Greenfield schools lay off 43 — 24 of them teachers




Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2020 4:48:11 PM

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield School Department has laid off 43 employees — 24 of whom are teachers — and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner says there could be more cuts ahead.

Superintendent Jordana Harper recently informed the School Committee, of which the mayor is a member, of her decision to cut teachers and other employees, including instructional aides, also called paraprofessionals.

School Committee Chair Amy Proietti said Harper was not happy to have to cut staff, but it was unavoidable. The superintendent, who could not be reached for comment this week, submitted a budget that was $1.7 million more than what the schools ended up getting for fiscal year 2021.

“Layoffs — we call them a reduction in force — happen almost always at the end of the school year, but many times they correct themselves over the summer,” Proietti said. “We’re not sure that will be the case this year. We actually may have more before it’s over.”

That’s because not only was the superintendent’s budget cut by $1.7 million, but Greenfield has no idea what type of school funding it will see from the state for fiscal year 2021, Proietti said.

“We have absolutely zero info from the state at this point,” she said. “We don’t know where we will land with Chapter 70 money, the basic funding from the state. The Student Opportunities Act was meant to boost funding and we were told not to count on that at all next year.”

Proietti said it’s a waiting game for schools right now. The Greenfield School Committee is contacting other school committees across the county to see what they are doing and how, not only to cope with less state funding, but to educate students safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s no guidance from the state yet about how we might open in the fall, if at all,” Proietti said. “There’s talk of rotating schedules where students attend in-person some of the time and do online learning some of the time.”

That would actually increase costs to the school system, she said, because buses would still have to run every day, but for not as many students. She said it would also mean that in a time when the number of teachers should increase — state and local governments are talking about lowering the capacity in each classroom, so more classrooms would be needed to accommodate all students — the number has been decreased, and there may be more layoffs still to come.

“We need to plan all of this on our own at this point,” Proietti said. “We’re in a real pickle, just like every other school system.”

She said Harper first looked at teachers who are licensed but haven’t completed their master’s degree, and then followed union collective bargaining and laid off teachers who didn’t have seniority.

“We’re in a crisis,” Proietti said. “It’s deeply concerning. There’s been zero discussion at the federal level, where much of the funding comes from, and our children, the future, is not being prioritized.”

The School Committee will have many discussions among its members and with town, state and federal leaders in the future, she said.

Wedegartner said the most expensive part of a school budget is staff, so unfortunately, that’s what tends to get cut first. She said the Greenfield School Department has a recall provision, so she’s hoping some teachers will be recalled for next school year, but it’s possible more will be cut before that happens.

“We don’t know yet what it will look like,” the mayor said, adding that more cuts to the municipal budget are likely as well — one full-time person was laid off in accounting and that department’s hours have been reduced.

Wedegartner said what the School Department is trying to avoid is cuts to programs for its students, and so far that hasn’t happened.

“Unless absolutely necessary,” she said, “there won’t be new hires on the city or school side until we know what’s happening with funding from the state.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or


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