ESSER in Action in Massachusetts: Berkley- A Community of Care

December 21, 2023

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is launching a series, ESSER in Action, highlighting how COVID-19 relief funds are making an impact across the country. This initiative is providing AASA members with an opportunity to share their good news stories about school improvement projects underway in their respective communities, through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, that are enhancing their school districts.

 Berkley: A Community of Care

Berkley Public Schools
Berkley Public Schools proudly calls itself a community of belonging, a culture of care and a district filled with academic excellence. The Massachusetts school system is home to about 900 students and located about 40 miles south of Boston and 45 miles east of Providence, R.I.

Two schools comprise the K-through-8 district, an elementary school and a middle school which receives steadfast support from the local police and fire departments as well as community groups and organizations throughout Bristol County. 

An educator for nearly 25 years, Melissa Ryan serves as superintendent of the school system, a position she has held since April 2021. A “strong staple” is how Ryan describes the relationships between students, faculty and staff during the height of COVID and afterward. 

“We were pleasantly surprised by the constant connections going on in our schools,” said Ryan. “Yes, we had some struggles,” she adds, “but I believe we were able to weather that situation. We didn’t have the type of experiences of such things a huge learning gaps compared to other districts in the state.”

Funds generated by the American Rescue Plan to help Berkley Schools reached close to $1 million and were generally earmarked for what Ryan calls “interventionists” or support staff in the areas of math and reading. Based on the specific needs of each student, these professionals would work with small groups throughout the day. 

Did these additions create a positive impact? “Absolutely,” says Ryan. “It truly changed school culture and not just with students but with our teachers, too. Teaching staff viewed the added staff as valued colleagues in their specific content area they were working in. We definitely had and will continue to have a lot of collaboration in our classrooms.”

Student engagement 

In addition to small group learning, the (number) added positions, as a result of ESSER funds, have provided opportunities for individual support increasing student engagement from the district’s elementary and middle schools. “As a district,” recalls Ryan, “we have made a conscience effort to raise the bar when it comes to interaction among students with each other as well as with teachers. We have also seen increased collaboration among our teaching corps.”


Adding funding has also allowed Berkley to move to a 1-to-1 device model for students and the district plans to maintain this technological advancement even after ESSER funding goes away. “I’m very pleased that we are making a coordinated effort to ensure that all of our kids can utilize connectivity at all times to enhance their learning.” 

“We saw these funds as a way to advance our learning,” added Ryan. “With help from our supportive community, we are seeing teaching and learning excellence in action, which is why Berkley is a ‘community of care.’”

For more information about how Berkley Public Schools is implementing ESSER funds to enhance its school community, contact Kat Sturdevant, AASA advocacy & governance coordinator, at