DeBarge picked to lead Greenfield schools

  • DEBARGE

 Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2021 8:07:32 PM

GREENFIELD — The School Committee voted unanimously Wednesday night in favor of entering into negotiations with Christine DeBarge to assume the role of superintendent of Greenfield Public Schools. 

The vote followed about an hour of discussion during a School Committee meeting at the John Zon Community Center. 

“For me, the tipping point was that Dr. DeBarge is actually the only one in the pool with direct experience as a superintendent in a K-12 district,” said Chair Amy Proietti.

That experience, she said, is “the first and foremost thing that Greenfield needs at this point.”

The search for a new superintendent follows the departure of former Superintendent Jordana Harper, who announced in September that she did not intend to renew her contract, but then came to an “amicable agreement” with the School Committee that ended her tenure on Feb. 19. Since then, Judy Houle with The Management Solutions Inc. has been serving as interim superintendent.

DeBarge, who currently serves as superintendent of East Windsor Public Schools in Connecticut, was one of five finalists who were brought forth to the full committee by the Superintendent Search Committee, headed by School Committee member Jean Wall. Of the five finalists, Thaddeus King and Jennifer Culkeen dropped out before their final interview.

The other two finalists who were interviewed were Carole Learned-Miller and Bernard Audette.

During her final interview with the committee on July 6, DeBarge spoke to the importance of providing resources to the district’s students and families. She also emphasized a focus on unifying the school district in a number of areas, including where the budget is concerned. 

“I do not believe the departments should be working in isolation,” she said last week. “We are creating a district program.”

Committee members cited DeBarge’s superintendent experience as to why she was their top choice of the three who were interviewed by the full committee. In her interview last week, DeBarge said in her years in public education, she’s had experience in a variety of roles, namely in special education administration, as assistant superintendent of curriculum, and as superintendent.

Committee member Katie Caron added that she was impressed by DeBarge’s answer to an interview question that asked candidates to discuss the often blurred roles of schools and social service agencies. 

“Her answer struck very true to me,” Caron said. “She didn’t just talk about mental health or trauma. She talked about getting food in bellies … and dentists in. It felt very real to our community; we need all of those things.”

Committee member Susan Hollins said she felt DeBarge’s answers were the “most professionally mature” in terms of being able to integrate theories and best practices. 

“A big issue for me is someone who understands individual students,” she said. 

Committee members also liked the positive way in which colleagues spoke of DeBarge during their virtual visit to her current position in East Windsor.

“She was respected by every person who worked with her,” Caron said.  

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


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