|By Katelyn Gendron|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD In a rapidly changing technological market where last year's hottest iPod is this year's $20 tag sale item, the Westfield Vocational Technical High School (WVTHS) will finally be trading in their 1980s and '90s technology for the latest and greatest.
Last Thursday the City Council voted unanimously Ward 1 Councilor Christopher Keefe and at-large Councilor Charles Medeiros were absent in favor of the second and final reading of the $750,000 bond order for WVTHS.
"We absolutely had to do it [approve the bond]," Ward 5 City Councilor Richard Onofrey Jr., also a member of the Finance Committee, said. He added that health a safety concerns as well as the critical need for advanced technology clearly illustrated the school's need for additional funding.
School Committee member Mary Beth Ogulewicz-Sacco explained that WVTHS Director Hilary Weisgerber had previously asked former Mayor Michael Sullivan for a $2.3 million bond; however, because of budgetary constraints he could only commit $750,000 for one year.
Ogulewicz-Sacco added that it will be possible to revisit the need for additional WVTHS funding in the future.
"It's just a drop in the bucket," she said, adding that the appropriated $750,000 is "taking care of the most critical needs at this juncture."
Weisgerber said she was thrilled that the City Council voted in favor of the bond. "It's certainly going to help us take care of some of our safety issues and [purchasing new] technology," she added.
Weisgerber explained that the funds will be disbursed to each department for their most prominent needs. She said that specifically the school will be looking to purchase a new alignment machine for the Automotive Department, new computers and potentially new vans for departments utilizing vans manufactured in the 1980s.
Ward 2 City Councilor Daniel Knapik said he was concerned about the council's ability to ensure that each WVTHS department was allocated enough funding for their most urgent needs.
Onofrey explained that a detailed list from each department detailing requested items and purchase prices was submitted to Weisgerber and the council. He said this will aid the council in tracking the spending.
City Councilor at-large James Adams, also liaison to the School Committee, said he will be working closely with School Committee member and Finance Committee chair Kevin Sullivan to monitor the bond allocations.
"The needs of the vocational schools are very different from our traditional schools because if they don't have the technology they can't impart [technically-specified] education," Ogulewicz-Sacco said. "If you are going to be committed to the concept of voc education you have to be committed to funding it because it's much more expensive."
She noted that WVTHS has not received a major infusion of city funding in at least a decade. "The equipment is precariously on the edge of being obsolete," Ogulewicz-Sacco said.
She added that she is pleased the students at WVTHS will again be able to enter the workforce with the most up-to-date skills from the latest technology available.