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Berkshire Athenaeum Thanks Employees with $34K in Bonuses from Bequest

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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The trustees vote to reward library workers with a bonus for their efforts during the pandemic. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Library Trustees on Tuesday voted to disperse about $34,000 from the Fay Henry bequest to employees for their work during the pandemic.

Full-time employees will receive a one-time $1,000 bonus and part-time employees will receive a one-time $500 bonus.

The library has about 52 employees and 15 of them are full-time.

President Kathy Amuso proposed this to the board — including Berkshire Athenaeum Director Alex Reczkowski — for the first time during the panel's meeting on Tuesday.  

Amuso said that she wanted to make sure the library's custodians also receive the bonus.

"I think it's important work that went on," Amuso said. "And I think when other areas, other businesses were closed to the public, many employees weren't even coming in, everybody at the library really did their part and we were able to serve our community and we didn't serve it the same way, but we served it differently."

Fay J. Henry and her brother, Rodman R. Henry, were fifth-generation city residents who vowed to support the community with their life savings. She passed away in 2019 and he died in 2011.

In their will, they bequeathed funding to a variety of nonprofit organizations in Berkshire County, and about $350,000 of that went to the Berkshire Athenaeum.

Amuso's proposal was met with agreement across the board.

Member Gail Molari made the motion for approval.

"I think it's a great idea," Trustee Pam Knisley said. "They really did stand up and do whatever they could to make sure that the library continues to serve the public as best they can."

Trustee John Neiner pointed out that this falls under employee retention efforts, which the board had originally discussed using the bequest in part for.

"As we're talking about other topics about retention and that sort of thing, I think it's a good gesture to show to the employees, and they really did so much work during a really hard time emotionally," he added.

"I really appreciate the things that I saw for safety and protection and they did so with heavy hearts a lot of times because of what was happening, so I think it's a really good gesture, I would support it fully."

Trustee Thasia Giles pointed out that it helps recognize that the community is still dealing with the effects of the pandemic.

"I think it helps recognize that we're still in this time of great uncertainty," she said. "And the library staff continues to navigate so many unknowns and also enforce the policies that are upholding our health and safety as a community."

To be eligible for the bonus employees would have to be actively employed on Oct. 1, 2021.

The board will be touching base with the library's bargaining unit to make sure the bonus is permissible.

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BCC Sees Increase in Enrollment Count

PITTSFIELD, Mass — Berkshire Community College (BCC) recently released its enrollment data for fall 2021 — a season still  impacted by COVID-19, but with a growing number of first-year and continuing students. 
 Key findings include: 
  • Overall enrollment is up 1.4 percent over 2020 
  • The first-year student population is up 16.4 percent 
  • Continuing students are up 3.9 percent 
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  • Readmitted students (those who leave college for less than a year and reapply) are down 27.27 percent
The number of non-degree-seeking students has also grown, largely due to BCC's Early College program, which offers up to 15 free college credits to high school juniors and seniors. BCC has increased the number eligible students for the program.  
"I'm thrilled that our new student and continuing student numbers are up. The BCC team has worked so hard to create an environment during the pandemic in which students could continue to thrive," said Adam Klepetar, BCC Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. "We continue to operate successfully in a very challenging enrollment environment, with decreases in the number of high school graduates and increases in competition." 
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