Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Posts Tagged ‘NHS

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!

Sincerely,

Brian L. Salzer

 

 

graduation_classic_It was a big week for our seniors.  Prom on Tuesday at the Log Cabin was well attended. Students enjoyed dinner, dancing, and an overall positive evening together. Thursday evening, seniors enjoyed a very warm senior picnic, and Friday offered time for the senior breakfast and video viewing.  On Sunday, due to the weather forecast of rain, we will be indoors at John M. Greene Hall at Smith College for our graduation ceremony at 3:00 pm.

Our team continues to review possibilities for personnel, programs, and services following the override vote and we are still establishing our position on the High School Late Start options.  So much of this is interconnected; we will discuss the intricacies of budget and bussing during our School Committee meeting on June 13th.  I will have our new bus contract following the bid opening on June 6th and this will have an impact on our planning.

We welcome new VINS coordinator, Ann Schlereth, to our team. Ann replaces Lynn Barclay as coordinator and will continue to build our network of volunteers, communicate needs and successes in our schools, and will review and help place new candidates wishing to volunteer in our schools.

You may be aware that we have several cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in our school community.  Our school nursing staff is working closely with our local public health authorities as well as our state epidemiologist to identify and refer potential cases. We have also been giving staff and families in the affected schools regular updates and are encouraging consultation with their primary care provider for any symptoms or for immunization, if warranted.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  Please visit the NPS Health Services website at http://healthservices.northampton-k12.us/.  You may also call the Director of Health Services, Karen Jarvis-Vance, at 587-1364 for general questions and/or your child’s school nurse with specific questions regarding your child.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

Brian Salzer

Comment on the situation of the student pledge at Northampton High School:

The finding of a threatening note at the high school in December started a series of events and decision-making at the high school.  Our first and foremost concern was for the safety and security of students and staff.  The events of Newtown, CT the previous week deeply influenced our reactions.  The idea of a student writing sample was suggested during the faculty meeting on Thursday along with many other ideas.  Members of the police department also attended this meeting to gather information, support us, and advise our decision-making.

On Friday morning, the police detective working with Associate Principal Bryan Lombardi, suggested the writing sample protocol and confirmed the support of the D.A.’s office.  Bryan Lombardi responded by moving this idea forward and communicated with the faculty through email regarding the procedure.  Teachers followed through with the activity and, when principal Nancy Athas arrived afterward, she was informed and then made me aware of what had occurred.

I support the work of our high school teachers, administrators, and police officers.  We have a high quality group of professionals working for the people of Northampton.  In this case, fair criticisms have been raised about how we handled this situation.  We have reviewed our communication and decision-making protocols; now, and in the future, we will gather more people and perspectives around the situation, respect the trusting relationship we have with our students and families, and we will work to resolve future crises in a proper and respectful manner.

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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 Donorschoose.org.   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.

Sincerely,

Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.


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