WESTFIELD – Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and his administrative team presented an FY22 budget overview to the School Committee at a special meeting on April 15. The district is asking for a $2.3 million increase from the city to restore critical positions and building-based cuts that were made last year.
Another special meeting is scheduled for May 4 to review the budget line by line.
Czaporowski said the FY22 budget is the start of a new three-year plan for the district. He said there are three main strategic objectives in the new plan, the first of which is strengthening the school environment and culture that celebrates diversity and responds to the social emotional experience of every student and family.
Czaporowski said this goal hits home, particularly given the COVID pandemic. “A lot of students are coming in with high needs, and we want to meet those needs,” he said.
Included in the budget is an increase in social emotional support for students and strengthening of academic supports to address skills gaps. Czaporowski said the district has been hearing this as a need from the state department of education and from all districts everywhere.
The other strategic goals include expanding learning options and increasing the number of learning experiences that are rigorous and relevant.
New and restored positions include restoring an English language coach and assistant elementary principal, and adding four full-time specialist positions, a full-time English as a Second Language teacher split between Highland and Munger, a full-time Criminal Justice teacher at Westfield High School, a custodian at Westfield Middle School, and a manager of Autism and Behavior Services. The last position will be offset by a decrease in contracted vendor services at Paper Mill Elementary School that will bring them back into the district.
There is also additional funding in the budget for technology, including increased repair and replacement costs. Czaporowski said insurance premiums skyrocketed, as did worker’s compensation. Also new in the budget is money for athletic field maintenance, which was not previously included.
There is also an increase in transportation, as FY22 begins a new three-year contract.
Czaporowski said while the district will be receiving supplemental CARES Act funding, it is restricted as to how it may be used. Some of the emergency funding will be used for staffing, technology and supplies for the Virtual K-8 school. Other plans for it include summer and before and after school programming and compensatory services for Special Education students.
Emergency funding will also be used for a Supervisor of Counseling and Social Emotional Learning, three new school adjustment counselors at the elementary level, one new adjustment counselor each at Westfield Intermediate School, Westfield Middle School and Westfield High School, and a new school counselor at Westfield Technical Academy.
CARES funding will also be used for new phone systems at Highland and WHS, and for new air conditioning systems at WIS and WMS to improve air quality.
There were few questions at the April 15 meeting, which was scheduled as a presentation only. The May 4 meeting of the School Committee will be led by Ramon Diaz Jr., chair of the Finance sub-committee. Diaz said there will be a lot of questions asked at the next meeting.