Superintendent Barbara Malkas shows off her office. The old signs haven't been removed and Mayor Thomas Bernard joked that some of them were still applicable.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday approved a spending plan for fiscal 2020 of $18 million.
Some $265,000 in school choice funds is being used to offset the budget, bringing the total down to $17.769 million. That represents an increase of $348,414 over this year, or 2 percent.
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said the School Committee has annually transferred $250,000 in school choice funds and that this year an additional $15,000 was being requested to cover the stipend for the school nurse leader approved earlier this year.
"The budget is a level service budget," she said. "Using the right of assignment, the budget does represent resource allocation of some positions, specifically at Drury High School ... no one has lost their position."
Revenues include $13,795,263 in Chapter 70 state aid and the city's contribution of $3,973,812 toward net school spending, based on the governor's budget proposal. Several line items were voted separately with committee members who had relatives in those departments abstaining from the vote; the entire bottom line budget was then approved by the committee.
The School Department budget and the assessment for McCann Technical School will be reviewed by the Finance Committee on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m.
One savings this year is in the rental line item reflecting Central Office's move over spring break to the second floor of City Hall and savings of about $56,500 for the coming year.
The offices moved from over the Berkshire Bank where they had been located since construction started on Colegrove Park Elementary School. City offices including inspections, community development, the administrative officer and purchasing began moving downstairs after the new year. The credit union relocated to the former Wall-Streeter mill on Union Street and public services to the new City Yard. The mayor's office will remain on the second floor for the time being.
Malkas gave brief tour of the new Central Office after the public hearing on the budget. The second floor is now locked off just past the mayor's office. The second floor conference room now holds the School Department's furniture and bookcases but is still accessible for use by city officials.
Staff have so far been pleased with the space and configuration, including having a plethora of windows.
"So everyone's really excited about windows that they can open and daylight," Malkas said.
The superintendent was complimentary of Robert Flaherty, director of facilities for the schools, for getting all the offices repainted and overseeing the modifications.
In other business, the committee approved a shared services agreement that made the North Adams Public Schools the contractor for the North Berkshire Academy. The collaborative special education program opened last year at the Armory to be run by Collaborative for Educational Services.
Because CES is located in Northampton, the school district was paying a high tuition rate but couldn't become a member to get a discount.
"The program is currently housing 10 students, seven of which are North Adams Public Schools students," Malkas explained. "So we're already paying tuition for them. The stafC there were all staff of the Collaborative for Education Services. By agreement, they will become staff members of North Adams Public Schools servicing that specific program."
North Adams will take responsibility as fiscal agent for the program and member school districts will pay tuition to keep the program self-sustaining. Member districts are North Adams, Hoosac Valley Regional, Mount Greylock Regional and Northern Berkshire School Union.
The program is for children who before would be sent of district for services. Annual tuition for participating districts is $33,500 per student and $41,500 for non-members.
• The School Committee voted to waive tuition for a Stamford, Vt., student attending middle school at Drury High School. Stamford had paid for this year but declined to cover next year. Malkas said the student was doing very well at Drury and teachers felt it would disruptive to put the student back at Stamford for one year. The waiver is considered "non-precedent setting." Tuition for Stamford students is set at $12,303 for next fiscal year, up 3 percent from this year's $11,944; the town does pay tuition for its high school students who mostly attend Massachusetts schools.
• The committee approved hiring the New England School Development Council to do a "Best Educational Use of School Facilities" study in relation to the submission to the statement of interest submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
NESDEC will analyze and assess present and future educational needs in looking at Greylock, Brayton, Colegrove Park and Drury (with a focus on Greylock) including enrollment projections, capacity, programming and building utilization, operations and deficiencies. The committee also approved the transfer of $16,985 from the school choice revolving fund to pay for the study.
• The committee approved a new bicycle policy for students who bike to school and postponed until the next meeting a social media policy to add language referring to the use of school department devices by employees and strengthening oversight on posting pictures of students.
• Both Malkas and Food Services Director Corey Nicholas are both being recognized; Malkas is getting an award from her peers and Nicholas for the high rate of participation in the district's breakfast program.
• Student representative Andrew Callahan was bid farewell at his last meeting. Callahan will be graduating June 6 and attending Rochester(N.Y.) Institute of Technology in the fall.
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I wish that I were reviewing one of the several movies about this pox upon our house that are certain to be made when the horror is deep into our rearview mirror. But until that glorious return to normality has us resuming all the simple joys of life we take for granted, like going to the movies, I'll be retro-reviewing and thereby sharing with you the films that I've come to treasure over the years, most of which can probably be retrieved from one of the movie streaming services. It is my fondest hope that I've barely put a dent into this trove when they let the likes of me back into the Bijou.
Oh, that we had a swashbuckling hero like Peter O'Toole's Alan Swann in director Richard Benjamin's "My Favorite Year," about the early, comically innocent days of television, to swoop down just in the nick of time and save our republic.
Like our country, the aging, Erol Flynn-like matinee idol, after a sordid dalliance in unmitigated greed, is sorely in need of redemption. Unfortunately, almost everyone but Mark Linn-Baker's Benjy Stone, the novitiate writer on King Kaiser's variety show, a fictional paean to Sid Caesar's "Show of Shows" where Swann will be this week's guest celebrity, has lost faith in the tarnished star. Thus, to continue the plucky metaphor, you might accept that Benjy, who dropped out of college in favor of the new medium's pioneering excitement, represents America's better angels.
He remembers Swann from his glorious silver-screen representations, and when the show's bigwigs contemplate dismissing yesteryear's leading man, now too often drunk and tardy, Benjy volunteers to "babysit" him. The thought is that just as it's far too early to drop the curtain on our experiment in democracy, surely the still handsome headliner has some glory left in him.
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