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Westfield school cuts over union conflict total $1.8 million

By WGGB Staff

WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — A game of politics could have serious consequences in the Whip City, including the closing of a school, elimination of educational programs and layoffs, as the latest chapter in a feud between the City Council and the Westfield Education Association.

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.

The $860,000 cut came as a result of the eight members of the council able to vote on school matters trying to cut teacher incentives after negotiations with their union had become stalled, according to Knapik. However, the council doesn’t have the authority to do that, as the city is legally bound to pay teachers those incentives, he said.

To come up with the necessary funding, Westfield Schools Superintendent Shirley Alvira said she must cut in other areas, and she must not only come up with the $860,000 the council instituted, but also $93,000 to cover unemployment for laid off employees. The final amount would total $1.8 million.

The council has indicated they would restore the funding if the union were to make concessions.

Five councilors do not vote on some school matters because of a conflict of interest, as they have family working within the school department.