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New Greenfield school superintendent starts today

GREENFIELD — After weeks of meeting with community members and getting to know Greenfield better, Jordana Harper-Ewert takes over as the leader of Greenfield School Department today.

The Amherst resident has spent the past few weeks touring Greenfield’s country roads, meeting with community leaders, working with the School Committee and visiting local restaurants since being offered the post in April.

“One of my most important goals is getting to know the community,” Harper-Ewert said, “so when I do make decisions on behalf of the schools, it represents students and the broader community. It’s important to me to understand the community here and the unique needs of each school.”

For the last few weeks, the school department has been in transition between Harper-Ewert and retiring School Superintendent Susan Hollins, who ended her six years in the post on Monday.

The two administrators have been working together to ensure a smooth transition and to rank top priorities of the district. Harper-Ewert has been reviewing policies and procedures and making sure facilities are up to snuff. She has also begun the interview process for a grant writer position.

Five days before her start date, Harper-Ewert was devising a fitting Twitter handle to connect with the community.

She is also planning to meet with teachers and parents and review MCAS data.

“It’s important to have a broader picture of administration’s top priorities and what initiatives need to be continued,” Harper-Ewert said.

In the near future, Harper-Ewert will schedule opportunities to meet with residents, families and teachers to learn directly which projects are successful and what are the concerns.

On Wednesday, Harper-Ewert will attend her first School Committee meeting, which will focus on reorganizing for the new school year.

“(The committee) has been collaborative. They’ve been welcoming,” Harper-Ewert said.

Harper-Ewert isn’t completely green to Greenfield, however. She is a native western Massachusetts resident and began her career 11 years ago as a Greenfield Center School teacher.

As she takes on her first superintendent post, Harper-Ewert will deal with the opening of the new Greenfield High School building as well as the implementation of new teacher evaluations.

Previously a Chicopee principal and a Springfield chief schools officer, Harper-Ewert already has experience rolling out a teacher evaluation process in those two districts. She said she can take lessons learned from those districts as well as from across the state as Greenfield launches the evaluations.

For the most part, Harper-Ewert is taking it slow.

“It will be a deliberate and thoughtful transition,” Harper-Ewert said. “I’m erring on the side of going slowly and making decisions that are right for the schools.”

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