Town Meeting schools report: TM appropriates extra funds to support school library paraprofessionals

Report on Town Meeting consideration of school budgets

The Town Meeting began debate tonight (Wed., May 4) on the elementary school budget. At the end of the evening, Town Meeting approved the Elementary School budget, and by a substantial majority appropriated an additional $30,000 to support the three full-time paraprofessionals in the elementary school libraries.

The three library paraprofessional positions had been cut entirely from the proposed budget earlier this year. Numerous parents, teachers, and community members came out in force this spring to express their support for the school libraries and the library paraprofessionals. After that, the positions were restored to 60%, although not fully restored.

At tonight’s meeting, Town Meeting member Nicola Usher introduced an article to add $30,000 to fully restore funding for the three library paraprofessionals. Numerous members, and two guests (Wildwood school librarian Susan Wells and a 9-year-old member of our community) spoke to the importance of the school libraries and the paraprofessionals in particular. Notably, not one member of the community spoke against the library paraprofessionals — a remarkable show of support from our Town.

After considerable discussion about other particulars about the elementary school budget, the budget was passed, with the additional $30,000 appropriation. IMPORTANT NOTE: The School Committee is not required to allocate the $30,000 to those positions — it was given the money in the budget, but can spend it in any way it chooses. However, Town Meeting member Vince O’Connor noted that over decades, no committee given such an additional allocation has elected to re-purpose the funds.

The advocacy of Wildwood’s librarian Susan Wells was critical in this effort, as is the strong support of our community for the mission of school libraries.

Next Monday, May 9, at 7 pm, the Town Meeting will take up the rest of the school budget requests.

— report by Laura Quilter, Wildwood parent & Town Meeting member

More information:

library staffing cut update – Some good news

Dear Wildwood Families;
Thank you for all your actions over the past month to help retain the library paraprofessionals in the FY 2017 budget.  Your many letters of support and physical presence at the school committee meeting made me feel incredibly supported by the families of the Wildwood community.  Your voices were clearly heard.  Although it has not been made public on the ARPS website I feel comfortable, after communicating with both Nick Yaffe and Maria Geryk, to report that the library paraprofessional position has been restored to 60% time for next year. Although only having Jennifer in the library 3 days a week will limit some of things I am currently during with students, I am committed to continuing to teach all grade levels (i.e. 5th and 6th).

I am deeply indebted to this community for your support and grateful for your willingness to raise your voice in support of our school’s library program. Thank you.  The school committee meets again on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016.  I believe they will vote on the revised budget cuts.  For more information (I hope the central office will publish updated budget documents here): http://www.arps.org/administration/budget_information/F_Y17_budget/Budget_Documents
Susan Wells
Librarian, Wildwood Elementary

Update & Thank you from the WW librarian

Dear Wildwood Families:

Thank you for your support. In the form of letters and raised voices, many families and Amherst citizens have spoken out against the cut of the library paraeducators. At Tuesday’s school committee meeting, over 10 people (2 students included) spoke during the public comment time, so many that the chairperson had to stop the comments. Many of the speakers were parents and volunteers who have witnessed first-hand the importance of our school’s library program.

I believe public outcry from letters to a strong showing at Tuesday’s meeting have lead to positive changes! School committee members Rick Hood and Vira Douangmany Cage had several suggestions for finding the money to restore the paraeducator positions. I hope Amherst Media will post the meeting soon (https://www.amherstmedia.org/content/amherst-school-committee)

I am happy report that today at the Joint Capital Planning Committee meeting Maria Geryk requested that the $40,000 wireless upgrade be moved out of the school operating budget and into the capital budget:
http://onlyintherepublicofamherst.blogspot.com/2016/02/40000-budget-shift.html

Please continue to speak out in support of our libraries! The message is being heard! Write to the school committee:
schoolcommittee@arps.org

I wanted to share with you what I said during the public comment at the school committee meeting:

PUBLIC COMMENT
My name is Susan Wells, I was hired to run the WW library program just 6 short months ago.

Cutting the library paraeducator means the library program shoulders 70% of the “small” local cuts in each elementary school. This “small” local cut, to be clear, is the ONLY reduction of a staff member in this budget who has daily contact with students ALL DAY, EVERYDAY.

