Busy year ahead for Greenfield schools
Board accepting public opinion on superintendent search tonight
GREENFIELD — The Greenfield School Committee will be accepting public opinion tonight on what the town wants in its next superintendent.
The 5:30 p.m. community forum will be held in the top floor of the Greenfield Community Television office, at 393 Main St., and will run until the school board’s 6:30 p.m. meeting. Residents can also take an online survey about the superintendent at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/YWRXVLT.
It’s the first major event in what promises to be a busy 2014 for the school system — one that will include a leadership change this summer, a move into part of the newly constructed high school this fall and negotiations with the local teacher’s union throughout the year.
Mayor William Martin, the chairman of the School Committee, believes this leadership change is an opportune time to analyze exactly where and how the department spends its money each year.
Among the conversations the committee will hold this spring: a look at whether Greenfield should continue accepting School Choice students from other districts and if it’s financially viable to keep participating in the state’s after-school “Expanded Learning Time” program.
A new superintendent
The Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the school board’s paid superintendent search consultants, will meet with staff and faculty today and Thursday — to find out what skills and qualifications they’d like their next school leader to have.
The School Committee hopes to choose its next superintendent by early May. The school board plans to offer a target salary of $135,000 per year, although that can be negotiated.
The candidate should have a superintendent license and have public school experience both in the classroom and as an administrator, including at least three years of teaching. An advanced degree is preferred.
After the Feb. 28 application deadline passes, the consultants will then screen applicants and provide a list of about 10 semifinalists.
A local superintendent search committee will then interview these candidates in March and provide the full committee with three to five finalists. The full committee will interview the finalists, in public and open sessions, in late April.
Hollins, who has led the department since 2008, will be spending part of her final months getting the committee up to speed on how the schools are run. By school year’s end, she’d like to create documents that outline the elementary school curriculum, what technology the schools use, annual spending patterns and a rundown of arts and athletic programs.
This goes in line with another one of Martin’s priorities: to ensure that other people, in addition to the incoming superintendent, know how to run Greenfield schools.
Before the new leader arrives, he’d also like to see the committee look closer at test scores, including how to do a better job of reporting them to the public and explaining why scores are the way they are.
Negotiations with the teacher’s union
After a rocky first half of 2013 for the Greenfield School Committee and the Greenfield Education Association, the two sides made peace and signed a three-year contract this summer.
But because negotiations took so long to complete, that contract will expire in June; the two sides have already begun work on the next one.
Martin said that some School Committee decisions, like whether to continue with the state’s Extended Learning Time program, need to be sorted out before the contract talks can be settled.
The two sides have also been trying to finalize the new state-mandated teacher evaluation procedure for Greenfield schools. The district is required to evaluate its teachers this year using the new system, but it’s unclear if that will actually happen.
Hollins said that getting the evaluations under way is one of her priorities in her final months as superintendent.
High school construction
The Greenfield High School construction project will hit a major milestone this summer. The space will need to be furnished and ready for teachers and students by the start of next school year in September.
To build the new $66 million high school in the place of the current one, construction workers have had to split the project into phases.
Phase one will be complete this spring and the new building will be furnished and occupied during the summer. Then, beginning in the fall, parts of the current high school will slowly be demolished — with the rest of the new building rising up in its place.
Martin has been pleased with Shawmut Design and Construction’s work on the project.
“I have been involved in small construction since the early ’70s. I’ve never ever worked with a company like this before,” he said. “The work is high quality.”
Breaking ties with virtual school
After dominating the School Committee’s attention in the first half of 2013, the Greenfield cyber school became independent in the summer and contracted with the school department for administrative services.
As early as March or as late as July, the Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School will be running the school on its own. Both Martin and Ed Berlin, chairman of the virtual school, said there are no ill feelings with the split.
The virtual school’s ability to expand in size is directly determined by the number of local students. If only 10 Greenfield students are enrolled, for instance, the school can’t grow beyond 500.
You can reach Chris Shores at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 264