Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

March 24, 2012 Weekly Musings

Posted on: April 5, 2012

Photo:David Castillo Dominici

I thoroughly enjoyed the academic, intellectual, and philosophical challenges we engaged in during the “Leadership for Superintendents” conference this week.  I love to be in an environment where my thinking is challenged and I am called upon to defend my ideas while learning new perspectives and then working those into my current practice as an educational leader.  Sixty superintendents from around the country (two international) attended this conference and we learned from the very best researching and practicing educators in the business.

Rather than summarize the sessions, I will report how affirming it was in many ways.  “Key elements of effective schools” was one common thread of the presenters; I believe we are ahead of the curve in many ways and on target in many others.  Key elements include: a highly effective school committee with unified goals and a common direction, dynamic and inclusive community and family partnerships at all schools, the use of instructional rounds to assess student engagement and academic challenge, a strategic approach to professional development, and the ability to attract and retain high quality teachers and administrators.  As I stated at our Budget and Property Subcommittee meeting this past week, we have moved just beyond the tipping point from a very good school district to a great school district.

I base this opinion not only on my observation and research of our system, but also on the anecdotal evidence from conversations I have had recently with community parents.  People who have chosen to send their children to private schools and charter schools are looking over their shoulders at our school system and seeing many compelling reasons to return.  We have established ourselves as a premier school district with high quality programs and instructors and are receiving appropriate attention and accolades for our outstanding results.  This is a critical point for our city and our system to invest in our schools, to lock in our successes and overcome our challenges.

My budget ideas and proposals became public this past Thursday evening and now I will continue to communicate my plea for our schools.  We have created a budget within the dollar amount allocated for next year, a second tier budget with the hope of an increase in funding for next year, and the “educationally sound” budget that, in my opinion, would put an end to families choosing any other alternative schooling in and around our city within five years.  I will share this with the full School Committee on Thursday and with the City Council on April 19th if I am permitted time on their agenda.

On another note, I admire the manner in which Bridge St. Principal, Johanna McKenna, has been communicating and preparing for her retirement next fall.  She has taken the time to have personal conversations with those closest to her, written a letter to families, announced to her faculty and school council, and has been rightfully honored by all those who have appreciated and respected her work and leadership.  Though she will be greatly missed when she departs in October, she will be continuing on with our team and engaging in some very important work with our professional development committee and our training and mentoring of new faculty through the summer and early fall.


Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.


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