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Two more Northampton school administrators leaving

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>Leeds School principal Joseph Smith will resign June 30 to seek other opportunities in the field of education .

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
    Leeds School principal Joseph Smith will resign June 30 to seek other opportunities in the field of education .

  • Northampton High School principal Nancy Athas has announced that she will retire June 30.

    Northampton High School principal Nancy Athas has announced that she will retire June 30.

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>Leeds School principal Joseph Smith will resign June 30 to seek other opportunities in the field of education .
  • Northampton High School principal Nancy Athas has announced that she will retire June 30.

That news brings to four the number of school administrators who will depart this summer. Superintendent Brian Salzer is resigning July 31 for a job as principal of an international high school in Germany. R.K. Finn Ryan Road School Principal Margaret Riddle is retiring at the end of the school year.

Michael Diemand, who has been director of maintenance for the city schools for 38 years, announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of June.

Salzer said having so many administrative positions open at once is “an unfortunate coincidence. It’s hard to lose quality leadership and that’s what we have here.”

Salzer said he will chair the search committee for Riddle’s replacement while other city school administrators will handle the other two principal searches. The administrative jobs will be posted Thursday on a national education jobs website.

The search process for Salzer’s replacement is on the agenda for Thursday’s school board meeting at 7:15 p.m. at JFK Middle School.

Athas, a Holyoke resident who has been principal of NHS since 2008, said she has been thinking about retiring for some time.

“When you’ve worked in education as long as I have, it becomes your identity and it’s hard to let go,” Athas said. “But it’s time to go in a direction I’ve worked hard to get to.”

A former high school principal in Greenfield, assistant principal in West Springfield and a history teacher in Holyoke, Athas said her decision is not related to Salzer’s leaving, or the difficult budget picture facing the city schools.

“I’ve been fortunate to land in a community that values education,” said Athas, who is awaiting the birth of her seventh grandchild. “I’ve been privileged to work with such an excellent staff. And I’m very proud of our students.”

Ben Taglieri, an NHS history teacher and vice president of the Northampton Association of School Employees, said he and other teachers are sad to see Athas go.

“She’s been a really good supportive principal for a lot of years,” said Taglieri, a nine-year veteran at NHS. “This school remains a good school despite years of terrible budgets. I think preserving what we have this long has been her biggest accomplishment.”

Smith, who served as assistant principal of Crocker Farm School in Amherst before being hired as principal of Leeds in 2010, said he is leaving to seek other opportunities in the education field.

“I’ve decided to look for a different challenge,” said Smith, who also worked as a math and reading teacher at Marks Meadow Elementary School in Amherst and a special education teacher in the Albany, N.Y., public schools.

“Leeds is in a good place and I’m ready to pass the baton,” he said.

Smith, who lives in Easthampton, cited the new partnership between Leeds and the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech and new early-morning tutoring in math and reading as among his recent accomplishments as principal.

“This has been a great experience at Leeds,” he added. “The focus now is to round out this year successfully.”

At-large School Committee member Michael Flynn said while the transition to new school leadership will be challenging, “it’s also an opportunity to have a fresh look at things. It might be what we need to move ahead.”

Flynn echoed comments made by all of the departing administrators that their decisions are unrelated to the budget situation in Northampton.

“In all my years on the board we’ve never had a good budget,” Flynn said. “That’s not the cause.”

Municipal records show Athas earns $99,720 annually as NHS principal; Smith earns $85,531.

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