From the Superintendent's Blog

NORTHAMPTON - From the blog of NPS Superintendent Brian Salzer:

As we approach summer vacation, I realize many of you will engage in professional development work, curriculum writing, journal reading, and preparing materials for next school year. Before I wish you a well-deserved summer break, I want to take a few moments to share my thoughts on the close of this, my first school year as your superintendent.

As you know, one of my goals for this year was to increase communication and information sharing within our system. Though the blog is an effective tool to report Weekly Musings, school highlights, stories of the month, there really is no substitute for face to face conversations. These conversations during my Entry Plan meetings, the many informal conversations in the hallways, and the end of year listening sessions have been my favorite part of learning about you and your work in our schools.

The recent listening sessions brought to mind the following highlights from this year:

Reader’s Workshop and Writer’s Workshop are making a big improvement in Literacy development. Students are benefiting from “Just Right Books,” teachers (especially new teachers) value the PD and training sessions
Early interventions in remedial reading have been highly effective in supporting student learning and preventing referrals for special education
Math recovery at JSS and morning math tutoring at Leeds are very successful interventions
Faculty and staff reported appreciating my thoughtful, patient, and systematic approach to learning about the people and the system
People feel decisions are made ethically and transparently
The atmosphere has changed because of the level of communication and people are genuinely hopeful: along with this, the general image of our schools has improved
We love the triathlon! It is a great community building idea that is generating a lot excitement – more ideas like this are welcomed
The small amount of new technology equipment was greatly appreciated and used for instruction – Rob Adams’ work with teachers is truly appreciated
Reading Interventionists were critical in supporting the individual student BASS testing
Responsive Classroom initiatives continue to be very effective
Ryan Road’s “New teacher/new student” welcoming committee had a wonderful impact
Commitment to small class sizes continues to be greatly appreciated
Ted Watts’ work with the vernal pool learning walks is a fascinating learning experience for kids and teachers
Great level of communication overall, yet this needs to remain a focus for all of us
The PD day where we had round table discussions across the district was great and very effective
Much appreciation for the PTO support all around: reimbursements for materials, small grants, and their general positive presence in our schools
Continue to embrace and value all families and community members
Love the mindfulness and meditation idea for staff and students and would like to consider this district wide

And brought the following recommendations for next year:

More technology and staffing to teach us how to use it
More people would like to be involved with the summer training program and the one-day fall and spring workshops at Teacher’s College on Reader’s/ Writer’s Workshop
Let’s try to move out of Groupwise and try a new communication system such as google apps
Continue to work to improve the school food program in quality and choices and improve the collection process of school lunch fees
Increase reading support at the elementary schools when possible: concern for the support of early readers and interventions
Continue to provide more programs to support students with disabilities and keep them in our schools; create a program or brochure to describe and promote our district programs
Continue to unify the elementary schools, teachers, curriculum, and materials
Elementary report cards need alignment to the standards
Still need a unified program for spelling and vocabulary – “Words Their Way” materials are needed for all schools
Curriculum work set for this summer with Math and ELA by grade level will have a positive impact next year
Develop and renew committees for Curriculum and PD
PreK-12 Science curriculum should be our next focus and we should include more labs
A concern whether we are going to use an “either/or” approach with Tools of the Mind and Reader’s Workshop in Kindergarten both are effective strategies
More funding for school materials
After school programs and clubs need additional transportation to be more equitable and effective in bringing in the disenfranchised
Try to speed up the SPED eval process particularly with bilingual students in need of services
SPED team should meet as a team more to understand vision, direction of PD, and to learn assistive technology
Consider a substitute teacher orientation/training program and handbook

I want to thank everyone for their hard work all year long. Our students are in good hands. In addition, many of you have gone out of your way to make me feel like a welcomed part of our community and I truly appreciate your acceptance.

Our students’ learning is our number one priority and the focus of the work we do each and every day. When we return in September, it will take our combined effort to challenge our students to continue to learn, achieve, and grow academically. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone reunite on August 29th for Convocation at the High School at 8:30 a.m. for refreshments and 9:00 for the Kick Off!


Brian L. Salzer, Ed.S.
Northampton Public Schools