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Following defeat at the polls, Easthampton override supporters seek other ways to help city schools

  • White Brook Middle School students and Principal Allison Rebello dress up for a Wear Pink fundraiser to support breast cancer programsof the Cancer Connection. <br/>COURTESY OF WHITE BROOK MIDDLE SCHOOL

EASTHAMPTON

While they were disappointed by the defeat of a $1.4 million property tax override for the schools on Election Day, organizers of the pro-override campaign say they will continue to look for ways to support the local schools.

“This has to be a first step, it can’t be the end of the story for Easthampton,” said Marin Goldstein, an elementary school parent and member of the committee, in an interview the day after the balloting.

City voters rejected the override question by a margin of just over 10 percent on Nov. 6, with 4,816 voting against and 3,878 in favor. The measure lost in four of the city’s five precincts, carrying precinct 2 by just one vote: 813 to 812.

Goldstein cited the 45 percent of votes cast in favor of the override as “an amazing achievement,” considering the committee had only three months for public outreach from the time the City Council agreed to put the question on the ballot.

In his view, the measure lost partly because elected officials were divided in their support for the proposal to raise additional tax money for the schools.

“None of the City Council members endorsed it,” Goldstein noted. “That’s telling. There needs to be more resounding political support and town leadership support. That’s what was missing.”

Committee member Shelly Bathe-Lenn, a Maple School parent, said the group is interested in researching alternative funding mechanisms for public schools.

For example, “in a state like Vermont, property tax money is pooled and then given out equitably to all the communities,” Lenn said. “That’s a system we should be looking at.”

Easthampton school leaders now face the task of closing a $900,000 budget gap for the coming school year without the added tax funds from an override.

“It’s going to be hard work,” said School Committee Chairman Peter Gunn, at an election night gathering at the Apollo Grill. “Our job is to figure out a way to move forward despite this vote.”

Cancer fundraiser

Students at White Brook Middle School raised $384.36 last month for breast cancer support activities of the Cancer Connection in Northampton. The fifth grade was chosen as the overall winner in a schoolwide “Wear Pink Day” contest. Seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher Jan deUbl’s homeroom collected the most donations, and sixth-grader Emma Demerath was named the “pinkest” student. White Brook Principal Allison Rebello and Assistant Principal Andrea McCallum were judges for the event.

Math competition

In other middle school news, 100 seventh- and eighth-graders took part in the 27th annual American Mathematics Competition at White Brook Tuesday. Awards go to students with the highest scores on the timed test and winners can advance to other more selective math contests, including the International Mathematical Olympiad, according to White Brook math teacher Kevin Burke.

“Math is increasingly important in our technological and scientific age,” Burke said, in a recent post on the middle school’s website. “Taking enough mathematics in school is the gateway to jobs and careers of all kinds.”

Winners of the American Mathematics Competition will be announced next month.

Free tutoring

For high school students in need of help with math homework, test readiness or overall skills development in math, the Easthampton High School guidance department is hosting a free after-school tutoring program from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. The seven-week session began on Nov. 13, but there is no deadline for signing up, and students may participate on one or both days, according to the high school guidance office. Retired math teacher Ann Vanderburgh is the program leader. For details, call 529-1585.

Library story times

The Southampton and Westhampton public libraries will be holding pre-school story times on Wednesdays for children up to age 5. Funded by a grant to the Hampshire Regional School District, the story times will include a craft activity or game and free children’s books.

Story times at the Edwards Library in Southampton will be held on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 10:30 a.m.

At the Westhampton Public Library, story times will be held on the second and fourth Wednesdays at 10 a.m.

For more information, contact Jennifer Reagan at 230-8552 or Pat Miller at 527-2404.

Barbara Solow can be reached at Bsolow@gazettenet.com.

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