Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Collective bargaining

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



By: Wallpaperium

By: Wallpaperium

Monday, we began what will be a series of meetings to work through our collective bargaining process for the next three-year contract.  Union leaders and School Committee members are meeting using a collaborative approach to reach an agreement on language and finances without using legal negotiators.  This is a wonderful step forward and is an indication of the relationship that has been built and strengthened over the past two years.

Though Tuesday was a snow day for students and teachers, we administrators continued our work on the next budget draft.  We continue to fine tune the details of each and every category as we prepare to give final written notification to faculty and staff by April 12.  We realize there will be changes over the next three weeks and will wait as long as we can before making final reductions.  On Tuesday evening, the group Yes, Northampton hosted a well attended meeting with Representative Kocot.  The meeting drew a group of about 150 people including City Councilors, School Committee members, administrators, teachers, parents, and students. The news from the State level regarding future funding was grim, at least for the short term, and there was positive talk about organizing an override proposal for voters to voice support for our city and school budget later in the spring or early summer.

Wednesday, high school students demonstrated their disapproval of the proposed budget cuts with an assembly on Main Street next to City Hall.  The students offered songs, band music, and speeches supporting the arts.  The group was mature, professional, respectful, and generated very positive support for the arts and our schools. Well done Northampton High School students!  Thank you for demonstrating the positive power of committed teenagers.

On Friday, I received the message from Mayor Narkewicz that our budget will increase by $450,000.  This is great news for our schools and our administrative leadership team will meet on Tuesday morning to make collaborative decisions about how to allocate these new funds across the district.

Brian L. Salzer

By: Stuart Miles

By: Stuart Miles

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   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.

hot choc. runThere are three major items on my mind: implementation of the Educator Evaluation Tool, progress on our district improvement plan, and preparing for our collective bargaining process.

I am grateful for the preparation work our evaluation committee did last year and this year.  These committee members, along with our administrative team, have learned and then taught elements of this new system to all who are being evaluated this year.  Yet, we still have more learning and practice in front of us.  The teacher leaders on the committee and the administrative team will participate in further training on the six modules using MTA trainers.  These trainings will take place over three days: January 3, 24, and February 7.

We continue to review and meet our fifteen goals in this year’s D.I.P. Main goals include: effective data teams at each school, teacher led technology workshops at each building, use of a co-teaching model of mathematics instruction in fifth and sixth grade, establishing goals through the collective bargaining process to support more art/music/enrichment/activities/sports education, and prioritizing our financial commitment for technology.  I will present an update on all of the D.I.P. goals during our January School Committee meeting.

And finally, our collective bargaining process is in the early stages. Our School Committee and Union Leaders are working on developing the next contractual agreement.  These meetings will begin in January with the goal of having an agreement in place prior to June 30.  I am looking forward to advising and assisting through this process because I feel we have established a positive rapport and shared vision for the future of our students and teachers that has led to a positive morale in our community.

It was exciting to run my second Hot Chocolate Run this morning.  Many educators were seen wearing the E.A.T.2BHealthy warm up jackets from our triathlon.  Our speediest educator was Leeds Elementary teacher Andrew Foster who placed 104th with a time of 20:11.  Congratulations to Andrew and all successful finishers in the run and walk.

Tomorrow, I will be attending a workshop sponsored by M.A.S.S. on labor relations.  N.A.S.E. president Sharon Carlson will join me in Marlboro for this day of learning.

Next Wednesday, December 5th, we will have a special School Committee meeting so we can have the discussion on the later start time options and the extended day proposals.  We were unable to discuss this at our recent regular meeting due to a misunderstanding on the description of the agenda item.       During the November meeting we had a significant amount of public comment, yet we were unable to share our thoughts.  During the special meeting this week we will only have this one agenda item for SC members to discuss.  Public comment is welcome once again at our regular meeting on December 13th.


Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.

By: photostock

Our summer work is moving along very nicely.  Many, many teachers have completed substantial professional development work and are ready to return with new strategies, curriculum, and teaching methods.  Our custodians have been hard at work making our buildings shine with new wax, new paint, and many other projects in preparation for September.  Our secretaries and principals are nearly finished with student and teacher scheduling, ordering materials, registering new students, and creating “welcome back” materials.  At Leeds school, the Clarke remodeling project is near completion and the rooms look fantastic.  I believe we have completed our teacher hiring for the year and will have our new Associate Principal candidates, new Elementary Technology Coordinator, and our Data Coordinator in place by the end of August.

Over the past two years, we have engaged in effective and intense professional development with our elementary teachers around Reader’s Workshop teaching methods.  We will continue to build our catalog of books and, now, can develop our teaching skills using our own trained faculty with minimal support from outside consultants.  In addition, we will continue vertical alignment of our preK-12 literacy curriculum and will continue to build consistency within grade levels.  In so doing, we will offer a heartfelt “thank you” and “farewell” to consultant Jenny Bender as she pursues her independent consulting work with other districts.

Stephanie Pick, Downey Meyer, and I held a meeting with the Union Leadership representatives to discuss the new educator evaluation process, the Clarke School transition, and the high school advisory agreement.  I am enjoying the collaborative way we are working together.  Throughout my first year, I have watched this group become more and more open and candid. We have worked through some tough challenges and we continue to do so, but we do so with smiles, occasional laughter, and always a congenial repartee.  I am looking forward to continuing our work through our collective bargaining beginning this fall.

Our final Community Open Forum to discuss the proposals for a later start for the high school is scheduled for next Wednesday from 7:00 – 8:30 pm in the high school library.  I will once again present draft ideas for participants to discuss. These ideas are getting very close to what my final proposal will be on September 13th.

New families are arriving everyday registering their children for school. Registrar Jennifer Towler is in peak busy season as our enrollments numbers fluctuate greatly over the next two weeks.  All in all, our class sizes still look excellent.

Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.

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