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Greenfield High School renovation a highlight of Tim Farrell’s service

  • Entrance to the recently renovated Greenfield High School. After a special School Building Committee wrapped up in early December, the approximately $60-million Greenfield High School project wound up with $1.6 million unspent and returned to taxpayers. “I believe the high school project is something I can always be proud of,” Farrell said. Recorder file photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Name hereFARRELL



Recorder Staff
Monday, January 01, 2018

GREENFIELD — In his final month in an elected position, after holding a spot in local government for just short of two decades, Tim Farrell got to see his proudest moment come to completion.

After a special School Building Committee wrapped up in early December, the approximately $60-million Greenfield High School project wound up with $1.6 million unspent and returned to taxpayers.

Farrell, who has served in Greenfield politics for about 19 years — holding several positions in local government, including Town Council president and School Committee chairman — points to the achievements of the high school building project as his high-water mark.

It was a project that followed earlier years, that Farrell described as the “dark days for the Greenfield Public Schools,” when there was a half-million-dollar budget shortfall because of a budget mistake and a badly mismanaged Greenfield Middle School reconstruction that became the poster child for how not to build a school.

During the middle school renovation, Farrell was on the Board of Selectmen, but when he headed the high school project, it became his mission to get the project done under budget and ahead of schedule.

“If anyone can say I was a part of anything positive, maybe I was a part of nothing else positive, I believe the high school project is something I can always be proud of,” Farrell said.

Stepping down

While Farrell will still have his hand in Greenfield government, between being a member on the Redevelopment Authority and pending a state approval, on the board of Greenfield Community Energy and Technology, GCET, with this new year, he will not hold an elected position.

He said the main reason for not running for re-election to the School Committee, following two years, during one of which he was the chair, is because of his children, ages 4 and 6. With two in the Greenfield schools, Farrell said as they continue to grow up, he feels the need to be around more.

The other factor was he feels he’s leaving the School Committee in good hands, saying he sees one of the strongest committees, municipal or school, since stepping into elected life in 1999.

“That made it easier for me to step aside and let others participate because I’ve had my time,” Farrell said. “Not to say I won’t ever be back, but at this point, I thought it was the right time to step away.”

Nonetheless, Farrell kept the door open for a return. It would likely not be back with the School Committee, the most demanding seat in local government, he said, but rather in the Town Council or even a bid for mayor.

When asked if he considered running for mayor, Farrell said, “It’s never something I’ll say I’ll never do.” He then added, “It’s not the right time, right now.”

School Committee moving forward

Despite some of its more demanding work, particularly in policy, Farrell said being part of the School Committee might be the most important service someone can be involved in for the town.

“You’re dealing with the most important people in the community and that’s the children,” Farrell said. “It can be very emotional. You have to be very careful about the decisions that are made.”

Most notably, Farrell said, special education costs are the chief issue in the financial stability of school districts. He recommended that the state consider better funding special education costs for local districts.

Furthermore, the troubles with School Choice have plagued Greenfield and the county. These factors then play into shrinking enrollment and the rise of charter schools, which, he said “isn’t the fault of the charter schools,” but the “fault of the state not recognizing the fact that (adding charter schools) is not solving the problem, but just kicking the can.”

Farrell said the school department needs to be “open to operating in a new way and being open to some major changes.”

He sees that as crucial at this point, when a storm of rising costs of special education, outgoing School Choice dollars and declining enrollment wreak havoc on the current structures. Greenfield schools are “probably going to see major changes.

“It’s better if we come up with these new and innovative ways at home so that we’re not told to do it by the state,” Farrell said.

Touching on the idea of regionalization across the county or region, Farrell cautioned it could be something the state would enforce on its own. Instead, he recommended the county seriously look at what it may need to do to take consolidation into its own hands, under its own terms.

“It does mean a loss of autonomy, and in some cases, a loss of authority because you’re talking about operation of a county rather than a district, but better that than the state control your education,” Farrell said.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264