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Newton School

Background Information

Employment History

Greenfield High School

School Committee


master's degree
education in administration and supervision
University of North Carolina

Web References (34 Total References)

Melodie ...

www.gpsk12.org [cached]

Melodie Goodwin Principal Newton School melgoo1@gpsk12.org

Day also works with Melodie ...

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Day also works with Melodie Goodwin, principal at Newton School on the Mohawk Trail, to make sure students have everything they need.

Newton School Principal Melodie ...

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Newton School Principal Melodie Goodwin said the number of hotel homeless students at her school fluctuates daily, but hovers right around 50 and has for the past year.

"It represents all of the homeless children living in Greenfield hotels who are attending Newton - the issue no one seems to want to talk about," said Goodwin.
She said the number of hotel homeless students fluctuates daily, but hovers right around 50 and has for the past year. Currently, about one in five students attending Newton School is homeless, she said.
"Many of them are so very far from home," she said. "It's just sad."
Newton has had between 220 and 230 students attending over the past year, said Goodwin, who had to hire two new teachers last year to keep up with the demand.
"It's incredible," she said. "And no one is addressing the real problem - people need jobs."
Goodwin said one homeless father was forced to quit his job and come to live in a Greenfield hotel with his children after his wife died of cancer.
"Those children had to deal with the loss of their mother and with having to come to a strange place and live in one room in a hotel," Goodwin said through tears. "They were taken away from their family, their support system, their doctors and put in a place they'd never been while still dealing with personal tragedy. That's terrible."
Goodwin said Newton has welcomed students from the Springfield area, the Boston area, from out of state, as far away as Florida, and even one from Sudan. She said some attend for just a few days or weeks, while others are there for a few months and a few finish out an entire school year.
Goodwin said schools, by law, must accept students living in their town, even if they are living in a hotel room.
She said it's never-ending, because every time the school says "goodbye" to one family, another one or two takes its place.
"We educators don't like that these kids are living in hotels - no one does - but I guess it's better than living on the street or in a car," she said. "The problem is, Massachusetts can't house the world and it seems like that's what's happening at this point. There has to be a better way."
Goodwin said she has one mother who is desperate to get her children back home to their extended family and support system, but has no job and no way to find one out in eastern Massachusetts while living in a hotel in western Massachusetts.
She said very few of the families living in Greenfield hotels come from Franklin County.
"Most are far, far from home," she said. "You always hear when it comes to buying a house that it's 'location, location, location,' but that isn't being considered when it comes to these people and that's just not right."
Goodwin said most, if not all, of the children she sees are traumatized.
"Some are traumatized just because of their current situation," she said. "Others have the trauma of ending up in a hotel in a strange place compounded by a bad situation at home."
She said the homeless students that attend Newton are tired, hungry and scared.
"Some are afraid to sleep because of what they see or hear outside of their rooms at night," she said. "Some report loud arguing and some report actual fights - people are fighting over gas cards. Moms are fighting with each other because they are all sharing such a small space. They are seeing things they shouldn't be seeing.
"I asked the school psychologist if she thought some suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," said Goodwin. "The psychologist said 'no, they are in traumatic stress.'"
She said families were using the school's playground in good weather, but the town had to erect a fence to keep people off the school grounds when school wasn't in session because it was becoming a party spot. She said the school and town hated to lock people out, but it had to be done.
"We were finding needles and condoms and empty alcohol containers and all sorts of things we didn't want on our playground," she said. "We felt bad closing it, but had no choice. Our homeless students called it 'the park.'"
Goodwin said her heart breaks to think that her homeless students have a very small concrete playground at the back of the hotel, and that's about it for play space. And even that isn't a true playground, because there are no play structures there.
She said she's been told by homeless parents that their children aren't allowed to run up and down the halls of the Days Inn on Colrain Road or Quality Inn on the Mohawk Trail - the two hotels currently serving as homeless shelters - so they are pretty much confined to their rooms to play.
"The good news is that we have a good relationship with local social service agencies, so the children are getting the school supplies they need," said Goodwin. "The bad news is I was working with 12 different state Department of Children and Families caseworkers at one point. That kind of speaks to the situation these children are coming from."
She said one third-grader told her she had been in five different schools before coming to Newton.
"Some of the families are kicked out of shelters or hotels and moved to new ones because of bad behavior or whatever," said Goodwin.
Goodwin said what has been heartwarming is how the Greenfield community has stepped up.
"People have volunteered and donated things and just been wonderful to these children and their families," she said.
She said what has been disheartening is the response from the state.
"I listened to the gubernatorial candidates this year during the campaign," said Goodwin.
Goodwin said it is extremely difficult to watch children - the future of Massachusetts - fall through the cracks.
"We had four students leave Greenfield in November 2013 and in April 2014 we were contacted by another school saying the families had listed us as the last school they attended," she said. "That means four kids didn't go to school for five months. How are they going to learn? How are they going to advance?"
Goodwin began to cry as she talked about how families are sometimes given less than 24 hours notice that they are being moved - sometimes only a couple of hours. Newton gets no notice.
"Each day when I say 'goodbye,' I realize it could be the last time," said Goodwin. "I don't know where they go or if they are OK. It's heartbreaking."
She said Newton has a great group of teachers who have welcomed every homeless child and made them feel safe, welcome and respected.
"They work with their students to do the same," said Goodwin. "It's not really that difficult, because Newton, of all the town's schools, has the highest percentage of low-income children attending, so many aren't that far from where these kids are."
She said Newton's "permanent" students give homeless students a tour the day they walk through the doors.
"It makes everyone feel like they're a part of something good," she said. "We try to make these new students feel like they belong, like this is their school."
Goodwin said many of the moms and dads who walk their children from the hotels to Newton call it the "pretty school," because it's the nicest school their children have ever attended. She said they are sad when they have to leave, because they aren't sure what the next one will be like. Unless, of course, they are going home.
Goodwin said until something changes, until the state finds a better way to house homeless children, Newton and its teachers and administrators will educate and encourage them.
"They are still young enough to believe, so we tell them over and over that they can find their way out of this nasty situation and be whatever they want to be - and we hope that it sticks," she said. "We ourselves really want to believe that's true."
Goodwin said she doesn't think about the cost to the town at this point, because the cost to the children is much greater.
"The town will figure it out and the state will reimburse some of the expense, she said. "I just want to know, like everyone else, that someone is working on a real solution."
Goodwin said as long as Newton must receive homeless children for however long each might stay, the elephant in the room will sit in the chair to remind her, and everyone who enters her office, that something needs to be done.

Day also works with Melodie ...

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Day also works with Melodie Goodwin, principal at Newton School on the Mohawk Trail, to make sure students have everything they need.

"Emma Pickle is the perfect reading ...

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"Emma Pickle is the perfect reading buddy," said Newton School Principal Melodie Goodwin.

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