To the Editor:
In 2009, the Westfield Board of Education convened a Strategic Planning Council of community members, teachers, administrators, and board members to develop the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan for the district. One of the goals of the plan is to analyze and prioritize the district’s maintenance projects and to seek funding to support facility upgrades.
For years, the administration and the Board have had to prioritize the needs of the district. Student achievement has always been our highest priority. The retention of teachers, staff and programs that lead directly to student success were funded first. For example, I have always advocated for small class sizes in the primary grades. Each child that learns to read in the first grade only goes to first grade once. A student’s ability to read can’t be put on the back burner for a year, but the roofs could be repaired and patched for a year. Therefore, facilities, fields and technology were discussed, monitored, maintained and put in a holding pattern for several years.
For the last two years, we have been trying to find ways to address the facility and technology needs of the district. Due to a small increase in state aid last year and savings from our energy, health and benefit plans we have been able to move forward and begin to plan and implement some facility and technology projects. But the only way to address our most expensive facility projects is through a bond referendum.
The Board’s Facilities Committee, along with the administration, has determined the facility priorities for the district. One of the top priorities, replacing boilers at McKinley and Franklin Schools, was achieved through our maintenance budget. Smaller, but important projects, such as the replacement of windows at Edison Intermediate Schools, replacing the rigging on the stage at the high school, and the repaving of many parking lots were also funded in this way. But, the cost of replacing 77% of the roofs on 11 buildings and installing a turf field are priorities that are beyond our ability to save for due to the 2% cap on our fund reserve balance. Therefore, the Board has determined that the only way to fund these two projects is by asking the public to support a bond.
As a Board Member, I support the upcoming bond referendum and feel that it is the only way to fix our roofs and provide the additional field time that our students need.
Westfield Board of Education