Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Posts Tagged ‘ALT

By: Tishna

By: Tishna

Our week began on Sunday with another beautiful NHS graduation ceremony.  The tradition of music, song, and speeches make this a very entertaining and meaningful event for the students and families.  On Thursday evening, I attended the Smith Vocational and Agricultural School ceremony also held at John M. Greene Hall.  This ceremony was unique as well; heightened enthusiasm, shouts of support, and celebration set the tone for this group of graduates and their families.  Many students received awards and scholarships prior to the presentation of the diplomas.  It was a wonderful week of closure and transition for the seniors of Northampton Public Schools.

We are beginning our hiring season for teaching positions and I have been signing some incredibly talented people this week.  Both new graduates and experienced teachers, filled with creative energy and excitement, are joining our faculty.  These positions were mostly created due to retirements. We are all anxiously awaiting the override vote and hope to restore many of our positions while also adding some needed services and support.

We welcome our new Director of Maintenance, Greg Kochan. Greg had been serving as Maintenance Foreman and is currently transitioning by working with Mike Diemand until his retirement on July 12th.

In budget news this week, we conducted our bus bid opening yesterday and will present the details at School Committee on Thursday evening.  In a nutshell, we had a K-12 three tier system for the past five years at a remarkably competitive price.  We went to bid for a K-8 two-tier system and realized the cost would increase, but thought the reduction in service would off-set the price increase.  Rather, the lowest bid is actually around $225,000 higher than our budget for this year.  This will create further discussion in ALT and School Committee as we propose how to meet this increase and keep a balanced budget for FY14.

Our Collective Bargaining sessions continued this week and we are making very good progress.  I am interested in wrapping this up before I leave in July, and to do so, would mean ratifying the contract prior to the faculty and staff leaving at the end of June.  So, we will pick up the pace of talks, propose written language changes, and plan to create our three year agreement over the next three weeks.

And finally in the news this week, Mark Prince, our former Director of Academic Effectiveness, has accepted the position of Assistant Superintendent with Framingham Public Schools.  Congratulations Mark!


Brian L. Salzer



hand.hand.ID-10065993 Our principal team is nearly complete. Sal Canata is the preferred candidate for Leeds Elementary School. A team will conduct a site visit with Sal on Wednesday of next week and then plan to offer a contract.  There have been so many people involved in these three hiring committees, panels, and open forums that I can only send a general “thank you” to the hundreds of people who contributed to our principal selections.

On Monday, I had the privilege of participating on a committee at DESE to review MA principal licensure. Our group reviewed drafts and created categories for training principals for an initial MA license. This conversation was perfect timing for me as I have been spending so much time screening and hiring candidates.  There are many facets to the job of principal and it is a critical position to the health and direction of a school. We should all stop and thank our principals regularly for the work we see them do and the incredible amount of work we do not see them do, yet we know must happen behind the scenes to lead the dynamic institutions they lead everyday.

NHS students and parents enjoyed two scholarship nights this week. Our community is very generous in their commitment to our graduates and these ceremonies are a nice way to honor the years of dedication of our students.

Angelo Rota and the IT team have been working hard training faculty and staff on Google Chrome, gmail, and the beginning stages of our new student information system Aspen.

High School Late Start information update: I’d like to advance this conversation another step. The current status is that we have cut bussing to the high school for next year’s budget.  Our bus contract is currently “out for bid” for a two-tier system for the elementary students and JFK. Those start times remain unchanged.  With this, a high school start time of 8:15 is possible without transportation conflict.

If the override passes, we would like to restore bussing for the high school students and then the system works in the morning, but not in the afternoon. So, we may consider bussing the students to school, but not home at the end of the day.  Students could walk, ride share with neighbors, or use public transportation where possible and it will be in the afternoon when it is light and warmer.

This would mean a three-tier system in the morning and a two-tier system in the afternoon which would help control the overall cost of transportation for next year.  I’m going to take this idea to ALT on Tuesday for further discussion.


Brian Salzer

Colorful_spring_gardenThe R.K. Finn Ryan Road principal search committee recommended Sarah Madden for appointment and a small group of us conducted a very successful site visit Thursday afternoon.  Sarah has accepted our offer and we are all very excited to collaborate with our new colleague.

The high school principal first round interviews began yesterday afternoon and continue today.  Leeds principal first round interviews will be conducted next Monday and Wednesday.  Further information regarding finalists and public forums will be offered soon.

Our ALT team completed work on the priority list of personnel and programs available for restoration following a successful override vote.  The draft was shared with Mayor Narkewicz this week.  We will work on finalizing this list and possibly present it to the School Committee next Thursday.

