Welcome to Mass.!
I don’t live near Springfield but my in-laws do, and I’ve gotten to know the area pretty well. In fact, I may be moving that way too, if I get laid off.
I can tell you something about one of the boring suburbs of Springfield…Longmeadow is just outside the city and has a reputation for having the best schools in the area. Very pretty, boring suburb. East Longmeadow (different town) isn’t bad either, but I get the feeling the Longmeadownians look down on the East Longmeadownians. BTW, I don’t know where you are coming from, but Mass. can have very different towns/municipalities very close to each other. There is a very strong tradition of each town maintaining and paying for its own police, fire, schools, sewers, etc. There is almost no regional coordination, so you can have a very nice (expensive) town just down the road from an utter hell-hole.
Springfield itself is a fairly typical post-industrial Northeastern small city. It is located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and is therefore convenient to Boston, Albany, NYC, and Hartford. Springfield declined quite a bit from the 1950s to at least the mid 80s when I understand the city lost a lot of manufacturing jobs. Since then it has been holding steady if not improving slightly. There is a great set of little museums all right next to each other…a ticket to one buys you admission to all. There are a couple of imposing old buildings in the city center. The Connecticut River Valley is indeed beautiful, and housing prices are generally lower than what I am used to in the Boston area. It is also convenient to Vermont if you like to ski, and Canada isn’t too far either.
Among the things associated with Springfield: It is where basketball was invented, and the Basketball Hall of Fame is now probably its biggest attraction. Dr. Seuss lived there, and some of his stories apparently have some slight basis in Springfield, apparently there is a Mulberry St. there, for instance. Milton Bradley of game and toy fame had a house there, I am told. Several gun manufacturers did or still do have facilities there. Indian motorcyles used to be made there, and I think the Stanley brothers of Stanley Steamer fame lived there. Oh, and the wife and I got married in South Hadley, North of Springfield.
I’m afraid I can’t help you with the school question. If I do end up living out there, I may have to get a job in a lab at one of the bigger schools. There is little biotech in the area, unfortunately for me.
Maybe I’ll run into you sometime at one of the museums!