December 8, 2012 Weekly musings:
Posted December 10, 2012on:
We are cautiously responding to the news from our governor this week regarding budget cuts. We instituted a budget freeze of our current appropriations and will wait for further news to determine the extent of our response to curb and/or cut spending from the FY 13 budget. Meanwhile, we are beginning to build our draft FY14 budget in preparations for budget season and the beginning of our collective bargaining.
We had a lively discussion during our past School Committee meeting regarding our direction for the later start time for the high school and the proposed extension of the elementary school day. The outcome of the meeting is that we will move any and all talk of extending the elementary school day in to our collective bargaining discussions and Mayor Narkewicz and I will discuss appointing a new ad hoc committee. The charge of the committee is to continue researching alternative proposals and to survey the community in an attempt to reflect the opinions and wishes of the greater community on this issue. In this way, our School Committee members will have the opportunity to best represent our families, while making a sound decision for our organization.
This week I was able to observe Principal Beth Choquette and School Adjustment Counselor Laurie Sperry as they visited classrooms to talk with students about the value of the 4 R’s (Being Respectful, Reasonable, Reliable, and Responsible). Beth and Laurie visited each classroom at Bridge Street School and engaged the students in a discussion of how to best treat each other, to recognize and avoid bullying behavior, and the overall value of friendship. Students were also able to share any concerns they had regarding happenings on the playground or in the cafeteria. Beth routinely discusses these values during the school’s weekly celebrations.
While at Bridge Street, I was also able to visit the classroom of preschool teacher Casey Matthias who was recently awarded over $1,000 from Donorschoose.org. This organization provided funding for projects in her classroom last year too. Ms. Matthias’ project is based around “Home within the Classroom” -creating living areas to build conflict resolution and social skills. She was able to purchase school approved furniture, dolls, puppets, and age appropriate conflict-resolution books. Congratulations Casey.
On Tuesday evening, approximately 200 parents, children and interested community members gathered for the Northampton Prevention Coalition’s first Town Hall meeting entitled: “The Teenage Brain: Under Construction, the effects of alcohol, drugs and technology on the developing adolescent brain.” The presentation featured opening remarks from City Council President Bill Dwight, a performance by the NHS new health education improv theater group, “Caught Off Guard,” and keynote speaker, Dr. Jennifer Michaels. Dr. Michaels serves as the Medical Director of the Brien Center in Lenox, MA. Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive and the coalition is already planning its next community event.
We would like to thank all staff and students for their generous donations to our Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort. Seventy-four pints of blood were donated, $700.00 cash, and four barrels of non-perishable items. The contributions were picked up by the Salvation Army.
Principal Joseph Smith and Leeds Elementary staff held their first Meadowbrook Family Math Night on Dec. 3rd. The Math Night was a success as 19 students, 15 adults, and five teachers participated. The goals for math night at Meadowbrook Apartments are:
1) Increase parent awareness regarding the district’s math curriculum.
2) Create opportunities for families to interact with each other within their home community.
3) Deepen mathematical concepts for children in grades pre-k to 2.
Teachers introduced math games to all of the participants, while children engaged with their guardians to play mathematical games. The next Meadowbrook Apartment Family Math Night will be in January.
EEC just posted grant awards for additional CFCE (Coordinated Family and Community Engagement) money to be used for early/family literacy and we were awarded an additional $12,970. This grant will cover the cost of additional community-based literacy groups with families with young children. These funds will support collaboration with the public libraries, help support our work with Grace House and Safe Passage, and support additional work at low income housing complexes. Also, EEC requires that we do literacy and family support/engagement work over the summer.
Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.