Today I taught 4 classes which brought in over 80 students. Over 200 books were returned by 9AM this morning. While I was teaching those 80 students, 75 other students entered the library independently without an adult:
EACH one of those students left with a book that my paraeducator:
suggested to the student, or
helped the student find,
No VOLUNTEER or clerical worker could help these students!

For many students at Wildwood our library is the ONLY library they EVER visit. From the highest flyers to the non-reader, students WANT to come to the library. It is the great equalizer, it serves every student in our community regardless of class, race, or ability.

We have been informed that this $500,000 shortfall is a direct result of enrollment in charter schools. What do charter schools lack? Libraries. This cut will limit student’s access to their only library and the one place in the school that really sets us apart from charter schools.

Thank you for your continuing support,
Susan Wells
Wildwood Librarian and parent
susanenrightwells@yahoo.com

letter from Wildwood Librarian : School Committee 2/9

Dear Wildwood Families,

I am writing to share some information with you. And although I am uncomfortable doing it, I am also writing to ask for your help.

The school committee will be presented with the fiscal year 2017 budget on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 6 PM. That proposed budget completely cuts the one full-time paraprofessional position in each of the elementary libraries, including Wildwood. More specifically, Wildwood is being asked to cut $35,000.

The proposed budget has 70% of that cut coming out of the library, in the form of the paraprofessional position. I want to outline what that would mean in practice.

The library team serves a dual role. I teach 23 40-minute classes a week. We also run a library with a circulation of 775 books a week that serves 450 students and the staff of the school. The library is a hub of activity, with a robust curriculum and resources. It is more than a classroom or just a place to get books. It is a place that fosters a love of reading, serves as a safe space for students of all needs and abilities, and is a place where students genuinely want to come and spend time. The paraprofessional is a huge reason for that.

One fourth grader recently came in to the library and said, “I don’t like reading but I will read anything either you or Jenny gives me to read.”

So I am writing to inform of you this upcoming School Committee Meeting. If you don’t want to see this cut for the library, I ask you to make your opinion known to school leadership and to the school committee. This is asking a lot of anyone, but one of the most impactful things would be to make your voice heard at the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 6 PM. The public comment portion is from 6 PM – 6:15 PM.

Thank you for your support,

Susan Wells
Librarian
Wildwood Elementary School


Traduccion de Google

Estimadas familias, Wildwood

Le escribo para compartir alguna información con usted. Y aunque me siento incómodo hacerlo, yo también escribo para pedir su ayuda.

El comité de la escuela se presentará con el presupuesto fiscal 2017 el martes 9 de febrero de, 2016 a 18:00. Ese presupuesto se interrumpe por completo la posición de asistente de maestro de tiempo completo en cada una de las bibliotecas primarias, incluyendo Wildwood. Más específicamente, se le pide Wildwood para cortar $ 35.000.

El proyecto de presupuesto tiene el 70% de ese corte que sale de la biblioteca, en la forma de la posición de asistente de maestro. Quiero esbozar lo que significaría en la práctica.

El equipo de la biblioteca sirve un doble papel. Enseño 23 clases de 40 minutos a la semana. También llevamos a cabo una biblioteca con una tirada de 775 libros a la semana que sirve a 450 estudiantes y el personal de la escuela. La biblioteca es un centro de actividad, con un robusto plan de estudios y los recursos. Es más que un salón de clases o simplemente un lugar para conseguir libros. Es un lugar que fomenta el amor por la lectura, sirve como un espacio seguro para los estudiantes de todas las necesidades y capacidades, y es un lugar donde los estudiantes realmente quieren venir y pasar el tiempo. El asistente de maestro es una gran razón para ello.

Un niño de cuarto grado recientemente entró a la biblioteca y le dijo: “No me gusta leer, pero voy a leer cualquier cosa que usted o Jenny me da a leer.”

Así que escribo para informarle de que esta próxima reunión del comité de la escuela. Si no desea ver este corte para la biblioteca, te pido que tu opinión sea conocida por el liderazgo escolar y para el comité de la escuela. Esto es pedir mucho a nadie, pero una de las cosas más impactantes sería la de hacer oír su voz en la reunión del comité de la escuela el martes 9 de febrero de, 2016 a 18:00. La porción de comentario público es de 18:00-18:15.

Gracias por su apoyo,

Susan Wells
Bibliotecaria
Escuela Primaria Wildwood