School Committee votes to restore library, special ed positions
By Debbie Gardner
Assistant Managing Editor
WILBRAHAM At last week's meeting, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee voted to restore 1.5 library aide positions for kindergarten through eighth grade library services in the elementary and middle schools across the district.
Library services positions in the schools had been eliminated last spring when the district was making cuts to the 2010-11 school year budget.
This move was taken at that time, according to Superintendent M. Martin O'Shea, "to keep the cuts as far away from the classrooms as possible."
O'Shea said these restored library positions a one full-time to serve the Thorton Burgess and Wilbraham middle schools and a half-time to service the four other elementary schools in the district would be funded through monies from a one-time jobs fund appropriation the district received from the U. S. Department of Education.
The district received a net total of $558,100 in jobs fund monies from the Dept. of Education.
"These monies went to every school district in the nation," O'Shea explained. "The purpose of the jobs fund was to save or restore [education] jobs for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school year."
At an earlier meeting, the School Committee voted to support the use of a portion of the jobs fund monies to restore 4.2 special education paraprofessional positions across the district as well as to add one special education position at the Soule Road School.
O'Shea said to supplement to these restored positions, he believes the principals of each of the districts kindergarten through grade eight schools will be working with school PTOs to establish a "cohort of volunteers to assist us with staffing the libraries."
"We've always been very fortunate to have dedicated library volunteers in the district," he said.
He noted that, as part of its K-12 initiative improvements, the district also implemented a software program this school year "that can be used to catalog sign in and out and track the collection" in each school's library to "streamline the check-in and check-out procedure for our teachers."
However, he stressed that even with the restored positions and volunteers, "this is definitely not where we want to be in terms of library staffing and the hope is we will, once the economy rebounds and revenues increase, be able to restore [library] staffing to previous levels."
He added the district does not have plans to use the remaining jobs fund monies for this school year.
"As a district, what we would like to do is reserve most of that money until Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) because we know FY12 is going to be very, very challenging budget-wise," O'Shea said.