Greenfield school super gets OK to research regionalization options

  • Greenfield Superintendent Jordana Harper STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2019 10:39:53 PM

GREENFIELD — Greenfield School Department Superintendent Jordana Harper will begin preliminary exploration on regionalization after a vote from the School Committee on Monday evening.

Harper put forward the topic, stating she wanted to get a vote from the committee before moving forward.

“I could gather information and bring it back to the committee, and a more formal exploratory committee could be formed down the road if you felt it was appropriate,” Harper told the School Committee. “I’m simply asking the committee to make an up or down vote if you’re interested in gathering more information about potentially participating in discussions in the Franklin County area about potential regionalization and how it could benefit Greenfield.”

Following a motion from Glenn Johnson, the School Committee approved the vote with a majority; member Susan Hollins voted against the motion.

Johnson said in the meeting he “just wanted information. The exploration of information to bring back to the committee doesn’t seem controversial.”

Mayor William Martin said he “supported the regionalization effort, and there are multiple opportunities between Mohawk, Frontier Pioneer and Gill-Montague.”

Hollins said she would support a motion that was broader, rather than specific to regionalization.

“Regionalization means all the districts, all the towns, come together under one board. That’s the 1970s regional school model and, in that model, individual towns lose say over their own schools and town,” Hollins said. “There are other models of sharing services on a regional basis other than this model. ... The way the motion is worded is only looking at one form of regionalization. I can’t support it the way it is worded. But if we were pursuing the collaboration of regional service models, there is more than one model available.”

She went on to say that she doesn’t think a “city school system can regionalize with towns.”

“Because of that, I don’t think our own city’s superintendent should dedicate a lot of time to an issue that affects towns,” Hollins said. “However, I would support a task force to look into regionalizing services.”

However, there is nothing that bans a city from regionalizing with a town, according to Jacqueline Reis, media relations coordinator for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Greater Fall River Regional Voc Tech (Diman Regional) is one example of this,” she wrote in an email Tuesday.

Following Hollins’ comments, Martin agreed.

“(Regionalization)’s been booted around, kicked around, caucuses were formed and really nothing has come of it as far as regionalizing and consolidating school districts. That’s primarily because of the number of strong collective groups,” Martin said. “The idea we should build capacity in number of services is very important, sharing services. We have had opportunities from business manager to HR and other types of services that are provided by the city that would be a need by many school districts.”

However, the Greenfield School Department is not in a position to share some services, according to Harper.

“Our team is slim at the administrative level,” Harper said. “There is almost no one in upper management who is not doing two or three jobs. ... There are many ways we could realize efficiencies. These conversations are going on with other districts, but they are limited in scope because every district around us has some limitations and unique challenges. But (sharing services is) not going to get us a large scale that will affect enrollment, programs or services to an extraordinary degree.”

School Committee Chair Adrienne Nunez said that while she is in general against regionalization, she would support Johnson’s motion.

“I’m supporting this because this is preliminary look, and what I’m really tired of is the tension, the conflict that comes up with budget time,” Nunez said. “It’s true these ideas pop up from time to time. They tend to pop up at times that are completely inappropriate to do a deep dive into what the cost benefit would be related to regionalizing.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.




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