$307,000 is coming back; State money to make school furlough days disappear.


Byline: Paula J. Owen

ASHBURNHAM - Ashburnham-Westminster Teachers Association President R. Lincoln Stiles, Jr. said teachers are relieved and happy the state is restoring $307,000 in regional transportation funding to the district and hopes the school committee is more proactive when dealing with state cuts in the future.

The school district was facing a budget gap of more than $300,000 created by midyear cuts by the state in October with the loss of $307,000 in regional transportation money.

All 177 educators, the majority of them classroom teachers, as well as nurses, guidance counselors, librarians and school psychologists, and five other unions representing custodians, secretaries, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals and administrators agreed to take 1.5 unpaid furlough days to save $118,000.

Mr. Stiles said the school committee waited until Dec. 7 to makes its request, hoping that money would be coming back from the state.

"It put union members through a lot of turmoil right before the holidays," Mr. Stiles said. "I'm sure some people are pleased and I'm sure some are upset over what we had to go through in the decision-making process. But, we're very happy that people don't have to take a pay cut and can work full contractual days as we are contracted to do and get back to business at hand."

Tuesday teachers and staff received an e-mail from Superintendent Michael Zapantis stating that he would recommend giving the furlough days back.

"I hope in the future the School Committee gives us a little more time to deal with upcoming deficits to avoid turmoil in future," he said. "I hope it's a lesson learned moving forward...

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