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Greenfield Public Schools

Curriculum will be a priority for new Greenfield supt.

GREENFIELD ­— Parents, school employees and local residents who weighed in on the Greenfield superintendent search process want their next leader to work collaboratively with principals and teachers to design a new instruction plan for K-12 students.

Aligning curriculum across all grades was one of the top priorities identified during focus group sessions and in an online survey, as the Greenfield School Committee continues its search for the successor of Susan Hollins, who will retire at the end of June.

About 100 people gave feedback, according to a report by Patricia Correira, field director for the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, a paid consultant in the search process. A screening committee plans to interview applicants over the next two weeks and nominate finalists by the end of the month.

The need to focus on curriculum development was highlighted by principals and administrators at one of the school board’s subcommittee meetings last month.

Over the past few years, they said, principals have been working to align curriculum within their own schools — looking at subjects like science and ensuring that a middle school student’s fourth-through-seventh-grade classes teach students what they needs to know, in a way that makes sense.

But there needs to be a better connection between the multiple schools, the principals and administrators said. Whether it’s the job of a new superintendent, a curriculum coordinator or subject-specific “coaches,” it will be key to look across all K-12 grades to ensure that a student isn’t missing out on certain topics or lessons, they said.

Strong fiscal management, improved communication

Hollins had led the Greenfield schools since 2008, right after the department suffered a financial crisis and School Choice exodus.

In the years that followed, the department crawled out of its financial hole. Schools stayed open and student population has continuously grown, surging in recent years to about 1,800 brick-and-mortar students.

Survey respondents expressed a hope that her successor will lead the schools through a long period of growth and stability. They want a superintendent who excels in financial management and who has worked in a district similar to Greenfield.

Yet they also want a strong communicator who is more accessible to staff and community members. It’s important that the individual can succeed in difficult situations and can respond well to criticism, they said.

The faculty in the Greenfield schools “suffers a crisis of morale because of a perceived lack of communication,” wrote Correira in the report. Respondents want a candidate who frequently talks with and works alongside staff and who has experience bargaining with unions.

Only a handful of survey respondents weighed in on whether the candidate should be someone already working in the Greenfield schools.

Four people recommended that Newton School Principal Melodie Goodwin serve in the position. She was the only individual mentioned by name among survey respondent comments.

“I am flattered that four people mentioned me but I am not at liberty to answer your superintendent search question at this time,” said Goodwin, in response to an inquiry of whether she applied for the post.

Goodwin meets the criteria needed to apply: she taught for 13 years and has 18 years of experience as an administrator in Greenfield and elsewhere, participating in the budget process and writing grants during that time.

Another respondent did not name a specific individual but said that the superintendent should be from Greenfield. A former student, though, said it would be a disservice to hire from within and argued that none of the current principals were qualified for the post.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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