Large crowd of parents/guardians/staff/volunteers turned out tonight to protest library cutbacks
The Amherst School Committee didn't need tea leaves to read the consternation caused by the proposed axing of one paraprofessional library assistant at all three elementary schools, leaving each library with only one full time employee, the librarian.
The cost cutting measure will save $75,000 -- yes, full time paras make only $25k per year --and is being instituted as part of a $429,000 overall cut to the elementary school budget to keep level services within Finance Committee guidelines.
During public comment over a dozen speakers implored the school committee not to gut the library programs at all three elementary schools. Many parents said the library was the favorite part of their child's school day and it provided a "safe space" for learning to take place.
School Committee candidate and long time Town Meeting member Vince O'Connor told the School Committee that a motion would be made on the floor of Town Meeting to increase the budget to cover the three positions.
O'Connor also argued UMass should step up and pay the town significantly more annual revenues to cover all the children (56) coming from their tax exempt housing into our high average cost per student public schools.
The recent "Strategic Partnership" signed with UMass did include $120,000 in new money to help cover education costs of those children, but the town threw it into one big pot rather then using it in a line item direct sort of way.
Rick Hood suggested the School Committee simply ask the town for an extra $100,000 since the elementary schools did turn back that amount to the town last year and the year before.
The idea will probably be brought up at the next Budget Coordinating Group meeting at the end of the month.