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Mohawk budget narrowly OK’d

Many object to BSE staffing cuts

BUCKLAND — More than 60 students, teachers and residents attended a recent Mohawk school hearing, and most of those who spoke asked the Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee not to cut counselors at the Buckland Shelburne Elementary School for the coming school year.

At stake is a proposed $81,000 staff reduction that would reduce this year’s 2.6 full-time equivalent positions of two interventionist counselors and one adjustment counselor to one full-time equivalent. These are specialists who help special needs children and other students who are falling behind, sometimes because of personal problems.

Several teachers said that the work performed by the interventionists is crucial and have helped the school rise from a “Level 3” performing school to a “Level 2, according to statewide standards, based on MCAS results.

BSE school psychologist Thomas Garbett said his “plate was full,” and that he wouldn’t be able to absorb the duties of another full-time counselor.

After nearly an hour of public discussion, Shelburne’s two school committee members said they would not vote to support Mohawk’s 2015 elementary school budget proposal unless administrators agreed to review the counselor cuts and find a way to restore those positions — possibly by cutting elsewhere in the budget.

“This is not about the dollar amount, (but about) the way these resources are being allocated,” said School Committee member Willow Cohen of Shelburne, who feared the loss of counselors would have a detrimental impact on the school.

School Business Administrator Joanne Blier asked the committee to adopt the full Mohawk budget, so the district would meet its regional agreement requirement to have a budget request by March 1, so towns can plan for their school assessments before annual town meetings. She said there was still time to internally adjust the budget. Also, she pointed out that the district has often adjusted staffing after a budget has been adopted, without going back to the member towns for more money.

The first vote on the Mohawk elementary budget failed to get a two-thirds majority, because Cohen, Shelburne member Karen Redeker-Hicks and Colrain member Nina Martin-Anzuoni voted against the budget proposal, out of concern for the BSE cut.

But Martin-Anzuoni reversed her “no” vote on a second round, to ensure the district has a budget to bring to towns. The operating budget for Mohawk’s four elementary schools is $7,308,344, with a capital budget of $186,372.

School administrators said they would take up the BSE counselor cuts at administrative finance meetings.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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