Pittsfield principals report on needs, programs at city's 12 schools
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PITTSFIELD — After hearing from city school principals about their budget requests for fiscal 2017, School Committee members, Mayor Linda M. Tyer and Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless were effusive with praise.
"I am overwhelmed with pride," committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said of the presentations from 12 principals and other educators and their commitment.
The principals gave "powerful presentations" during the daylong session that reflected their dedication to the schools and students, McCandless said.
He added that the mayor — an ex officio member of the committee — and the committee members showed their dedication as well — "in probably one of the worst uses of vacation time ever."
The meeting, held at City Hall, began at 8 a.m. and didn't conclude until shortly after 3 p.m. It was recorded by Pittsfield Community Television and will be shown again and be made available online through the PCTV website.
Handheld radios, security cameras, lighting and door locking systems; building repairs and paving; additional teachers, paraprofessionals and special education instructors — these items and more were prominent among the requests submitted to the administration and the committee.
The list of requests painted a striking picture of what the principals consider the unmet needs in Pittsfield schools. The reality is that, based on past budget years, the requests will far exceed the final budget figures.
Kristen Behnke, assistant superintendent for business and finance, said the total of new budget requests was approximately $2.8 million, which if funded in their entirety would result in about a 4.9 percent school budget hike next year. Annual budget increases have averaged about 2.7 percent.
The requests are separate from raises for any of four employee groups now negotiating new contracts, and before the total in state aid to schools is known. Behnke said Gov. Charlie Baker's budget plan, due on Jan. 28, could give an indication of where aid levels to schools is headed. She said there are indications that the level of Chapter 70 aid will decline.
Last year, the administration's preliminary budget trimmed the total new requests from principals by about $3.5 million before the superintendent's budget was submitted to the committee. The budget typically is whittled down further during the committee's review, which aims to produce a new budget in April.
Tyer termed the session Wednesday "very informative" and "full version" public education, adding that it gave her a deeper understanding of school operations and budget needs.
The mayor also praised the collaborative process through which the budget needs were evaluated at each school while ideas were shared throughout the district.
She urged the committee and administration to also consider identifying "things you can let go of so that we can address critical areas" of the budget.
Committee member Anthony Riello recalled that when forced to make budget cuts last year, school officials were creative and focused in keeping the impact of cuts to a minimum. He said he hopes similar approaches can be identified if needed this spring.
Daniel Elias said that if requested new staff members are hired, "we should make sure that it is sustainable" in future budgets.
One goal of the public session, according to McCandless, was to provide residents with an overview of the state of the programs and the funding needs at each school, especially in light of an ongoing districtwide school improvement plan.
Taconic High School
Three full-time-equivalent (FTE) permanent substitute teachers; one career counselor; handheld for staff; no major facilities request in light of new Taconic High construction project.
Pittsfield High School
Two FTE permanent substitute teachers; an additional vice principal, a math specialist, reading specialist; career counselor and case manager; 0.2 FTE physics teacher; five paraprofessionals; new security camera system; classroom window shades; push bar emergency door alarms; public address system repair; new lockers; handheld radios for staff; creation of diagonal parking on Appleton Avenue; window repairs; auditorium house light repairs; projectors and whiteboards for classrooms; updating the mock apartment for transition program; create language lab; and remodeling student bathrooms.
Herberg Middle School
Two FTE special education teachers; two FTE permanent substitutes; an art teacher; a 0.5FTE librarian; stipend for an additional team leader; swipe card entrance system for cafeteria; interior doors within science rooms; refinish gym floor; additional parking near main entrance; blacktop for areas near outdoor athletic courts; drainage work in main parking lot; relocation of the auditorium sound system.
Reid Middle School
Two FTE special education teachers; a 0.2FTE art teacher; a team leader for the School Improvement Plan effort; a registered behavioral tech; a mediation coordinator; 0.5FTE custodian; 0.4 orchestra teacher; two FTE permanent substitutes; a security camera; a crosswalk and stop sign at North Street; provide a second auditorium stage exit; handheld radios for staff; sidewalk repair near the theater doors; sidewalk from parking lot to building; handicapped parking near front entrance; kitchen floor resurfacing; repair grease trap in kitchen; handicapped parking at rear of building; refinish gym floor; install new auditorium lights.
A 0.5FTE math coach; three FTE special education paraprofessionals; a permanent substitute teacher; phone system upgrade; a schoolwide radio/ intercom system; classroom clocks; widen road with curb cut at south entrance; a sidewalk from south driveway to school.
A 0.5FTE math interventionist; a permanent substitute teacher; playground equipment repairs; painting in hallways, classrooms; repave rear playground area; improve phone system; handheld radios for staff. Morningside Community School
A vice principal; one FTE special education teacher; one caseworker; one Grade 3-4-5 paraprofessional; one Grade 1-2 paraprofessional; one permanent substitute teacher; security window shades; patching and painting walls; new carpeting throughout; replacing ceiling tiles throughout; paving in two areas; repair heating system; replace clock system; telephone system upgrade.
One pre-K teacher, one pre-K paraprofessional; 15 additional minutes daily for four kindergarten paraprofessionals; three instructional paraprofessionals; a 0.5 FTE English Language Learners (ELL) teacher; adjust secretary hours to 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; one permanent substitute teacher; outside lighting; enhanced front entry system; security cameras; handheld radios for staff; address odor in Grade 2 section; begin replacing carpeting; paint hallway molding; replace chalkboards with whiteboards; paint classrooms.
One teacher, 0.5FTE ELL teacher; 0.5FTE special education teacher; a permanent substitute; paraprofessional; 0.2 FTE psychologist; three paraprofessionals; swipe card system on inside office doors; handheld radios for staff; security camera for back lot, playground; replace broken windows; remove all asbestos tiles; intercom/ security system; window blinds; heating system work; remodel bathrooms; add parking spaces; energy efficient windows.
Conte Community School
A Grade 2 teacher; three paraprofessionals; permanent substitute; extend secretary hours; an academic vice principal; additional lunch supervision support; 93 shades for entire building; handheld radios for staff; new phone system; replace carpeting on first floor; replace ceiling tiles throughout; install window screens; door weather stripping; repair 12to 18windows; repair front sidewalk.
A 0.6 FTE health and physical education teacher; one academic interventionist; one paraprofessional; a permanent substitute; extend secretary hours; fencing near parking lot; intercom and phone system.
One dean of students; additional behavioral tech; one academic interventionist; one permanent substitute; extended hours for secretary; handheld radios for staff; swipe card entrance for kindergarten hallway; repair clocks throughout; replace chalkboards with whiteboards.
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