Letter: Pittsfield Public Schools: Opportunity for Change

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To the Editor:

The Pittsfield Federation of School Employees are the Bus Drivers and Bus Monitors who make sure your child gets to and from school safely each day. We are the cafeteria workers who prepare and serve good-tasting nutritious meals and snacks to your child. We are the custodians who make sure that your child's school is clean and safe. We are the educational secretaries who work to ensure your child's safety and well-being are accounted for daily. We are the paraprofessionals who work side by side with our teachers every day to provide your child with the education they deserve.

Most importantly — we are the parents who send our children to be educated in the Pittsfield Public Schools. We are writing this letter because we are tired!

We are tired because during a worldwide pandemic and a nationwide bus driver shortage — during a time when the Pittsfield Public Schools struggle to hire and retain staff — our bus drivers and monitors are forced to choose between coming to work sick and going without a paycheck — because they do not have paid sick leave.

We are tired because our cafeteria workers who have risen to the challenge and met ever-increasing COVID-19 production levels with inadequate staffing are now forced to come up with money — money they don't have — to pay the district for their family's health insurance premiums because they don't get paid vacation like other 10-month employees during the upcoming Christmas, February, and April recess.

We are tired because our overworked custodial staff who have endured months of forced overtime and inadequate staffing contend each day with an endless list of COVID-19-related tasks just so that our school buildings can stay open.

We are tired because our paraprofessionals, who normally are not transferred during the school year because of the disruption it causes to student learning, are being transferred in unprecedented numbers due to the current staffing shortage. We are tired because our paraprofessionals are working, and the children of Pittsfield are learning in unsafe conditions because of inadequate staffing and this administration's unwillingness to apply appropriate corrective discipline to disruptive/threatening students.

We are tired because this administration continues to hire new staff at hourly rates below the current state minimum wage of ($13.50/hour), rates which are by definition "oppressive and unreasonable."

We are tired because this administration, who gave themselves raises of 9-12 percent, keep telling us that none the district's $29.9 Million in federal and state aid can be used to adjust and increase our salaries — and we know that's simply not true!

We are tired because we must work two and three jobs to support our families because this administration does not properly value the work that we do!

We are tired because this administration refuses to acknowledge how much our families are suffering because they cannot see it from the neighborhoods where they live!

We are tired of being exploited and ignored!

The Pittsfield Public Schools are struggling, but unlike the past the problem isn't a lack of funding — it's a lack of vision and leadership. We cannot hope to give our children the schools they deserve unless we adequately staff them. What should be abundantly clear to our leaders and elected officials is the fact that we cannot begin to properly staff our schools unless we start to compensate people (our teachers and support staff) fairly for the important work that they do.

The recent School Committee elections are a reason to be hopeful — the results represent an opportunity to truly change the way our public schools are run. Change however, will require the newly elected School Committee to do more than just take the guided tour.

Sandi Amburn
President, Pittsfield Federation
of School Employees






























































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Painting Donated to Historic Fitch-Hoose House

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff

George Hoose's Indian head paintings are thought to be modeled on in-law Samuel Caesar, who claimed to be of native descent and wore a headdress. 
DALTON, Mass. — A painting by George Hoose was donated to the Fitch-Hoose House museum last week. 
George Hoose died in 1977 at age 80. He was a prolific painter and was known for the "Indian Head" painting on Gulf Road that has long since been painted over and weathered away.
The donated painting is believed similar to that lost artwork.
"[The painting] is just one more wonderful piece that helps us be more connected with the Hoose family. It's very exciting," Historical Commission co-Chair Debora Kovacs said.
The painting of an "Indian Head" was donated by Robert and Kathleen Walsh after hearing of the art month the museum is having through September.
Next year, the Historical Commission wants to host a bigger exhibit so it can display more of Hoose's paintings but needs to find a safe way to do it. 
This donated painting may be based on one of the Hoose relatives — Samuel Caesar, who married Algernon Hoose's sister Hannah, Kovacs said. 
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