Northampton school board accepts superintendent's resignation
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO The Northampton School Committee on Thursday accepted the resignation of Superintendent Brian Salzer. He is resigning July 31 to take a job as principal at the JFK International School in Berlin, Germany. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — The School Committee accepted the resignation Thursday of city schools chief Brian Salzer and discussed budget strategies that board members described as heartbreaking and unpalatable.
Salzer, who was hired as superintendent less than two years ago, has announced plans to leave Northampton July 31 to take a job as principal of an international high school in Germany.
The school board voted unanimously to accept his resignation Thursday, though some members expressed regret at having to do so.
“I’ve been so excited by the vision,” said School Committee member Lisa Minnick. “I hope we will be able to find someone who can pick up where Dr. Salzer is leaving off and continue to move us forward.”
Committee members plan to meet with administrative staff to discuss a search process for Salzer’s replacement.
In presenting a menu of proposed cuts to balance a $28.17 million budget for next year —apporximately $130,000 less than the current year’s budget — Salzer was grim.
“Absolutely nobody looks forward to a budget cut or is proud to present a budget like this,” he said.
WIth projected revenues falling short of the budget total by $1,275,000, the school department has proposed cutting the equivalent of 23.5 full-time teaching positions, eliminating busing to Northampton High School, raising athletic fees from $150 to $175 per sport and lunch fees from $2.50 to $2.75, and closing JFK Middle School on the weekends to allow savings on custodial services.
Among the specific cuts proposed at city schools :
∎ eliminating a fourth-grade teacher and reducing to part-time other teachers and aides at Jackson Street School;
∎ reducing funds for teacher training at R.K. Finn Ryan Road School and reducing a gym teacher to part-time;
∎ eliminating a librarian position, a fourth-grade teacher and a special education teacher at Leeds School;
∎ reducing front office staff and special education positions at Bridge Street School;
∎ cutting a world languages teacher, a music teacher and a math support teacher at JFK Middle School; and
∎ cutting an art teacher and reducing art, band, choral, theater and special education teaching positions to part-time at NHS.
Even if all of those strategies are applied, Salzer said the department will still be facing a budget gap of $22,854 for next year.
“We’ll keep working on this,” he said.
The School Committee must submit a final budget to Mayor David J. Narkewicz by April 17. The City Council will vote on a city budget in May.
During the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, several teachers and parents took the microphone to argue against reducing teacher positions.
“The first thing I thought about when I heard about the cuts was not my job but my kids,” said Joanie Payne, a teacher at Jackson Street Elementary School.
Citing the “small moments” during her day when she is able to reach children one-on-one, Payne said, “if class sizes get bigger, those moments aren’t going to happen. We have to protect direct instruction.”
Mary Clark, whose two children attend Jackson Street, said her family would be willing to support a property tax override to raise more funds for the schools. “Please don’t cut teachers. Please don’t cut art and music,” she said.
School board members also voiced concern about the impact of proposed cuts on class sizes and course offerings in city schools.
“This budget is just so completely disheartening,” said Committee member Stephanie Pick. “It’s against all that we strive to provide.”