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Greenfield Public Schools

Supt. finalist O’Shea impressed by Greenfield

School Committee may decide tonight after interviewing Jordana Harper-Ewert

Nancy Putnam, the principal at the Federal St School in Greenfield, gives a tour of her school to superintendent candidate Jim O'Shea on Tuesday.   Recorder/Paul Franz

Nancy Putnam, the principal at the Federal St School in Greenfield, gives a tour of her school to superintendent candidate Jim O'Shea on Tuesday. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — James O’Shea said the Greenfield School Department is on an upward trajectory and he’d like to help keep moving it forward as superintendent.

The Greenfield School Committee interviewed O’Shea, 49, for nearly 55 minutes on Tuesday. The board will try to choose the next Greenfield superintendent tonight following its interview with 32-year-old Jordana Harper-Ewert.

For the past eight years, O’Shea has served as principal of The Bromfield School, a public 6-12 school in Harvard. He said his two decades in education, including the past 16 years in administrative positions, have prepared him to become a superintendent.

Fielding questions from the committee during an interview in the Greenfield Community College library, O’Shea stressed a need to always keep students in mind while making decisions.

Mayor William Martin asked O’Shea his thoughts on expanded learning time, an extended-day program that Greenfield participates in. The finalist said that if the district was seeing positive results from students, it’d be worth continuing the program.

When discussing his approach on creating site-based budgets from scratch each year, O’Shea said that classroom instruction, represented in the budget as teacher salaries, should be the first thing a school should include.

Standardized tests, like the MCAS, are “not the sole measure of student achievement,” said O’Shea. He said teachers should focus on increasing academic performance, but also give students as many different opportunities as possible to succeed.

O’Shea said he would be willing to fire a faculty member who is not a good fit, in order to ensure that students have the best teachers they possibly can. But administrators need to identify and support any teachers who need help, he said, and should do everything they can before dismissing an employee.

The finalist spent over 10 hours in Greenfield on Tuesday, touring the schools and meeting with administrators, teachers, parents and students.

He told the school board he was impressed by how the department has helped students fit advanced courses into their schedules. He also liked programs that connected students with some meals and after-school activities free of charge.

If he was hired to the post, he’d begin immediately talking with school officials and residents to learn more about the community. He said he’d want to be on the same page with the School Committee about proper lines of communication and how to handle any issues that may arise.

The Bolton resident has expressed interest in returning to western Massachusetts. Both he and his wife are alumni of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Member John Lunt was not present for O’Shea’s interview. Martin told the board that Lunt met with O’Shea earlier in the morning for coffee and questions.

The School Committee on Tuesday stressed a need to make a thoughtful decision about who will succeed retiring Superintendent Susan Hollins. Still, the board said it will attempt to decide tonight, after Harper-Ewert’s 6:30 p.m. interview.

Harper-Ewert, of Amherst, is a chief schools officer in Springfield, where she oversees 15 elementary schools. As an Amherst High School student, she spent her junior and senior years at Greenfield Community College through the dual enrollment program. Her first teaching job was at Greenfield Center School.

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

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