By Melissa Fales
District waits for release of Gov. Patrick’s budget
At the Jan. 19 Ware School Committee meeting, Budget Subcommittee Chair Aaron Sawabi said it was too early to offer any firm numbers on the district’s budget. He said the subcommittee will have a better handle on the figures after Jan. 26 when Gov. Deval Patrick releases the state’s budget. “It’s not roses and sunshine,” warned Superintendent Mary-Elizabeth Beach.
Subcommittee member Brian Winslow cautioned that the budget would be tighter than last year because the district would not be receiving any stimulus money. Andy Paquette of the Management Solution said that over the past two years, the district received approximately $484,000 in stimulus money for additional special education, early education and Title 1 programs. “That’s not going to be around for fiscal year 2012,” Paquette said.
Sawabi said the committee would once again hold budget review sessions for interested community members to participate in and offer their input.
SMK School Council report
Keon Ruiter, a third grade teacher at Stanley M. Koziol Elementary School, gave a report on the SMK School Council. Ruiter said the council has met twice during the school year to review the school improvement plan, with a third meeting planned for February. He said they are working on adding goals to the improvement plan, including the adoption of an SMK school pledge, the development of a math assessment program to help track students’ progress in math, and increased communication between SMK and families by encouraging use of the “Post It” website where teachers can post messages for parents and homework assignments.
WMS School Council report
The committee heard a report on the Ware Middle School Council from parent representative Maura Balicki. Balicki said the council has discussed the MCAS testing calendar and ways that English Language Arts (ELA) can be incorporated into other subject matters. The WMS council has also discussed ways to motivate students for the MCAS, including holding a pep rally, a skit performed by faculty members and a math competition. They’ve also brainstormed about new ways to reward students for their accomplishments, including giving them more recess or computer time.
Balicki spoke not only as a WMS School Council member, but also as a parent. “From what I’ve seen through my daughter’s eyes as a student, we should be proud of what Principal Warren and Assistant Principal Jordan are doing,” said Balicki. “They are empowering the faculty to do such important work.”
New trash removal contract to save district $7,000 annually
Paquette said the Ware and Ludlow school districts have successfully teamed up for a joint trash removal contract. The specifications of the contract attracted only one bidder, Allied Waste, which is the Ware district’s current trash vendor. “The idea of more bang for our buck worked in our favor,” said Paquette, who noted the two districts negotiated a contract that will save Ware approximately $7,000 each year of the two-year contract. Paquette said there would be no change to the current service, with the same schedule for trash and recycling pick-up.
Beach, other superintendents looking into virtual school collaboration
Beach announced her collaboration with superintendents from Belchertown, Granby, Easthampton and Ludlow to apply for a planning grant for an innovative school. She said the districts are working with the state’s Executive Office of Education to look into the possibility of collaborating to create a virtual school, tentatively titled Valley Virtual School. A virtual school would be a potential revenue source for the districts, and might be an option for students who are currently home-schooled or unable to attend a bricks and mortar school for a variety of reasons. Beach noted that Greenfield currently offers a virtual high school and a student from Ware is currently taking classes there, at the district’s expense. Beach said it might also allow the district to offer some special programs that are not currently available, such as a foreign language at the elementary school level. She will keep the committee posted on any new developments with the application for the grant.