Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Posts Tagged ‘DESE

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

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.

By: stockimages

There were some questions around the release of our 2012 MCAS scores.  As expected, we made some surprising progress in some areas, and met some challenges in others.  Nancy Athas has spoken to the DESE regarding the high school’s drop from Level I to Level II and Johanna McKenna is working on a results summary.  I will present a report at the October 11 School Committee meeting.

To begin my work toward building and improving community business relations, this week I met with the V.P. of Finance from L3 (Kollmorgan) and the owner of Marcotte Ford in Holyoke (who supplies our city vehicles). Angelo Rota and I presented data of the successes of our students and shared the classroom uses of the ELMO document camera and projector.  We plan to visit at least six more businesses this fall.

I appreciated the understanding and support as we moved our sports activities from evening to afternoon games.  Given our warm fall weather, we are going to keep this change in place through September 30th.  Jim Miller and Nancy Athas remain in contact with our conference schools and are proposing to move back to the regular schedule on October 1st.

I attended our first meeting of the M.A.S.S. Superintendent Cohort group on September 20th. Our group continued to learn how to carry out our DIP strategies and then focused on specific strategies for implementing Educator Evaluation Tool system.  Northampton Public Schools are ahead of the curve on the learning and implementation and we continue to be very positive about the impact and direction this new tool provides our profession.

On Tuesday, our professional development day provided the opportunity for teachers and administrators to continue learning together.  We are developing SMART goals in professional practice and student learning, connecting them to our district and school improvement plans, and using the whole process to systematically improve student performance.

I am continuing to work in support of a final decision on the later start time. Even though there were two other suggestions made during the last school committee meeting, I recommend that we first respond to the proposals on the table.  As I stated in the previous “Musings…” it is too late in the process to bring new items to vote if they haven’t had the chance to be discussed in our ALT meetings or in a public forum.  During our Wednesday ALT meeting, we visited this issue once again.  Our administrative team remains resolute in their unanimous support of leaving the start times as is.  If on October 11th, the School Committee chooses to request more proposals, I will be happy to oblige, yet ask to be able to involve the community and our school personnel by sending out the new proposal and holding another public forum for people to discuss the ideas prior to a vote.

Also during this week’s ALT meeting, we continued to discuss strategies for improving our services for students who are English Language Learners and, equally high on our priority list, is the elementary literacy support.  It is important not to lose sight of the fact that we had to make a very difficult budget cut last year losing three positions to support teachers and students in reading K-8.  Our team continues to look at this loss and strategize how to provide adequate instruction while planning for future budget adjustments to bring this support back if possible.


Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.


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