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Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District restores positions thanks to FY15 state budget


July 31, 2014
WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) recently outlined its plans for the additional local aid it received as part of the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) state budget that was recently approved by Gov. Deval Patrick.

As part of a letter to parents and staff in the district outlining the successes of the district during the past year and what can be expected in the coming year, Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea announced the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee voted on July 22 to restore some of the positions that were slated to be cut or reduced for the upcoming school year. The restored programs represented what he called immediate needs that had to be addressed prior to the start of school.

“As the school year proceeds, our administrative team will consider if other priorities can also be funded given our new revenue and cost projections,” he said. “Going forward we will review our technology needs, education supply budgets, paraprofessional staffing, textbook replacement, and professional development.”

Due to gloomy local aid projections that in part resulted in a $1.2 million deficit for the district, nearly nine full time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions, 2.5 FTE counseling positions and nine FTE paraprofessional positions were scheduled to be cut. Tuition for the district’s preschool program was also increased.

A fifth grade classroom at Soule Road School that was slated for reduction was restored, which O’Shea said would maintain a class size of 23 or 24 students.

In addition, library service at the elementary schools were brought back to 2013-2014 levels with the restoration of half-time library paraprofessional positions at Green Meadows, Mile Tree, Stony Hill and Soule Road elementary schools.

The district also made an elementary science specialist position full-time that was initially projected as a 0.8 FTE position.

A custodial position at Minnechaug Regional High School that was unfilled at the close of FY14 will be filled.

The district will also reinstate $50,000 to the schools’ educational supply budgets for FY15 and will be able to complete an initiative that it started last year to install interactive projection equipment in all classrooms.
 
State Rep. Angelo Puppolo Jr. had previously announced the proposed budget to local media, lauding specifically increases in the levels of reimbursement for regional transportation, Chapter 70 funding and Special Education Circuit Breakers, which, along with successful collective bargaining, created the opportunity to restore the programs, according to O’Shea.

“We are pleased with the additional revenue and are appreciative of the efforts of our local legislative delegation to secure needed funds,” O’Shea said, “Reps. Puppolo and [Brian] Ashe advocated strongly for additional regional transportation funding.”

O’Shea and HWRSD have been active in ensuring that local legislators understand the challenges facing educators. On July 10, HWRSD hosted a meeting at which educational leaders from 10 local districts discussed concerns regarding the number, pace, and costs of new federal and state education initiatives with Puppolo and Ashe.

“Rep. Ashe and I were happy to participate,” Puppolo said. “We were there to listen and get a better idea of what our educators are thinking and the challenges they face and I think that was very beneficial. I also think it was good for educators to have the opportunity to collaborate and discuss ideas and solutions.”

O’Shea noted that in spite of the extra funding, the district still faces “critical deficiencies” in FY15, specifically identifying budgets for supplies and professional development in areas that are currently underfunded. He also pointed out that two counseling positions at the middle and high school levels as well as six paraprofessional positions will not be restored.

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