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Pittsfield School Committee Updated on Beginning of School Year

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Public Schools has started the new school year with more than 5,000 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through Grade 12.
School administrators provided an update the beginning of the year at Wednesday's School Committee meeting.
"I would like to welcome everybody back and it is hard to believe we are at the start of another school years but here we are," Chairwoman Katherine Yon said at the meeting broadcast on Pittsfield Community Television.
Superintendent Jason McCandless thanked the many people who helped prepare the schools for incoming students as well as community members who help make the Pittsfield Public Schools home.
"We start this year off with deep, deep gratitude," McCandless said.
There are 520 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students in the district. On the other side of the spectrum, there are 1,632 high school students and 400 career and technical education students. 
"It is such a thrill to welcome our newest collection of learners and it is a thrill to serve over 1,600 high school students we have the pleasure of serving in their final stages of their trajectory as public school students," McCandless said. 
The superintendent also welcomed new teachers as well as old.
"It is a dynamic group, it is a diverse group, and it is a dedicated group who get who we are and what we are about in Pittsfield," he said. 
After reading the list of incoming and outgoing employees the committee asked why employees decide to leave. Specifically, they asked if teachers and other employees were leaving for financial reasons.
McCandless said some district employees have retired while others have moved to a more advanced position in another district. Others left because they wanted new challenges but McCandless said he was sure some employees left because of money.
"I know where some of these folks wound up and there is not much of a question that they are making more money elsewhere," he said. "Some of them a great deal more."
He said with funding gaps, a lot of school districts find it difficult to offer competitive salaries but he hoped with the state's commitment to change the Chapter 70 formula, the district will have a better foothold in the budget. 
The committee did ask if the district completed its new hirings funded by Chapter 70 increase and McCandless said most of the major positions have been filled but there are a few vacancies in the middle school.
"Several of them have been filled ... the school-based people that were utilized to make common planning work were the highest priority and those, for the most part, have been filled," he said. "We are working on the rest." 
The City Council had approved a fiscal 2020 budget based on a $3.7 million increase in the state's Chapter 70 school aid. However, the final version of the state budget upped this increase to $5 million allowing the district to bring on 19 more employees and expand programming. 
The School Committee actually approved this amended budget Wednesday and Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance Kristen Behnke said a few changes were made, most notably the number of full-time employees to be hired from 19 to 18.  
"Things are still in flux so things could change," she said.
Before closing, Behnke said the district needs bus drivers.
"It is going to be a challenge this year certainly providing for athletic events," she said.
Behnke said they need five to 10 new drivers and that the district does offer free training.

Tags: back to school,   Pittsfield Public Schools,   

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Pittsfield Recognizes Boys Who Tried to Help Swimmer

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Fire Chief Sammons explains what happened at Silver Lake on June 23. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Christopher Daniels just kind of shrugged Thursday morning when asked about how he and his brother, Skylar, had rushed to find help when they saw a swimmer in trouble at Silver Lake. 
But first-responders said the 16-year-old was loud and clear on June 23 when he called 911 to report the emergency.
"They're the ones that initiated the 911 call, and they gave clear direction," said Fire Chief Thomas Sammons. "Their quick actions, and the conviction that was in Christian's voice — we knew that he was dead serious."
Both brothers were recognized by Mayor Linda Tyer and Sammons at a brief ceremony at the Columbus Avenue fire station on Thursday morning. 
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