Council approves school marketing funds

WESTFIELD – The City Council approved two $100,000 appropriations to facilitate equipment purchases, maintenance projects, and a marketing program for Westfield Vocational Technical High School which is seeking to change its name to Westfield Technical Academy.
The marketing funding, $29,500, narrowly survived a motion to amend the $100,000 appropriation by eliminating the marketing funding. The council turned aside that motion made by At-large Councilor David A. Flaherty on a 6-7 vote.
“I’m for everything (in the appropriation) except the name change. That’s something we can defer,” Flaherty said. “We don’t need to market (the aviation technology program) because we have more students in our system who are interested in that program than we have seats.”
Ward 6 Councilor Christopher Crean, in whose ward the airport is located, said WVTHS is a “money maker” for the city, collecting more than $1 million in out of district tuition payments, “money that goes into the general fund.”
Ward 3 Councilor Brian Hoose said the marketing program will draw more students from outside the district.
“There is new and exciting stuff happening at Voke,” Hoose said. “This marketing is to attract students from other school districts. Our city government is weak in marketing the good things we’re going to the public.”
Ward 2 Councilor Ralph Figy, who is active as a mentor at WVTHS, said the trend in the state and across the nation is to change the name of vocational schools to academies.
“Vocational education is very expensive,” Figy said, “but we do get a bang for our buck. This (WVTHS) budget has been underfunded for years.”
Council President Brian Sullivan noted that “two out-of district-tuitions will pay for this marketing program. They want to get the marketing out before the end of this fiscal year (June 30).”
That appropriation also included a $36,000 funding request to hire a consulting firm to assist the school in securing certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Aviation Technology program slated to open next fall at Barnes Regional Airport. The true cost to the city for the consulting contract will be $11,000 with a $25,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
WVTHS director Stefan Czaporowski said the FAA certification will license students graduating from the aviation technology program, enabling them to directly enter the field which is in drastic need of technicians.
Ron Rix, the School Department’s director of technology and business services, said the second $100,000 appropriation, approved by 13-0 vote, will be used for one-time expenses to purchase capital equipment and fund maintenance projects at six of the city’s schools.

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