Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Posts Tagged ‘School Committee

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

By: educared

By: educared

The biggest news items of the week are the principal searches at the high school and Leeds elementary.  Yesterday afternoon, our three high school finalists participated in their second round interviews that included a building tour while classes were in session, a formal interview, and open forum meetings with faculty and then with students and also with parents and community members.  Feedback forms were collected from all and we are collating and processing these today.  The preferred candidate will be notified and the name will be released on Monday.  A contract will be offered pending a successful site visit next Wednesday.

Over at Leeds, I met with the selection committee on Wednesday and have established the second round interview schedule for these two candidates on Thursday, May 23rd.   Our preferred candidate will be announced on Friday, May 24th with a site visit scheduled for Wednesday, May 29th.

Regarding our next superintendent search, on Tuesday, the School Committee met with Dr. Joseph Wood, the NESDEC search consultant.  Advertising for the position will begin soon and further timelines will be released within the next two weeks.

MCAS testing was completed this week except for make-up testing scheduled for next week.

Wednesday evening, Marisa Hebble and Karen Jarvis Vance along with members of the Northampton Prevention Coalition hosted a successful forum for parents, youth, and educators.  I was able to attend this discussion on School Connectedness and Teen Wellness. High School students from the improv group Caught Off Guard performed, Dr. Chris Overtree offered research and suggestions for supporting student engagement, and finally, we worked in small breakout groups to discuss ideas we can put into action in our schools. Overall, the message was that a positive school climate comes from engaged and empowered students who actively take ownership in shaping their schools. As adults, we are challenged to create systems supportive of this level of student ownership.

Sincerely,

Brian  Salzer

By: Landlake

By: Landlake

This week we continued to draft the priority list of personnel and services we could return to our schools following a successful override vote.  Details will be released in the near future and will include the restoration of some services including art and music at JFK and the high school, classroom supply budgets at all levels, some new programs and services for students with disabilities and those who are English language learners, as well as the addition of a financial reserve to sustain these services for the next three to four years.

Our administrators and teachers are entering the end-of-year evaluation phase. This is the true test of our pilot year with these new strategies and documents. All of us have been learning and practicing what we learn throughout the year and flexibility has been the key to navigating this process.  In fall, we will have 100% of our faculty on board with the new process and, with many people then going through it for the second time, we will be in great shape moving forward with consistency in observing and analyzing our teaching practices.

National School Nurse’s Day was Wednesday, May 8th.  I know I speak for many families when I offer a heartfelt “thank you” to our treasured nurses for everything they do to help our students stay in school and ready to learn.  Last year 82% of our students, district-wide, saw a school nurse at least once during the school year and currently, our health offices have a 93% return-to-class rate.  This means that for the majority of our students, the school nurse makes a big difference in keeping them healthy and engaged in learning.  Daily, our nurses demonstrate their knowledge, skill, and compassion and we are all grateful for their support in our schools.

Thursday morning, NHS hosted the area Special Olympic Games.  Students, staff and community volunteers from across the Pioneer Valley gathered for a healthy morning of exercise and competition.  The smiles were contagious.

During School Committee last evening, we covered a lot of ground once again. Highlights from the evening were: a visit from the NHS robotics team and robot, a generous gift from Peoples Bank for the purchase of technology, the presentation from the Ad Hoc Committeethat reviewed the High School Late Start and the scheduling of a vote on this topic set for June 13, approval of the District Improvement Plan along with the presentation of School Improvement Plans from Ryan Road, Leeds and NHS, and finally, an A+ report on the Technology Plan from Angelo Rota.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,
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.

Sincerely,
Brian L. Salzer

By: Ashley

By: Ashley

Below is a sample of the activities our faculty and staff were engaged in during our two hour delay for professional development this past Wednesday:

NHS: PLC groups continued to work on topics of: scheduling, tiered instruction, data, technology, healthy living, professional development, advisories, homework, crisis intervention in the classroom, and the senior capstone project.

During the school year, NHS faculty used in-service days and faculty meetings to discuss, strategize, and implement new initiatives.  One highlight from a PLC: A member of our newly developed student senate recently surveyed the students about homework and he presented the results to the faculty.  Next, the faculty will use these results to discuss homework effectiveness and practice.

JFK: teachers and ESPs continued their work focused on instruction and assessment in departments.  Special education and reading teachers reviewed AIMSWEB assessments for reading and math.  All other departments met with three agenda items: data analysis, looking at student work, and further development of their subject area common benchmark assessments.

RK Finn Ryan Road: faculty continued their work in their four professional learning communities.  ESP staff continued their collaboration around implementation of Responsive Classroom practices especially at recess and lunch times.

Leeds: Teachers worked on math curriculum and teaching strategies in their PLC groups. They also continued their work with the new evaluation tool.  ESP’s learned from Ms. Bachmann some effective strategies to teach mathematical concepts.

Bridge Street: Craig Murdock and Barbara Black led training for the faculty in the self-assessment practice of the new evaluation model.   Principal Choquette attended CPI (Crisis Prevention Intervention) training at the Mary Lyons Special Education Conference in Deerfield.  Kathy Casale led training of ESP’s on positive behavior interventions.

Jackson Street: Faculty and staff reviewed school safety plans and then spent time in their PLC group reviewing the article, “Handling Seven Interpersonal Challenges with Skill and Grace” from Psychology Today.  The discussion was about effectively navigating difficult conversations with students, parents, and their colleagues.  The conversation was so stimulating that teachers continued the discussion in the days afterward.

As discussed last evening, our budget development continues to consume our meetings and discussions.  We draft and re-draft our numbers daily to review and decide how to best go forward.  Our high quality education in the classroom is our top priority, yet with this budget some of our treasured offerings and effective class sizes will be compromised.  The next draft of our proposed budget will be presented to the School Committee on March 28th and we have an additional two weeks to prepare our final budget proposal for April 11th.

Sincerely,
Brian L. Salzer


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