Jennifer Towler and I conducted the School Choice lottery this week.  We opened 56 spaces and selected 51 students.  The families will be notified starting today.

In our continued efforts to provide a safe and secure high school environment, new internal and external cameras have been added to the current camera system.  Effective immediately we have a total of 30 cameras in use inside and outside of the building.  Of course, these cameras play an important role in our overall plans and procedures for school safety, yet continual communication among students, families, and faculty will always be our best protection and prevention.  We are thankful for the Northampton Police Department who donated these cameras for our use.

At Bridge Street School, Craig Murdock (PE teacher/head teacher), Carol Ruyffelaert (special education teacher), and Principal Beth Choquette have been accepted into the Harvard University: School Turnaround Leaders program. The team will be attending June 3-7. Together with Harvard faculty, expert practitioners and a cohort of fellow school turnaround leaders, this team will analyze elements critical to the school’s turnaround plan.  They will develop a theory of action, gain key leadership skills, and learn strategies for success.


Brian Salzer


By: Gwen Agna

By: Gwen Agna

After months of study, review, and evaluation of a variety of student information systems, we have purchased the Aspen (X2) system and will begin training within the next three weeks.  This system replaces our current Groupwise software which will sunset on June 30th.  Aspen will be up and running with all of our data transferred prior to this date.

Last evening the School Committee voted to pass the proposed budget for FY14.  This budget now moves forward to become one piece of the Mayor’s City Budget. As mentioned, the proposition 2 ½ override campaign is underway with the vote scheduled for June 25th.  Our ALT meeting on Tuesday will involve the generation of a priority list of services and personnel we will seek to restore if the override passes.

In addition, the School Committee voted to use the services of NESDEC in leading the Superintendent Search process to begin as soon as possible.

The R. K. Finn Ryan Road Principal search began this week.  We had a total of thirty six applicants; the committee reviewed applications and selected six candidates for an interview slated for April 23 and 24.  This committee will then choose two or three finalists to return for second round interviews on April 30th.  These finalists will have open forum time with faculty, parents, and community members, followed by a tour of the school, and then an in-depth interview with me prior to appointment.

On Wednesday, we were honored to host a group of 14 Pakistani Public Administrators at the high school.  Our visitors observed classrooms and learned about our public school system.  Their comments included: being overwhelmed by the fine facility and technology being used the classroom; being impressed with the casual relationship among teachers and students that invites questions and risk-taking in learning; and praising the independence of students learning in small groups and individually.

I wish everyone and safe and enjoyable April break.

Brian L. Salzer

By: Kariallison

By: Kariallison

On Tuesday afternoon, ALT members attended a professional development presentation from Carol Kosnitsky on the topic of Massachusetts Tiered System of Support (MTSS).  For the past several years Northampton schools have been experimenting with “Response to Intervention” (RtI) strategies for improving student learning.  During this time, DESE has developed an integrated model for schools to organize instruction so that all students are receiving instruction at the appropriate level and intensity.  Carol provided administrators with “the big picture” in implementing this approach effectively.  The strategy: a system level change carefully orchestrated at the district level and thoughtfully paced in manageable steps over a multi-year period will build a system of support that ensures all students can demonstrate mastery of the curriculum.  Effective implementation requires resource allocation in staffing, scheduling, professional development, planning and collaboration time, and for materials.  Our administrative team will be taking this knowledge, assessing what we need in order to be ready to move in this direction, and deciding on our practical next steps.

This has been a week of budget discussion and development.  We are working to design our organization to fit within the FY14 allocation we have been given which is level funding plus $69,000.  As I presented last evening to School Committee, given our contractual agreements with our collective bargaining units, and the additional educational needs of our system for next year, we are left with approximately a $1.2 million gap.  Though the idea of charging a fee for full-day kindergarten was investigated and discussed, I am putting that idea on hold for now.  We will continue to look at a modest increase in school lunch prices and our athletic fees; we will continue to look at reducing the busing routes for the high school; and then we will look at the impact of a reduction of the equivalent of 23 teaching positions.  The next draft of our budget will be discussed during our ALT meeting on Tuesday morning.

Next week, our school councils will offer their input on the budget and the needs of each school during a meeting with our Budget and Property Subcommittee on Tuesday at 6:00 pm in the JFK Middle School library.

Brian L. Salzer

multiracial-group-of-kids-with-globe1Today is a teacher workday and the following activities were conducted with the faculty and staff:

NHS: teachers worked on their individual evaluation plans, assessed progress on their goals, and gathered artifacts for mid-year meetings with the principal. In the afternoon, they completed first semester student grading and then worked on second semester curriculum and lesson plans.

