Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

April 4, 2012 Weekly Musings

Posted on: April 6, 2012

Photo:Stuart Miles

We had a very productive and exciting week filled with highlights including: new proposed graduation requirements, a new proposal for the redesign of our math curriculum and offerings at the MS and HS, a beginning plan for a faculty athletic competition next fall, a visit from three educators from Gaza, the public forum on the HS Late Start, and today, some productive professional development work in the afternoon of our half day for students.

At Tuesday’s Curriculum Subcommittee meeting, leaders from our math departments at JFK and NHS presented a recommendation along with the support of their principals, Mark Prince and me.  Following two years of work to improve the challenge and achievement of our students in math, a plan has been put forward which will be explained in detail at next Thursday’s SC meeting.  In summary, the students will no longer be tested and placed in sixth grade math which created the path for the remainder of their schooling.  All students will participate in a challenging curriculum in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and then will take a placement test for their high school course of study.  With Algebra concepts being learned in eighth grade, students will move to geometry and algebra 2 freshman year, providing the opportunity for higher level math electives in junior and senior years. More details will be provided soon.

Also, during the Curriculum Subcommittee, Mark Prince and Nancy Athas spoke to the impending shift in graduation requirements from the DESE which is referred to as MASS Core.  This proposal “is a state recommended, rigorous program of study that aligns high school coursework with college and workforce expectations.”  It represents some change to our current requirements, was presented on Tuesday, will be taken to Rules and Policy Sub Committee, and then will be presented to the full SC in May.  The change is recommended for the 2013-14 school year.

A faculty wellness committee met on Wednesday and we are beginning a plan to have a faculty only triathlon sprint (1/4 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) next fall.  The working name for our group is “Northampton E.A.T. 2B Healthy” (Northampton Educator Athletes in Training to be healthy) – this is not a diet program.  We are developing the details and will have more information to share soon.

The Center for International Education in the School of Education at UMass Amherst was hosting a study tour of six faculty members from three universities in Gaza, Palestine this past week.  The study tour was part of a World Bank-funded education reform project designed to assist the Palestinian government with its progress towards strategic education goals.  I had the chance to meet our visitors at Jackson Street School where Gwen Agna held a session of Q&A with the group and two of our fifth grade students prior to the visit to classrooms.

The first Late Start Public forum was held last night.  Forty-seven people attended with a variety of opinions for our future direction ranging from our usual passionate group who believe we absolutely must change for the health and well being of our students to some voices against making any change at all. I was very pleased with the variety of individuals who shared.  I feel it was a healthy public forum where citizens interacted and responded to each other, and though many comments and questions were directed at me at first, the meeting then went in the direction of people sharing “point and counterpoint” among the participants.  Stay tuned for information regarding the scheduling of the next Late Start Open Forum in May.

This afternoon our teachers are engaged in professional development work throughout the district.  Traditionally, this was a work day reserved for departments and grades to develop budget plans for next year, but we have shifted the focus this year and teachers are working together on curriculum and planning, developing shared assessments, preparing student records, planning co-teaching strategies, and final preparation for the NEASC visit in three weeks.

One final note: our principals and Educator Evaluation Tool Committee members began presenting the new system to teachers during building level faculty meetings this week.  All buildings will review the new system during the month of April.


Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.


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