State Rep. John Barrett III addressed the committee on Monday night.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District has received an additional $100,000 from the state to offset increasing costs and to sustain current programs.
Late state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and state Sen. Adam Hinds made good on their pledge to secure state funds to help provide the district with some financial relief. Hinds and Cariddi's successor, state Rep. John Barrett III, attended the School Committee meeting Monday to present the funds her behalf.
"This is manna from heaven this is a pot of gold I feel as though leprechauns have helped us here," Superintendent Robert Putnam said. "Thanks again for the support from our wonderful legislative team."
Last year, school officials asked their state representation to fight for funds to offset rising costs and flat revenues. The budget was dire enough to consolidation of its schools and restructuring of the school district.
Hinds noted in his testimony to the conference committee, which Putnam read, that rural school districts with declining populations face difficult choices.
The testimony also noted that the recent consolidation and closing of Cheshire School would be a big hit to the district and with more Cheshire students exercising school choice, it is anticipated that the school district at a minimum would lose $100,000.
Putnam read that Cariddi secured the funds during a House budget debate in April 2017 that was included in the budget conference committee's final report this month. Cariddi died last June.
The funds were released Feb. 8 and Putnam worked with the administrative team to develop a plan for them.
"The financial assistance from the state will do much to make improvements to our educational programming that otherwise would have been impossible," he said.
Some $17,500 will be used to fund the Bay State Reading Initiative, which has been critical in improving test scores, and $5,000 will be used for Project Lead the Way programming.
Putnam said $15,000 each will go toward the elementary and middle school literacy programs.
Another $6,798 will be used to purchase 30 Chromebooks for the elementary school and $24,585 to purchase 90 Chromebooks to establish learning centers in each middle school classroom.
"The middle school grades are the most tested group in the entire district," he said. "These tests are moving toward computers and we want to make sure students are developing typing skills."
Putnam concluded that $10,000 will be used to purchase playground equipment for the middle school and $5,750 will be used for professional development to improve special education inclusion practices.
The School Committee took the presentation as an opportunity to remember Cariddi and all she had done for North County. The North Adams Democrat has represented the 1st Berkshire District since 2011 and been a city councilor for two decades before that. She was involved in a number of North County initiatives, including advocating for bicycle and pedestrian trails.
"This earmark is an example of her tireless dedication to Northern Berkshire County," Putnam said. "The impact this funding will have on ACRSD programming and students is a great opportunity to remember her and all she did for our community."
Both Barrett and Hinds thought the funding inclusion was one of her last acts in the House.
"It was, in fact, one of the last things she did in the House and in fact you can kind of extract form here, but it was during the conference committee of the budget process that she died," Barrett said. "So this was a nice mark."
Hinds added that what the district does with the money may could help inform future funding initiatives for similar struggling districts.
"This year becomes an important year for us to be very clear what we would do differently if there was an influx of that kind of cash," the senator said. "We want to make sure we raise that flag."
Barrett also spoke and said it continues to surprise him how Cariddi still has an impact on the county even after her passing.
State Sen. Adam Hinds, left, speaks at the committee meeting.
"What I found about this lady in the last five month continues to amaze me," he said. "I can tell you how bad she felt ... how upset she was with what happened between Adams and Cheshire ... you could see that it bothered her."
He concluded that this funding that Cariddi fought for will impact generations of students.
"Someone told me a long time ago if you can touch the lives of people that you will never meet in a positive way then you did a good job," he said. "Gail has touched the lives of kids that will probably never know of her, but she has made their quality of life in your school system better and hopefully we can continue her work."
Chairman Paul Butler thanked Hinds and Barrett for their advocacy and attendance and said he wished he could thank Cariddi in person as well.
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