Around Amherst: Education foundation funds array of projects

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-11-2024 6:31 PM

AMHERST — Special programs and projects outside of school budget funding are being supported with $24,594 in grants from the Amherst Education Foundation, which is in its 30th year of helping educators at the four Amherst and Pelham elementary schools and the regional middle and high schools.

The largest grant, for $7,602, will be used to buy accessible play components for the Pelham school’s playground. There, teacher Giselle Gonzalez is working with Venuta Carulli,who chairs the school’s PTO Playground Committee, to ensure an expansion of opportunities for students with varying abilities.

The foundation is also donating $7,000 for the purchase of gymnastic mats so Dustin James can update the equipment used in Crocker Farm School’s physical education program. During the gymnastics unit, students learn and practice skills such as balance, strength, flexibility and weight transfer.

At Fort River School, Ruth Killough-Hill and Tamera Sullivan-Daley will use $3,150 for the Community and Restorative Circles model, expanding students’ key skills in communication, expression of their cultural and social identities, shared values, leadership, and problem and conflict resolution.

A Fiber Arts elective is being added to the Summit Academy, housed at the high school, with $4,475 for both that elective and to train teachers and have materials to expand mindfulness practices. Jo-Ann Konieczny will use the funding to enhance skill-building to help students use therapeutic practices to help them engage with both classes and counseling services. By partnering with Olivia Feal at Amherst College, and with the addition of a visiting artist for the year, students will also curate a culminating show at the Mead Art Museum.

Finally, $2,367 will purchase high-quality compound microscopes, digital microscope cameras, and related equipment for all sixth grade science classrooms. Coordinated by Jennifer Reese, the equipment will support investigations in a new unit titled “Cells & Systems.”

The foundation has annual fundraisers, such as the trivia bee every October, and on June 1 will hold its annual mini-golf fundraiser.

Guided architectural tour

Architect Steve Schreiber, who chairs the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Architecture, will lead a guided architectural tour of downtown Amherst, hosted by the Amherst Historical Society & Museum, on Saturday.

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The two-hour tour, beginning at 10 a.m., will explore the exteriors and surroundings of old and new buildings in the central business district.

This walking tour is limited to 20 people. Registration is required with a charge of $10 for Amherst History Museum members and $15 for non-members. Go to amhersthistory.org to register.

Affordable housing comment sought

Residents can offer comment through Wednesday on the Way Finders project to develop 78 mixed-income apartments at 70 Belchertown Road and 31 South East St. at the former East Street School site.

Way Finders intends to seek a 40B Comprehensive Permit, with its application being reviewed by the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, which will evaluate the general feasibility of the project by looking at the sites, design concepts, preliminary budget and appropriateness of the proposal in relation to identified local housing needs and strategies.

Public comment can be made on the town website or sent to Planner Rob Watchilla at watchillar@amherstma.gov.

Holyoke Community College inauguration

George Timmons, an Amherst resident who assumed the presidency of Holyoke Community College last July, will have his investiture ceremony on April 19 at 11 a.m., with three days of events leading up to his investiture.

The ceremony takes place in the Leslie Phillips Theater on the second floor of the HCC Fine & Performing Arts building. Timmons is the fifth president in the 78-year history of the college and the first African-American man to serve in the position.

Amherst resident honored

Amherst resident Judy Dixon is being credited as a Champion of Equality by Bleacher Report and through its HighlightHER video series, “Making Her Mark,” which spotlights dynamic women and their journey to fostering representation in sports in honor of Women’s History Month.

In the 1970s, Dixon served as the women’s athletic coordinator and women’s tennis coach at Yale University, making history when she sued for sex discrimination under Title IX, and despite continuous harassment by the school administration, she persevered with the lawsuit.

More dialogue

Longtime former Amherst Town Meeting member Vincent O’Connor is asking the Town Council to engage in more dialogue with residents, rather than limiting people to brief oral comments at meetings or longer written comments that can be submitted at any time.

“As councilors, you are operating in a political structure developed in medieval Europe to govern its illiterate rabble,” O’Connor said at the council’s April 1 meeting. “We are not in Europe, this is 2024 and your constituents are not illiterate rabble.”

O’Connor said he believes engaging in a real discussion is needed as the councilors discuss the fiscal year 2025 budget for the Amherst-Pelham regional schools which, as voted by the School Committee, is almost $1 million higher than recommended by town leaders.