City Council

Withdrawal of School Funding Could Come Up for a Vote at Thursday's City Council Meeting

The agenda for Thursday's meeting is out and it contains a "motion of Councilor Flaherty relative to school budget appropriation." This agenda item appears to be Councilor Flaherty's follow-up to a failed attempt at the last City Council meeting to rescind $744,345 in school budget money that was originally approved back in July.

It's unclear what kind of support Councilor Flaherty has from other City Councilors. City Councilor James Brown, in a response to an email from Save Westfield Schools last weekend, wrote, "I will not be supporting any measure to 'recover the money', as this is not realistic nor a remedy that is available to the Council." Save Westfield Schools encourages other City Councilors to do the same.

Flaherty will also be introducing two additional proposals at Thursday's meeting related to the school budget:

  • The first is a request for the City Council's evaluation of a Proposition 2 1/2 override "to fund school department performance-based salary increases in excess of 2 1/2% per year." Last week, in an online forum, Councilor Flaherty wrote, "I'm going to propose a Prop 2 1/2 override that is targeted at providing additional salary money for the school department (to pay for raises that exceed 2.5%)." In another comment he wrote, "I'm not proposing to support the measure, just to have the opportunity to get it on the ballot to give the voters a chance to let their feelings be known in a quantifiable way. I think the measure would fail by a huge margin."

    As we have pointed out, Flaherty's suggestion to that teacher salaries should not go above 2.5% is based on his very flawed analysis of how step increases affect the school budget. Other than for grandstanding, we see no value to this proposal whatsoever.
     
  • His second proposal is "for approval of resolution to Westfield School Committee relative to negotiating and executing contracts that place further financial burdens on an already stressed school department budget." It's unclear what Councilor Flaherty has in mind here. We will have to wait and see.

Why Step Increases Do Not Cost the City of Westfield More Money, Take 2

Save Westfield Schools is disheartened to see Councilor Flaherty still claiming on an online forum that step increases, even though they were frozen this year, will lead to spiraling teacher salaries.

We admit that it does sound counterintuitive. How can you possibly give many teachers raises year after year without teacher salaries eventually eating up the entire budget? We did our best to explain how in this post. Mr. Flaherty's response was to email us and accuse us of being "manipulative." Interestingly, he did not attempt to dispute our facts.

Save Westfield Schools Finds Flawed Logic in Flaherty's Contract Analysis

In a second email exchange with Councilor Flaherty last weekend, Save Westfield Schools has determined that Councilor Flaherty has a fundamentally flawed analysis of the true cost of Westfield teachers' step and track increases to the City.

Flaherty Responds to Save Westfield Schools' Inquiry About His $5 million Cost Assertion

This past weekend, Save Westfield Schools had a lengthy email exchange with Councilor David Flaherty regarding his statements that the new teacher's contract would cost "$8400 per person over the life of this agreement" and cost the city "over $5 million."

But contrary to Flaherty's statement at last week's City Council meeting, SWS was able to determine that the extra $5 million cost would not be incurred over one year—the length of the current contract—but over a period of decades, on the order of at least 30 years or 40 years. That's because the extra cost comes from a $500 increase in the annual longevity benefit for teachers who work in the Westfield school system for more than 15 years. Even if we use a very conservative estimate that approximately half of Westfield's 570 teachers are eligible for the longevity benefit in any given year (for FY2011, it's actually less than 1/3, or about 180), it would take a little over 35 years before the extra longevity payout costs would reach Mr. Flaherty's $5 million figure. And even with a conservative estimate  of $60 million average budget over the next 35 years (the FY2011 budget is about $52 million), the $5 million figure amounts to only a 0.2% increase in the total cost of the school budget.
 
View the email exchange with Councilor Flaherty in its entirety. 

Teachers Counter Flaherty's Allegations

Late Thursday evening, City Councilor David Flaherty made allegations that Westfield school administrators and the Westfield Education Association covered-up and misrepresented the terms of the new teacher's union contract negotiated in July. Today, the WEA released a statement to counter Flaherty's charges and called him out for "present[ing] erroneous inflammatory information that suits his need, be contrary and incendiary with people who could help him gain the correct information, and go out of his way to create adversarial relationships with other elected officials and bodies, rather than alliances."

