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Greenfield schools chief proposes $18.9M budget at public hearing

  • The Principal's parking space at the Greenfield High School has been vacant. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

GREENFIELD — Where money is lacking was a focus of Wednesday night’s public hearing on the proposed $18.9 million budget for the Greenfield Public Schools.

“Folks care about how we spend our dollars on our children in Greenfield,” Superintendent Jordana Harper said. “To have all of your input only makes this process better.”

Conversation centered on the rising costs of special education and English language learners (ELL) in Greenfield — and what this means for success in English and math among students in the district.

Newton School Principal Melodie Goodwin addressed the Greenfield School Committee with a few numbers: When she walked into the elementary school five years ago, she said she had nine students who were English language learners and they had one teacher to address their needs. Today, she has 30 students and there is still one teacher.

While Goodwin said she was glad Harper’s proposed budget worked to address these issues — with a 32 percent increase in slated funds for English language learners — she still continues to struggle with the budget she is given by the school.

“The needs are right there: special ed, ELL. Greenfield is changing,” Goodwin said. “The demographics of my school have changed dramatically in the last 180 days since last year.”

Goodwin had asked Harper for, among other needs, a math interventionist.

“As an administrator in Greenfield, I feel like every year I’m cutting one thing to stop a crisis in another,” Goodwin said.

Of the school budget, $6.3 million is to come directly from local taxpayer dollars.

The proposed budget did not shift significantly by the end of Wednesday’s public hearing, save for a line item here and there. But, there are expectations by the school committee members for the numbers to change in the coming week, before the committee makes its formal approval of the budget on March 7 before sending it to the City Council.

Any final major changes in the budget will likely come at a March 6 subcommittee meeting, is open to the public.

Increases

Harper’s budget calls for an 11 percent increase in special education spending from last year, or by about $252,000. Similarly, English language learners costs increase by 32 percent, or by about $74,000.

Percentage increases from last year are based on the budget approved by the council, which cut the budget by 1 percent with the promise by some councilors of returning that money later this year. The schools are still waiting for the return of that money, likely to be some time this spring.

Possible reductions

These increases can cause tightening of other parts of principal’s budgets.

This is, in part, what Goodwin was articulating to the committee when called on to speak about her unmet request for a math interventionist at Newton School.

“Every year we’re at this table and we’re talking about funds and talking about making reductions,” Goodwin said.

Although the request for a math interventionist was endorsed by Harper, she could not meet it in the budget she eventually presented to the public. During the discussion Wednesday, Harper and members of the committee brainstormed some ideas around how else it might be able to paid for. Mayor William Martin, a school committee member, suggested the use of some money left by a former math teacher in his estate, but the money is likely earmarked for use in the high school only.

Further conversation, including talk of adding school resource officers and how the schools are trying to support mental health of its students, is expected this month.

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264