A strong Compact



As he seeks to fully implement Governor Patrick's Readiness Project to build educational standards in Massachusetts, state Secretary of Education Paul Reveille can look to the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education as a model. With Mr. Reveille in attendance Friday, the compact marked its third year with a meeting at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams to review what the compact has accomplished and to discuss what the plans and goals are for the years ahead.


At its essence the county-wide initiative promotes education in the Berkshires by encouraging residents to pursue 16 years of school and then helping them reach that goal. This applies not only to students currently in school but workers whose successful pursuit of college degrees can help them adjust to current economic realities while also benefiting Berkshire businesses seeking an educated work force.


In its three years, the Compact, which is chaired by Eagle publisher Andrew H. Mick, and its affiliates have begun more than a dozen programs and campaigns, prominent among them the Intermodal Education Center in Pittsfield. The compact is poised to kick off its "Berkshire County Goes to College Day," which will bring hundreds of sixth-grade students to county colleges. Ideally, says MCLA President and compact leader Mary Grant, this will encourage young students and their parents to begin thinking in terms of college.


The compact membership consists of educators, elected officials, business leaders and community advocates, extending literally from A (Jane Allen of the MCLA Board of Trustees) to Z (Sandra Zink, the retired director of Human Resources at Interprint). In a meeting at The Eagle last week, Ms. Grant praised the Berkshires' legislative delegation, all five of whom are compact members, and the county's two mayors, James Ruberto and John Barrett III, for their active role in boosting education.


This kind of cooperation is essential in addressing the complex education problems confronting the county. It helps considerably that in Ms. Grant and Berkshire Community College President Paul Raverta the county benefits from college leaders who are more involved in the Berkshires and our schools than is often the case. The Fast-Track program at MCLA and BCC's associate's degree program in applied manufacturing technology are among the notable Berkshire Compact initiatives at those schools.


Discussion of education often centers around government funding, and while money is of critical importance, much can be accomplished through cooperation, ambition and a willingness to try new approaches. The Berkshire Compact for Higher Education has done this over the past three years and it clearly plans to continue on this path. State education officials have undoubtedly taken note.