Flaherty Says School Committee and Teachers Union "Snookered" City Council and Public

After last night's City Council meeting, in an email sent to all Westfield City Councilors, Councilor David Flaherty continued his serious accusations that the school department deceived the City Council and the public. He also implicated the teacher's union in a cover-up over what was in the contract. He wrote, "We got snookered, and the teachers union and the school department have mislead [sic] the public."

Flaherty also explicitly stated his intention to call for a vote to "recover the over $700,000 that the council approved for the school department based on intentionally misleading information provided us." The email contained a photocopy of the Memorandum of Understanding along with his opinion that there were costs negotiated into the contract that were hidden from the public to the tune of "over $5 million." As pointed out earlier by SWS, the WEA made the Memorandum of understanding public on their website since at least August 23rd.

See video

Flaherty Accuses School Department of Lying About Teacher's Contract, Wants to Rescind $744,000 in School Funding

Councilor David Flaherty resurrected debate over the 2011 school budget when he leveled serious accusations against the school department at the tail end of tonight's City Council meeting. Flaherty didn't mince words by stating "we were lied and misled to [sic]" about the agreement between the Westfield Education Association and the school department. Flaherty also expressed his desire to rescind the $744,345 approved last month by the City Council. However, because Flaherty did not place a motion 48 hours prior to the meeting, no vote was taken regarding the issue. Flaherty tried to take up the issue anyway, claiming that the matter constituted an emergency, and asked for a suspension of the rules to debate. His motion to suspend the rules was voted down 7 to 5. But in a video recorded by Save Westfield Schools, Councilor Flaherty could be heard saying to Councilor Mary O'Connell, seated to his left, that he intended to place a motion on the next meeting agenda to address the issue. The next City Council meeting is September 16th.

City Council Establishes Special Committee on Schools

Last month, Save Westfield Schools posed the following question to many of the city councilors:

Will you work with the citizens of Westfield, and all concerned parties, toward finding a better long-term solution and mechanism for resolving future differences with the teachers?

Well, it looks like the City Council might have taken a shine to our advice and has established an ad hoc committee to research the budget and operation of the school department. The committee is large, with a whopping seventeen positions on it. Those positions are as follows:

  • 3 City Councilors
  • 3 School Committee Members
  • 3 Members of the Administration (Mayor, school department, principals)
  • 3 Teachers (chosen by the union)
  • 3 Parents (At-Large supplied from the PTO’s or other volunteers)
  • 2 Students (one each from the leaders of the respective student bodies of Westfield Vocational and Westfield High School)

Westfield Schools Saved!

By a unanimous vote, 12-0, the City Council did the right thing and voted to place $744,345 in the budget to offset the money it cut back in June. Several councilor's mentioned the numerous emails they had received on the issue. So great job everyone!

There is much more work to be done, however.  Our schools are not out of the woods yet. We'll be counting on you to stay informed and involved in the process. Please check back here frequently to stay tuned on the latest news. We'll also be sending out periodic emails when there are other interesting developments. So if you haven't already, please sign up for our email updates.

Thanks again!

City Council Special Meeting Set for 7pm on Thursday

The City Council will be holding a special meeting to vote on a recommendation from the mayor that $744,345 be placed into the school budget. As mentioned earlier, a super majority, or 2/3 of all city councilors present, is needed to pass the recommendation. All 13 city councilors are eligible to vote. The meeting will be held at City Hall located at 59 Court Street.

Save Westfield Schools is asking that all concerned Westfield residents turn out to this vote to ensure the recommendation wins passage. We need to send a strong message to the City Council just how important this issue is to us. We also urge you to contact all city councilors before the vote to make sure they do the right thing on Thursday.

IMPORTANT! CALL YOUR CITY COUNCILORS BETWEEN NOW AND JULY 29

If you've never sent a message to an elected official in your life, this is a perfect time to get involved because you can make a huge difference in the lives of Westfield's children.

This coming Thursday, the City Council will take a vote on restoring funding to our schools. Tell them you want them to vote "yes" to fund the $744,000 that is on the table and give all of it to the school department. Be sure to tell them to vote on it with no strings attached and no more reckless negotiating tactics.

