and the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative.


Once established, the charge of the six new Readiness Centers will be to offer services and activities that address local and regional educational needs as well as statewide priorities. They will also network with one another.


Additionally, six regional District and School Assistance Centers that are currently being developed by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be located to provide consultants and technical assistance at the regional Readiness Centers.


Grant said she expects to hear more details about how the centers will be developed this fall.


"Hopefully we'll be able to do a much better job across the state on how we're preparing the next generation of teachers and how to support them," said Grant. "The trick is to find a common ground [between state and local goals]. But the Berkshire Compact is prepared to help show leadership on this."