NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee is ending its attempt to share financial services with another educational entity after just a year.
The committee last week voted not to renew its contract with the North Berkshire School Union to share the services of its business manager. Rather, the school district will seek a full-time business administrator effective July 1.
"The conditions since we created that initial agreement have changed," Superintendent Barbara Malkas explained to the School Committee at its monthly meeting. "We have been the recipient of several large competitive grants that require not just the grants management coordination for implementation of the grants but also grants management within the business administrative offices."
The School Department had run into difficulty last year when its longtime business manager had retired. A management firm was brought in for several months to take over operations until school officials entered the agreement with the neighboring superintendency union.
Carrie Burnett oversees the budgeting and finance office for the Clarksburg, Florida, Monroe, Rowe and Savoy school districts; since last April, she also took over the duties of the North Adams Public Schools as business administrator.
Malkas said the grants management duties would mean hiring someone part-time who would also have to have the same caliber of licensure as the business administrator. It made more sense to hire a full-time person who could handle both elements of the post.
"We are very grateful to the North Berkshire School Union for consideration of this pilot project and partnership with us," the superintendent said. "We just feel at this point it has become untenable for the business office of the North Adams Public Schools."
The agreement automatically expires on June 30 unless both entities vote to continue. Malkas said the city is making its intent known now so the superintendency union will have plenty of notice to make its own decisions. She anticipated posting for the business administrator in early spring.
Meanwhile, Burnett continues to be the business administrator until June 30 and has been working on the draft of the fiscal 2020 budget. Malkas said she and Burnett had met with principals and department heads in December to begin crafting the document. According to the timeline presented to the committee, the plan is to have an initial draft with the governor's budget numbers by the end of January; the second draft in February as more state numbers are released; a review by the finance and facilities committee in March and a final budget by April or May that would also be reviewed by the City Council's Finance Committee.
"I'm on schedule as far as the timeline is concerned," Burnett said.
School Committee Tara Jacobs said she was hoping the full committee has a chance to provide more input into the budget as it's built.
"The way the structure currently works, we see it when it's presented to the School Committee and it's already pretty well hammered out and finalized," she said. "We really don't get an opportunity for the School Committee to have input into it at all. ... The input is coming from the all the stakeholders except the School Committee."
Malkas said preliminary discussions could begin in February but all the committee would have at that point is the governor's budget numbers.
"While it is certainly good for input and discussion, it's still very much a moving target until we get further on into the spring and we get a better sense of where the state budget will weigh in," she said.
Jacobs said she realized that it is an issue but felt that the committee should be involved earlier in the discussions. "It's one of the few roles we actually have," she said.
Mayor Thomas Bernard thought a fuller discussion would be possible. "I think it's helpful to have an early conversation so we can understand the thought process," he said.
The School Committee also approved raising the per-diem salaries of substitutes to better compete with surrounding school districts.
Malkas said the consideration was prompted by the realization that veteran teacher assistants would actually lose money if they substituted for teachers.
"That prompted us to look at a cross-comparison of teacher sub rates," she said. "Most of the districts surrounding us are paying more than what we are offering. ... The principals are having difficulty obtaining and maintaining a sub because if they get a better offer, they're going to go with the best offer. Some of our subs sub in multiple districts."
For example, certified retired teachers are paid $75 a day in North Adams but can earn $80 in Mount Greylock Regional or Adams-Cheshire, $90 in the North Berkshire School Union, and $110 in Pittsfield.
The School Committee voted to raise the daily rate $5 to bring it on par with nearby districts for all teacher substitutes; and to raise the teacher aide/para substitute hourly rate from $11.60.
In other business, the committee re-elected Heather Boulger as vice chairman and Karen Bond as secretary. Boulger was not in attendance but Bernard said he had spoken with her before placing her name in nomination.
• Bernard appointed Bond, Nicholas Fahey and Tara Jacobs, chairman, to the negotiating committee for professional staff; Boulger, chairman, Ian Bergeron and James Holmes to the negotiating committee for non-professional staff; Bergeron, chairman, Bond and Fahey to the policy committee; Fahey, chairman, Bergeron and Jacobs, finance and facilities committee; and Bond and Holmes to the Endowment Committee.
• The committee voted to enter negotiations with the North Adams Paraprofessional Association.
• The committee accepted the gift of $35,000 from the estate of state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi for the Drury High School library. School officials have not yet determined how the funds will be spent. Bernard said he looked forward to seeing how this gift will benefit students for years to come. Jacobs said they should find a way to make it have an impact for as long as possible.
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BOSTON — One million N95 masks are on their way to Logan International Airport to supply Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York.
The first shipment is expected to arrive Thursday night with the rest to follow shortly afterward, Gov. Charlie Baker said at Thursday's COVID-19 briefing.
The personal protective gear is arriving aboard the New England Patriots' jet thanks to team owner Robert Kraft.
"This was a collaboration between U.S. and Chinese governments and private sector and required a lot of support of many entities and agencies," he said. "We are grateful that the Patriots were able to land in China, load up, and return quickly to the US. I also want to thank the People's Republic of China for going to the lengths they went to to make this humanitarian aid trip possible."
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