Committee meeting to address school safety measures in Greenfield

  • Greenfield Middle School on Federal Street. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • DEBARGE

  • PROIETTI

  • Greenfield High School in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2021 3:54:45 PM

GREENFIELD — The School Committee plans to hold a remote special meeting Monday evening to further discuss school safety concerns, while also offering the community another chance to voice their opinions and proposed solutions.

“We’ve heard the community,” said Chair Amy Proietti. “We know people have more to say. … As a School Committee, I think it’s important we take definitive action very soon to show the community we’re taking it seriously.”

Proietti said the committee plans to address safety measures, in particular how the Greenfield School Department can partner with the Police Department.

The special meeting follows an emotional School Committee meeting that took place earlier this month, during which students, parents and teachers spoke to their concern for behavioral issues causing near daily disruptions at the middle and high schools. Among the concerns raised was the frequency of police response to schools for a variety of issues, including fights and verbal altercations.

At a subsequent Health, Safety and Facilities Subcommittee meeting, which took place earlier this week, committee members voted in favor of the School Committee directing Superintendent Christine DeBarge to work with Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. “on safety and support options” that police can offer the schools.

“We don’t even have a solid working relationship with Greenfield Police Department,” Proietti said. “There needs to be some discussion, some communication between the two departments, around how we have a better working relationship than we do now.”

At a City Council meeting Wednesday evening, DeBarge said leaders of both departments planned to meet to talk about the role of the Police Department, and the resources it could offer the school.

“The first step will be that (Haigh) will visit our schools with me,” she said.

In addition to opening a dialogue with the Police Department as part of its efforts to address the ongoing challenges facing the schools — which school leaders have said stems from staffing shortages and the lingering trauma caused by the pandemic — the district is providing resources to assistant principals to write safety and support plans for students “having significant anxiety or transitions issues back into school.”

DeBarge said the district continues to use “progressive discipline” when necessary.

“We’re trying to pair that with access to support and … a variety of options for students who are not finding success at Greenfield High School right now,” she said.

The district also plans to start providing trauma-informed care, particularly to its middle school staff.

“They asked for training in how to support students after trauma,” DeBarge said. “They believe that that will help, especially our fifth-grade students, transition back into formal education structures.”

And finally, to address staffing challenges, DeBarge said, she is participating in a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) staffing group that will allow her to gather additional applicants for the vacancies that exist.

The district will also seek staff to be involved in writing the social emotional learning curriculum, DeBarge said, and Acting Principal Jonathan Cavallo is working to expand training at the high school around racial equity.

“There are a number of things in motion that we believe will support our students that are having social, emotional and mental health issues,” she said.

The School Committee meeting, scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m., can be accessed at bit.ly/3qUqlns.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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