After seven years of tightening spending and making "tough choices," the financial outlook for Westfield Academy and Central School seems to be improving, board of education members learned last Friday.
Superintendent David Davison and business manager Alan Holbrook gave the board a preliminary rundown of the budget for 2014 -15. Although the budget is still "in-flux" and there are still many salaries to be negotiated, Holbrook said the general financial situation was improving.
"The last seven years have been difficult and we had to make tough choices, but last year was better, and this year is better than last," he said.
Photo by David Prenatt
Westfield seniors (L to r) Mackenzi Habig, Emma Fermier and Megan Fisher share their experiences from the “We the People” state championships in Albany with the WACS board of education. Westfield was one of only six schools to make it to the semi-finals.
One of the reasons for the improvement was that the district was able to obtain $110,000 in grants, Davison said. This will allow Westfield to move many programs forward.
The grants will enable the district to hire a half-time teacher for data-driven instruction, as well as an additional part-time Spanish teacher, Davison said. Also, funds will be available for AP courses, "much-needed" equipment purchases and textbook updates, he said.
"We have the opportunity to play catch- up," Davison said. "We've been putting off purchases for seven years."
The board also heard a presentation from three seniors who attended the "We The People: The Citizen and the Constitution" state championships on March 1 in Albany.
Emma Fermier, Megan Fisher and Mackenzi Habig were members of the 11-student team that competed in the annual state-wide competition. The Westfield team was one of only six schools to become semi-finalists. Forest Hills High School in Queens won the competition and will represent New York on the national finals in April.
The students, all seniors except one junior who was allowed because of work he had done in another state, were organized and coached by Westfield history teacher Greg Birner. Each of the students had to do their own research, preparation and speech writing, he said while many of the larger schools had whole teams for each project.
"Our entire high school population is what many schools had to pick from in just one class," Birner said. "Each one of our students had to do double duty and on their own time."
Superintendent Davison said it was "awesome" how the students were willing to compete and face the questions from judging panel. Board president Jeff Greabell echoed this.
"You are outstanding young people and we are proud at how you represented Westfield so well," he said.
We the People: The Citizen and Constitution is an instructional program focusing on the principles of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The national finals, which is only one of its activities, is sponsored by the Center for Civic Education.
Each class is divided into six units, composed of three to five students. Each unit focuses on a particular area of constitutional interest.
In other business, Davison noted that the district is looking for ways to make up for the instructional time that was lost due to the severe weather. April 11 and May 12, which were scheduled as half-days, have been restored to full-day student instruction, he said.
"We lost a lot of classroom time. It would be nice to put some back," he said.