Click here to learn how to contact the City Councilors. And remember, all thirteen City Councilors will be voting, not just eight.

Although the the teachers accepted deep cuts, we still need the City Council to restore funding to Westfield's schools. We need nine votes to win. If just 5 City Councilors vote no, Shirley Alvira says the budget money will have to be cut because the beginning of the school year is approaching fast. If we lose this vote, it will mean that many of the drastic cuts in services discussed last week will be implemented. Those cut discussed included:

  • Laying off all librarians
  • Defunding of art and music programs
  • Defunding of athletic programs
  • Laying off all guidance counselors

So, get your fingers dialing and fire up your email, let's roll out, troops! If you hear from a City Councilor, please contact us so that we can keep tabs on where they stand. Together we can win!

Go right now to learn how to contact the City Councilors!

Again, all thirteen City Councilors will be voting, not just eight.

All Thirteen City Councilors Are Eligible to Vote on Restoring School Funds; Nine Votes Needed to Win

According to the Westfield Evening News, a State Ethics ruling which barred 5 City Councilors from voting on whether or not to cut funds from the school budget will not apply to the vote this coming Thursday. This next vote will restore funding to the School Department. Since nine votes will be required to place the money into the budget, the City Councilors will be eligible to vote now because of a so-called "Rule of Necessity," because if five Councilors were ineligible, it would not be possible for the measure to receive nine votes.

SWS Has Two Important Questions for Our City Councilors

SWS believes in working with our city politicians to improve Westfield's Schools, but we also believe in holding their feet to the fire to make sure they make responsible decisions. That's why we are introducing a "City Councilor Scorecard."  The idea behind the scorecard is to keep track of where our City Councilors stand on issues.

We think it's safe to say that everyone who was at July 20th's School Committee finance meeting agrees that holding school budget money hostage as a negotiating tactic was not a cool thing for the City Council to do. It did nothing but put the city's kids at risk and aggravated the relationship between the teachers and City Council. (If you need more convincing, please visit our City Councilor Scorecard page for our reasons why we think it was a bad move.) What we need to do is to try to help foster peace between the City Council and teachers or this is just going to repeat itself next year. In that light, we're posing two important questions to our City Councilors:

  • Will you immediately cease using the threat of a school department budget cut as a negotiating tactic in order to extract concessions from the teachers and do you promise never to exercise this option again? 
  • Will you work with the citizens of Westfield, and all concerned parties, toward finding a better long-term solution and mechanism for resolving future differences with the teachers? 

We're going to ask all of the eight City Councilors who are eligible to vote on the rescinding of the cuts to the school budget and we'll publish all the City Councilor's answers to these questions here on the website as a service to you. Please encourage them to respond to these questions. You can read our ground rules for responses that we've laid out.

The eight City Councilors still eligible to vote on the School Committee issues are:  Patti Andras, John Beltrandi, James Brown, David Flaherty, Christopher Keefe, Nicholas Morganelli, Richard Onofrey, Gerald Tracy

See video
Click to watch

Mayor Knapik: Call Your City Councilors!

At the School Committee Finance Committee meeting tonight, Mayor Knapik urged all in attendance to call their City Councilor and urge them to vote to meet and move all monies that were cut back into the school department budget by urging city councilors to free all funds for longevity pay for the teachers.

Please click here for information on how to contact your City Councilor.

If your City Councilor responds (or even if they don't), please let us know what they told you by contacting us using this form or by emailing us to info@savewestfieldschools.org.

Westfield school cuts over union conflict total $1.8 million

TV 40 Coverage

As published on WGGB.com:

"Mayor Daniel Knapik said the move on the part of the council to institute a budget cut for the schools is unjustifiable, and could result in the closing of Juniper Park School. Other measures that could be necessary include the elimination of art and music programs at every level and the loss of teachers, counselors and coaches."

Westfield city council cuts $864,000 from the School Department budget

 Westfield city council cuts $864,000 from the School Department budget; more staff layoffs, school closings could be on the way.    

Westfield City Council approves $864,000 School Budget Cut

 Despite a last-minute plea from teachers and residents to protect school funding, the City Council Wednesday night approved a new city budget that eliminates more than $860,000 from the School Department.    

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