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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.

More Details on the Tentative Agreement With Teachers

We have more complete details on what's in the tentative agreement. These figures have been compiled from a Westfield Evening News report:

  • It's a one year contract
  • More than $500,000 in concessions were made by the teachers, $537,400 to be exact
  • Teachers gave up enough to allow them to bring librarians back to the elementary schools
  • Lori Hovey, the Westfield Education Association President called the deal "fair and equitable" and said she hoped the City Council would do the right thing and bring the money back
  • $265,000 in professional development money was cut
  • $175,600 saved with a one-day teacher furlough
  • $98,000 in long-term substitute retroactive payments cut

According to the School Committee Vice Chairman, Kevin Sullivan, the deal "allows us to keep nine teaching positions and to save more than $200,000 in unemployment insurance payments over and above the actual savings, bring librarians back into the elementary, middle, and high schools." The article does not make clear whether Sullivan meant these things would happen even if the City Councilors voted against restoring the money next week.

Deal Struck Between City and Teachers

The leadership of the Westfield Education Association (WEA) agreed to over $475,000 in concessions which are detailed on the WEA website.

More details soon as they become available.

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.

Hundreds Turn Out for Amazing School Finance Committee Meeting

Wow, what an incredible and inspiring turnout tonight at South Middle School in Westfield tonight! It was good to see so many people come out to hear the dozens of passionate people talk about their connections with the Westfield schools and what they meant to them. But perhaps the best comments of the night came from the students, who opened up and told the community why they felt it was important to keep the librarians, guidance counselors, athletic programs, music instruction, and other programs going.

SWS will be posting videos of speakers and other highlights up on this website as soon as we can. It will be a bit of work so please be patient with us.

In the meantime, please share your comments about tonight's meeting over on our Facebook page. While you are there recommend this page to all your Westfield Facebook friends to help us spread the word. And don't forget to sign up so you can stay in touch with us and get updated on all the latest important news surrounding the 2011 Budget crisis.

Thanks to everyone who came out! Stay tuned for meeting highlights to be posted to this site soon.

Westfield Teachers Vow to Come Away With a Deal

The Westfield Education Association (WEA), the union that represents approximately 575 teachers still negotiating with the city, has issued a statement on their website saying that they are determined to come away with a deal this Thursday.

From the WEA website:

The WEA Team goes back to the table on July 22nd and we aren't leaving the room until we have a deal in place. We will be working with a mediator which should help us expedite the process and seeing as we ALL (both sides) are very motivated to solve this problem, we are feeling very positive about the outcome.

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 Superintendent of Schools Shirley Alvira to retire next year

From MassLive.com:

"After informing the School Committee that it must cut nearly $1.8 million from the School Department budget, Superintendent of Schools Shirley Alvira announced this week plans for her retirement." 

Westfield school superintendent "in agony" over upcoming budget cuts

As published on MassLive:

"Superintendent of Schools Shirley Alvira, calling the cut “the most painful experience I ever had,” told the School Committee Wednesday night that is must look at the closing of Juniper Park School, eliminating librarians at the middle and high school level, cutting art and music programs in all grades, eliminating 12 guidance counselors and athletic coaches and trainers systemwide to make up the shortfall."

We here at SWS are extremely alarmed at what's going on with our schools. We simply can't afford to shortchange our children like this.

Westfield Teachers Challenge Councilors Flaherty and Keefe

The Westfield Education Association (WEA), the union that represent approximately 575 teachers in Westfield, issued a statement that challenges Councilors Flaherty and Keefe on their roles in cutting the school budget.

From the WEA website:

Do you realize that your insistence on cutting teacher step raises and longevity pay flies in the face of the law? As you have been told dozens of times by the Mayor, the Superintendent, and the City Solicitor, step raises and longevity pay cannot be cut without first changing the state laws. You are part of the legislative branch of government on the Westfield City Council, you're not in the legislative or judicial branch of the State government, you can't make and judge the laws.

Westfield School Committee to sort out how to absorb $864,345 budget gap

    The School Committee is expected to decide next week the best way to absorb an $864,000 budget cut forced upon them by the City Council.

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.    

Westfield school officials seek ways to cut the education budget by $864,000

The City Council has forced the school department to cut an additional $864,000 from the education budget.

14 Westfield School Teachers Laid Off

Save Westfield Schools is unhappy to report that 14 teachers have been laid off from Westfield schools. 

Negotiations break down between Westfield teachers' union, school officials

The Westfield Education Association, the union that represents over 570 teachers in Westfield, and the Westfield School Department were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract. As a result, the teachers decided to seek the assistance of a mediator to try to help the two sides come to an agreement.

Westfield School Committee approves $600,000 cut to school budget

In another round of bad news for Westfield's kids, the school committee approved a $52.4 million budget which is $600,000 less than last year's budget. This means we are looking at yet another loss of staff, around 24 people. This would bring the total amount of staff lost in the last 3 years to 98. That's 98 less people available to help educate our children. This is a tragedy!

Westfield schools to close Parkside Academy, facility aimed at students with special needs

 "The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped."

- Hubert H. Humphrey 

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