New Greenfield superintendent brings ‘commitment to supporting the whole child’

  • Christine DeBarge is the new Greenfield School Department superintendent. STAFF PHOTO/ MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/22/2021 2:59:05 PM

GREENFIELD — Superintendent Christine DeBarge said she strives to be the kind of superintendent who walks down the hallways of Greenfield’s public schools and knows the names and faces of everyone she sees.

“I’m definitely someone who wants to … eventually know the names of all my staff and students,” she said. “Greenfield is small enough that I’ll still be able to keep that level of involvement and interpersonal connection.”

DeBarge, who received unanimous support from the School Committee last month to lead the Greenfield School Department, begins in the role today.

The search for a new superintendent followed 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. Judy Houle with The Management Solutions Inc. served as interim superintendent until Friday.

“It’s been a privilege to be able to serve the children of Greenfield for the past six months,” Houle said. “I am leaving the district in great, capable hands.”

DeBarge, a Belchertown resident, didn’t begin her career with the intention of going into school administration. Rather, she studied speech pathology at Worcester State University, once called Worcester State College, and planned to continue on the clinical path.

“I was a speech pathologist in the Ludlow schools, and the woman who — at the time — was the special education director, needed an interim special education supervisor,” she said. “So she asked if I was interested in doing that interim job, and I was.”

That interim position turned into a permanent one, as DeBarge realized her interest on the administrative side of education.

“I was interested in the fact that doing administrative stuff, you got to see a lot of different students,” DeBarge said. “You got to work with a lot of different people to address a lot of different challenges.”

She also enjoyed the “lack of a consistent schedule.”

“You never knew what kinds of things you were going to be able to address,” she explained.

DeBarge pursued the necessary degrees and certificates to work in administrative education, eventually earning her doctorate from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, with a concentration in curriculum development.

She’s since worked in various senior leadership roles, including assistant superintendent of East Windsor Public Schools in Connecticut, interim superintendent, and most recently, superintendent.

School Committee members said during the selection process that DeBarge’s direct experience as a superintendent is what ultimately earned her the job in Greenfield.

DeBarge said she sought the job after learning more about the district and the Greenfield community.

“Even though it’s a city, it seems to have some of that small town feel to it,” she said.

Additionally, the priorities, goals and philosophy of the Greenfield School Department and School Committee resonated with her.

“A lot of the work that is being done is similar to the work I’ve been doing, so that was exciting,” she said. “The safe school climate and supporting social emotional needs is very consistent. ... The academic challenges Greenfield has are definitely things I’ve been working on at least for the past 10 years.”

DeBarge said her “commitment to supporting the whole child” aligned with the philosophy of the School Committee. During her interview with committee members, she spoke to the importance of providing support and resources to students and families who struggle with access.

“Eventually, I would love to see that students have access to health care services, whether that’s directly through the schools, or we help facilitate referrals and getting families connected with the care they need,” she said, noting that in general, she’d want to be able to provide a “robust list of resources” for families.

DeBarge said this was an area where she would need to communicate with a wide variety of people, to determine what the needs are.

“We’ll have to ... see what’s in the city and what’s already in place, and figure out what’s the best way to get information from the families about what they need,” she said.

In her first visit to the schools last month — prior to her final interview — DeBarge said everyone she met was “extremely welcoming.”

“They were all very forthcoming about what they were looking for for the Greenfield schools,” DeBarge said. “I felt very comfortable and connected with everybody I met with. That was a huge part of what made me continue on in the process.”

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


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