School Dept. funding source for paraprofessional contract still uncertain

  • Pictured is the Greenfield School Committee at its January meeting at the John Zon Community Center. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2020 10:28:58 PM
Modified: 2/13/2020 10:28:47 PM

GREENFIELD — With the City Council set to vote on the city’s portion of the paraprofessionals’ (Unit C) contract next week, the Greenfield School Department is still determining how it will fund the remaining portion.

In January, the council had its first reading of the financial order, which proposed using $169,099 from the city’s Special Education Stabilization Account to fund the Unit C contract. According to School Department Finance Director Stephen Nembirkow, the schools “will need to come up with the other half — at least that is the plan — for a total of $338,198.”

“The School Committee is waiting for the council to act, then the School Committee will need to appropriate from revolving, likely, as that is the only source of funds,” Nembirkow wrote in an email on Thursday.

At its most recent meeting on Wednesday, School Committee Vice Chair Susan Eckstrom, who also serves as chair of the Budget and Finance Subcommittee, said the subcommittee requested information from Nembirkow about the funding.

“It’s just going to take some time for everything to come together,” Eckstrom said. “I want to be very clear that we are looking at this. I can’t wait to make this happen.”

The School Committee and the paraprofessionals had come to a tentative agreement, which the paraprofessionals ratified in August. However, the School Committee did not vote as a board in agreement with that contract until November.

School Committee Chair Amy Proietti said the committee is working to determine the “most sustainable way to fund the contract.”

“We’re trying to be conscious of moving forward in a way that is okay for (this school year and next school year) into the future, and the way forward is not yet clear, but we’re working on it,” she said. “What we’re looking at is where the money would be coming from, which at this point is reserve accounts, and what impact that would have for this year and the future. Those reserve accounts are not necessarily replenished in a way to use them easily in the future.”

In the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, Susan Voss, the union representative for paraprofessionals who works at the Academy of Early Learning, updated the School Committee on how the lack of funding for the contract has been affecting them.

“As a whole, the body of IAs (instructional assistants) are very frustrated and angry,” Voss said. “New people are getting hired and many are leaving soon thereafter. Great IAs who work in the school system are looking elsewhere for jobs — all the surrounding areas pay more. ... We’re hiring and training people who then leave so then we’re hiring and training more people.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.




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