Springfield officials welcome educators to new school year

Next week, students all around western Massachusetts will be returning to the classroom.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 5:14 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Next week, students all around western Massachusetts will be returning to the classroom. On Friday, Springfield educators gathered to kick-off the start of the school year.

Students will be back in class on Monday and Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Dan Warwick said he’s hopeful it will be the closest to “normal” in three years. He also offered some insight on some exciting changes coming to the school district this fall.

“To all the teachers, administrators, and families of students, happy new year,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno

Sarno joined city educators on Friday morning at the Springfield Conservatory of the Arts to usher in a new school year before students return to class on Monday.

“Our parents and students have endured a great deal and they can expect a more normal school setting and I think they’re gonna be very grateful for that, we’re all grateful for that,” Warwick added.

Warwick told Western Mass News that this year, the district will implement a brand-new strategic plan called “Portrait of a Graduate” which includes a new grading system and reshaped learning through the 2028 school year.

“The plan talks about reimagining instruction, more disciplinary work, more community support for the schools, and moving our schools forward,” Warwick explained.

This year, Springfield Public Schools will also become the first school district in the Commonwealth to offer free universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds.

“We think it’s a game changer to get kids off on the right foot with high-quality teachers in a quality preschool program,” Warwick noted.

As for staffing, Warwick told us they’ve made tremendous progress filling holes and battling challenges he knew they would face this year.

“We also have passed several contracts that brought our teacher’s salaries and benefits packages up to better than the average in western Mass., so we’re more than competitive,” Warwick added.

He even noted that staffing is up by more than 20 percent in the last few years - from 2,400 to close to 3,000.

“We’re not just filling openings. We’ve put all our money into the schools, so they can hire more teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals so it’s resulted in extra staff and we’ve made great progress in filling all those positions,” Warwick said.

“That’s what our teachers do, they inspire, they motivate, they make our students believe that they can and will succeed and our zip codes will not dictate their future,” Sarno said.

Warwick and Sarno also share that since they’ve taken office graduation rates are now at 86 percent, up from the low-50′s, and the drop-out rate has plummeted from 14 percent to now under two percent.