Cushing Visit is Eye-Opener For Fitchburg State Legislator

Nonprofit schools and colleges need to point out their community contributions and innovative programs to state and local officials, State Rep. Stephen L. DiNatale believes.

"Those Community Impact Statements are the way to go," he said. DiNatale, a member of the legislature's Higher Education Committee, made his remarks at a MANS&C executive board meeting on Feb. 7 at Cushing Academy in Ashburnham.

Before the meeting, Cushing Headmaster James Tracy provided an overview of the school's emphasis on globalism and technology, which includes a partnership with Bhutan to bring Cushing's classroom innovations to the Bhutanese school system.

Tracy and Tom Corbett, executive director of the library, also outlined the library's digital transformation into what Tracy called a "digital agora."

The tour and conversations DiNatale had with the board members provided him with insight into the effects payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) programs would have on nonprofit schools and colleges.

"[State legislators] seem to be focused on institutions with really large endowments, never considering how Cushing and other schools might be impacted," he said in his informal remarks to the board. "I can assure you that I have had a change of heart."

DiNatale said he would have conversations with his colleagues on where to take bills that would require nonprofit institutions to make involuntary payments to their communities.

"The effort to make those changes would be detrimental to education in the commonwealth," DiNatale added. Calling nonprofit schools and colleges "an important part of the intellectual capital of the commonwealth," he noted, "There would be a lot of collateral damage from those bills."