×

Greenfield school budget on hold for talk of library needs

  • Students and families arrive to tour the new portions of the Greenfield High School during an open house on Monday evening. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Monday, March 05, 2018

GREENFIELD — With hopes of finding a way to budget for more library services, Greenfield School Committee members Susan Hollins and Adrienne Nunez, the chairwoman, have put the school budget’s total numbers on hold.

There will be an additional meeting Friday as time runs out to make a recommendation to the mayor.

Currently, the budget is hovering around $18.9 million, with about $30,000 added to the budget between last week’s public hearing and Monday’s subcommittee meeting.

Final tinkerings with the spending plan at the moment have looked to address special education and custodial services.

The question remains of whether the school committee can find a space to include more money for librarians between the three elementary schools.

Currently, according to Superintendent Jordana Harper, all three schools have support at the libraries, although only Discovery School at Four Corners has a person specifically budgeted for library work. Federal Street School and Newton School — both of which receive free or reduced lunch while Four Corners does not — have a mixture of volunteers and rotating staff that oversee library instruction.

“I love your idea Susan. I think it’s kick-ass,” member Cameron Ward, the head of the budget subcommittee, said to Hollins. “But how are we going to do it?”

When pressed by Ward to come up with a concrete proposal, Hollins suggested following an earlier proposal by the superintendent in reducing the principal at the preschool from full-time to part-time.

There is $45,000 budgeted for the principal at the Academy of Early Learning School at North Parish next year. Four Corners has budgeted roughly $43,000 for the joint position of librarian and reading interventionist.

“We should have the same professional support at each elementary library,” Hollins said.

Hollins, Nunez and Harper pushed for more dialogue around how the committee could find ways to fund those positions. Monday is the deadline to present Mayor William Martin with the proposed school budget.

On the topics of libraries, Harper also noted there was a request by Greenfield High School’s librarian for about $10,000 worth of materials and services.

Nunez wanted the committee to OK this because she views the budget as a values document, and therefore, it should show the committee cares to have clear librarian funding. “It’s not clear we invest in our libraries,” Nunez said.

Martin said the city provides great opportunities for its children to read. Ward nodded to the mayor, saying, “I love it. You’re right.” Ward then reminded the committee its budget is still under the goal of $19 million.

Additionally, there was a conversation about the number of custodians, with 14¼ full-time positions budgeted for the coming school year. While Hollins suggested the pre-K have one full-time custodian, instead of its ¾ current plan, she was met with some pushback. Ward and Martin suggested bringing the position to full-time and dropping the high school a quarter of a position, while Harper objected to the idea.

Later on, Martin mentioned in passing a $2.8 million deficit he calculated this weekend when looking ahead to the 2019 budget.

“Obviously, the city needs to balance a budget. That’s why not everything came forward,” Harper said. “That’s why this isn’t a wish list. At the same time, we need to make sure we’re serving the students we have today. We also need to have a contingency plan.”

Harper worried if the school’s budget was cut by 1 percent by the City Council, like it was last year, it could not bode well following last year’s cuts.

Having started too late?

Committee members have repeatedly said this year’s budgeting process started too late and that dialogue hasn’t had the time to be as robust as in years past.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264