Greenfield school principals ask for more funding

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 01, 2018

GREENFIELD — The principals of the Greenfield Public Schools requested about $300,000 in money for additional staff needs for the upcoming school year with predictions of increases in enrollment.

The request came as part of the first steps in the annual budgeting process during a School Committee meeting Wednesday night.

Citing the need for more staffing for special education positions as their chief concerns, the principals explained that the transient population of homeless students has continued to create a complex situation in Greenfield. This, they said, is a contributing reason to the climbing, and sometimes unpredictable costs to special education in the schools.

For example, there were 24 new children in Newton School last month, Principal Melodie Goodwin said.

“Our numbers are clear. We have more than enough students for another special education teacher,” Goodwin said, following an impassioned pitch to the School Committee about the needs of her school.

Federal Street School Principal Nancy Putnam said that after eliminating a paraprofessional position last year, it’s been a “struggle” this year. The number of students in need of assistance of a paraprofessional have increased in Federal Street, similar to Newton School, in part because of the transient population coming to Greenfield.

Also influencing the requests of the principals is a general increase in enrollment as well.

Greenfield Middle School Principal Gary Tashjian noted they expect about 38 more students in the school this coming school year and potentially 33 more in the fifth grade. “That’s why I’m asking for one more fifth-grade teacher — to create a new class. I’m not sure where that will be, but that’s a different question,” Tashjian said.

With increase in enrollment and overall growing size of the student body at the Discovery School at Four Corners, Principal Jake Toomey requested an additional full-time custodian. He said it is difficult to sufficiently meet the hygiene needs of the school and its students.

This is a request that has been made for the last three years at Four Corners, Toomey said. School Committee member Susan Hollins backed the request, saying, “it really is time to adjust.”

Superintendent Jordana Harper said the increase of student participation in a composting program is one fact that has led to more work for custodians. Currently, Four Corners employs one full-time custodian and one part time, who they are paying to work full time at the moment.

“We do end up spending overtime that isn’t budgeted when we don’t plan to spend appropriately,” Harper said. “In my opinion it’s actually foolhardy not to budget this appropriately.”

Two variables lingered over the discussion as contributing factors to tight budgets: School Choice dollars and Title I funding.

The mayor requested the principals to determine how many students can fit into their classrooms, so that the School Committee knows what the max number of choice-in seats they have. Goodwin mentioned that shrinking Title I dollars has led to a need to find revenue sources from elsewhere, inherently putting a greater strain on the local school’s general fund.

Greenfield High School Principal Karin Patenaude reported more students are staying at the high school because of the electives and college preparatory classes they offer, instead of heading to Franklin County Technical School

Principal requests

The complete list of requests from the principals at Wednesday’s meeting is:

Academy of Early Learning: one part-time psychologist (district-wide position) and increase to a full-time building administrator

Federal Street School: one second-grade teacher based on enrollment

Newton School: one math interventionist, one special education teacher based on enrollment

Discovery School at Four Corners: extending a part time custodian position to full time, extending a 10-month administrative assistant to a 12-month position, one English Language Learner (ELL) teacher (district-wide position)

Greenfield Middle School: one fifth-grade teacher based on enrollment

Greenfield High School: extending a part time position to a full time assistant special education director, extending a part-time manufacturing teacher to full time, one instructional assistant