Mailed weekly to every home in Wilbraham & Hampden

Send Us YOUR News! Just click the submission link above.

In This Issue

Photo Requests

PhotoButton

Facebook

In this week's Times:
wilbrahamhampdentimes.turley.com/

District proposes $46.4M budget

Albert Ganem Jr.: ‘We’re cutting to the core’

By Tyler S. Witkop
Turley Publications Staff Writer

WILBRAHAM – Despite an increase to the budget of nearly 1.2 percent, the impacts this year will be felt all the way to the classroom.
According to Superintendent of Schools Albert Ganem Jr. and Associate Superintendent Beth Regulbuto, in order to make up a deficit of nearly $1.2 million the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District will experience a reduction in force of 7.4 full-time equivalent teachers and psychologists, 10 full-time equivalent paraprofessionals and 0.6 full-time equivalent units in administration. Those reductions alone amount to $704,000.
Ganem and Regulbuto announced the proposal March 20 during a budget roundtable discussion with the Regional School Committee, the Hampden and Wilbraham boards of selectmen, the Hampden Advisory Committee and Wilbraham Finance Committee. As The Times went to press, the district was to hold its annual budget hearing on March 22, with the School Committee voting the budget recommendations to each town immediately following the hearing.
“This is not what we want,” Ganem said. “We know this is not the educationally sound thing to do. We’re cutting to the core.”
He noted with declining enrollment district-wide and the staffing reductions to close the budget gap, as a whole, class sizes are expected to increase as high as nearly 30 students per class in some cases.
Regulbuto explained that by using FTEs, this year’s cuts could have the potential to impact more teachers than expressed in whole numbers.
In addition to reducing the workforce, Regulbuto and Ganem proposed spending an additional $50,000 from the excess and deficiency line, using $100,000 in additional funds from the School Choice line, using $100,000 in additional Circuit Breaker funds, taking $50,000 from various revolving accounts, $20,000 from the transportation stabilization account, $30,000 in additional grant supports, $20,000 moving the early childhood program from Green Meadows to Mile Tree School, and $120,000 in special education transportation funds.
The total budget proposal amounts to $46,453,815. Hampden’s share of the assessment would be $8,217,160 and Wilbraham’s share would be $24,327,787. Hampden’s percent of the assessment decreased to 23.58 percent, while Wilbraham’s increased to 76.41 percent.
Wilbraham Finance Committee member Kevin Murray noted Monday night’s proposal was nearly identical to the scenario presented roughly one month ago. At that time, Ganem and Regulbuto informed the gap could be as high as $1.1 million, though they were budgeting close to 12 percent for insurance increases through the Scantic Valley Health Trust. With insurance rates now set much lower than 12 percent, Murray questioned how the budget remained relatively unchanged in the bottom line.
“There’s always pluses and minuses,” Regulbuto said, noting that insurance is only one component of the budget.
“And you need to have enough money in the budget to be deemed you are bargaining in good faith,” Wilbraham Selectmen Chairman Susan Bunnell added.
The district is currently in negotiations with the teacher’s union, with the other bargaining units set to begin. As of June 30, contracts with all five bargaining units expire.
In terms of the middle schools, Ganem explained as part of the 48 student transfers from Hampden’s Thornton W. Burgess Middle School to Wilbraham Middle School and the reductions in force, the schools needed to be “right-sized” in terms of student to teacher ratio. As part of the process, to account for a reduction in student population of nearly 100 children and utilize space, some of the district office staff will relocate to TWB for 2017-2018.
Despite the reductions, both schools will experience a science, technology and engineering, and math (STEM) component three days a week on a six-day rotation.
Ganem said that maintaining the two middle schools for next year is in the district’s best interest, but said for 2018-2019, it is his recommendation to operate one middle school. He did not offer specifics, as he hadn’t fully discussed the proposal with the School Committee.
Without an amendment to the regional agreement, the School Committee would only be able to close TWB and move the town’s student body to Green Meadows. Green Meadows must remain open as a result of the renovations completed in 2004.
Ganem noted that should any additional money become available in the fiscal 2018 budget, those funds would address the increase in class sizes.
“None of this is what we want. We’re making this so we have a budget we can present to the School Committee and the towns … We’re all going to deliver the highest possible education we can provide.”
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

In this week's Times:
wilbrahamhampdentimes.turley.com/

One flag at a time

Brownie Troop presents plan to keep the community safe

By Tyler S. Witkop
Turley Publications Staff Writer

WILBRAHAM – Anyone who’s walked Main Street knows that getting from side to the other can be more than a little challenging. One inspired group of youngsters set out to make a difference in their community, one flag at a time.
Wilbraham Brownie Troop 64587, led by Jennifer Powell, made a presentation to Wilbraham & Monson Academy Head of School Brian Easler on March 7, intent on keeping the students safe.
The girls, ranging in age from 7 to 9, gave Easler a bucket full of flags for crossing the road. The idea is that when a student wishes to cross the road, he or she grabs a brightly colored flag and raises it in the air to get the attention of oncoming traffic. When the cars stop, the students cross the road and place the flag in a bucket at the other side of the street.
Making the presentation were Scouts Alyssa Capen, Caroline Maloni, Madeline Hoskinson, Victoria Ambrose, Therese Testa, Sara Gonzalez, Allison Demitri, Katarina Brook, Camille Dziura and Charlotte Powell.
According to Charlotte Powell, the girls were inspired by a recent visit to Rhode Island, where the system was already in place. What she liked about the flagging system is that “the cloth can come in different colors” to get the attention of passersby.
Katarina Brook commented that as her mother works as an art teacher at the Academy, she’s accustomed to the difficulty of crossing the road and thought the flags would be good way to help.
“It’s really hard to get to [the building] because of the cars,” Katarina said.
Jennifer Powell said the girls presented the idea as part of the process to earn their Quest Badge. As part of that process, the girls must find something in their world that needs improvement and then take actionable steps to improve it. Leading the girls to their decision to help those crossing the street resulted from their own personal experience just a few months ago.
Powell related that the girls were out at night and needed to cross Main Street. Even though they were in the crosswalk, cars continued to drive by without stopping. Powell’s daughter Charlotte, taking an example from the Rhode Island trip, raised her scarf on a stick to get the attention of motorists. Interestingly, the cars stopped and the girls crossed safely.
In his office, Easler listened intently as the young service-minded girls made their pitch to help his students.
“It might be a simple thing, but it’s a really important thing,” he told the girls, appreciating their thoughtfulness and eye for safety in their community.
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

THE NEWS YOU COME HOME TO Learn More