JFK: faculty engaged in cross-content literacy workshop in the morning, then worked within departments on student assessments.  In the afternoon, faculty met in teams to review student work and plan curriculum. ESP’s were included in the morning sessions, then worked on an assignment from Director of Student Services Laurie Farkas that focused on meeting the education needs of students with special needs.

Jackson: teachers worked on their individual evaluation plans, assessed progress on their goals, and gathered artifacts for mid-year meetings with the principal.  ESP’s met to work on school-wide rules. In the afternoon, faculty met to review student work and plan curriculum.

Leeds: teachers participated in training on “Words Their Way” with Pearson in the morning.  This training included two teachers from the other three elementary schools as well.  ESP’s engaged in training on a program called Study Island. During the afternoon ESP’s and teacher worked together on curriculum and lesson planning.

RKFRR: ESP’s met with the school nurse in Environmental Lab from 8:30-9:30 for the required yearly training; then they met in the Library for the next Responsive Classroom training.  Teachers worked on their individual evaluation plans, assessed progress on their goals, and gathered artifacts for mid-year meetings with the principal.

Preschool: Kimm Quinlan provided an early childhood curriculum presentation for ESPs.

Bridge: the full faculty conducted a “safety review” walk-through in the morning. The rest of the morning was dedicated to the teacher evaluation process.  ESP’s were included in the morning sessions, then worked on an assignment from Director of Student Services Laurie Farkas that focused on meeting the education needs of students with special needs.

Nurses: participated in their school building work in the morning and then gathered together in the afternoon with recent student health data to review TEAM goals, progress.

Bus drivers and monitors were trained in CPR.

Tech Team: worked on implementing the district technology plan with a focus on classroom instruction and technology.

As a district we are continuing our work around school safety. Our principals are developing a school safety inventory.  We will build a prioritized list of suggestions for our district, review the list with members of the police department and then present this information to the School Committee in March.

I was honored to attend a special faculty meeting at Leeds Elementary School on Tuesday when School Committee member and Investigations Math expert Mike Flynn offered a two hour presentation on implementation of the curriculum and successful teaching strategies to engage students in mathematical thinking and problem-solving.

On Thursday, our ALT and teacher leader evaluation team completed their second full day of training on the new educator evaluation tool.  MTA trainers presented information on Modules 3 and 4 as required by the DESE.  Our final day of training for Modules 5 and 6 will be held on February 7th.

Finally, our Budget and Property Subcommittee met Thursday evening to review the current state of our FY 13 budget, and discussed the development of FY 14 with regarding to the beginning of our collective bargaining.

Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.

keep_your_kids_safeThe winter break offered us all a time to reunite with friends and family while enjoying time away from school.  Sadly, for the families of Newtown, CT, it also meant time for grieving and funerals.  We continue to practice caution and awareness in our schools as we resume our regular schedule of teaching, learning, and school events.  Our Administrative Team will continue to adhere to our school safety procedures and practices.  The best response for all is to return the sense of normalcy and routine; yet, remain open and engaged in communication with staff, students, and families as we all pull together to keep our community safe.

Today, I enjoyed a full day of training for the implementation of our new Educator Evaluation Tool system along with twenty eight teachers and administrators from across the district.  The training was conducted at JFK by the MTA and offered us time to review the first two modules in great detail, then provided time and guidance for us to make plans to train all the teachers in each building.  We will have two more full days of training in the next few weeks to complete the final four modules.

During January, I will be preparing my mid-year evaluation artifacts and evidence for sub committee review.  Principals and central office administrators will meet with me to review progress on their SMART goals and indicators, and then our teachers will meet with their evaluators as well.  We are all getting familiar with the new system and confidently, and patiently, moving forward.  I believe this system will have a major impact on our focus on measurable improvements in student learning and achievement here in Northampton and across the state.

The musings are early this week because I am leaving for Germany tomorrow and will be out next week.  This was a last minute opportunity that arose over winter break.  While there, I will be visiting an international school in Berlin.  Johanna McKenna and Mark McLaughlin are prepared to lead our ALT meeting and present to School Committee next Thursday.  We will be sharing our progress on our District Improvement Plan and planning the development of our next DIP which will likely be a two-year plan.  We are also poised to begin our FY14 budget process and are developing a draft budget of level services while we await dollar amounts from the state and city.

Speaking of funding, we are awaiting final word from the City Council on our Capital Planning allocation.  Additional money was recommended for significant improvements in technology, along with support for security cameras at the high school.

Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.

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