Greenfield Public Schools

Greenfield school board delays vote on innovative preschool program

GREENFIELD ­— The Greenfield School Committee has postponed a decision to grant its preschool program innovation school status, which means there won’t be an easy fix in the dispute over teachers’ work schedules.

For the past five years, the Academy of Early Learning faculty has restructured their schedules to combine all of the week’s curriculum planning time into one full day. They would work with students throughout the day on Monday through Thursday and then use Fridays for professional development, training and planning.

But both Superintendent Susan Hollins and School Committee Chairman Mayor William Martin argue that this violates their teaching contract. The teachers had been pursuing innovation school plan status as a workaround solution to legitimize their desired schedule.

Meanwhile, Greenfield Education Association representatives weren’t involved in the innovation school planning process, which apparently violates state law.

Massachusetts Teachers Association Representative Paul DeMarco told the committee Wednesday that the union would file an unfair labor practice charge if the school board approved the innovation school plan.

But the idea never came to a vote. Instead, the committee directed its attorney, Peter Smith, to meet with DeMarco about the preschool teachers’ scheduling issue, a move that satisfied union representatives. It’s possible the School Committee and teacher’s union will be able to negotiate an agreement on the schedule.

If the school’s faculty wants to continue applying for innovation status — the plan would include more science and technology in the classroom and community outreach initiatives — the correct process will need to be followed, committee members said.

Hollins said that achieving innovation school standing would create a unique preschool program in the state and open the doors for increased grant funding.

The teachers had already changed this year’s schedule to a half-day on Friday. Regardless of what changes may happen going forward, this year’s schedule is set in stone.

Some preschool students attend only a few days a week. There have historically been day-care options available for parents who need a place for their children on Fridays.

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