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Busing cuts at Northampton High School cited as key impact of override vote

  • Susan Norton, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday during a phone bank held at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Susan Norton, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday during a phone bank held at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Claire Williams, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday during a phone bank held at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Claire Williams, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday during a phone bank held at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • With schools standing to lose the most with the outcome of the Proposition 2½ override vote Tuesday, many volunteers for the Yes!Northampton campaign are parents or others connected to the schools. Here, Ward 4 City Councilor Pamela Schwartz, a parent of three Northampton schools students, makes calls beside volunteers Stephanie Pick, school committee member,  background left, and Claire Williams at a phone bank at Goggins Real Estate in Florence on Tuesday.<br/><br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    With schools standing to lose the most with the outcome of the Proposition 2½ override vote Tuesday, many volunteers for the Yes!Northampton campaign are parents or others connected to the schools. Here, Ward 4 City Councilor Pamela Schwartz, a parent of three Northampton schools students, makes calls beside volunteers Stephanie Pick, school committee member, background left, and Claire Williams at a phone bank at Goggins Real Estate in Florence on Tuesday.


    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Monica Green, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday from a phone bank at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Monica Green, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday from a phone bank at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.




    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Susan Norton, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday during a phone bank held at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Claire Williams, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday during a phone bank held at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • With schools standing to lose the most with the outcome of the Proposition 2½ override vote Tuesday, many volunteers for the Yes!Northampton campaign are parents or others connected to the schools. Here, Ward 4 City Councilor Pamela Schwartz, a parent of three Northampton schools students, makes calls beside volunteers Stephanie Pick, school committee member,  background left, and Claire Williams at a phone bank at Goggins Real Estate in Florence on Tuesday.<br/><br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Monica Green, a volunteer for Yes!Northampton, makes a call Tuesday from a phone bank at Goggins Real Estate in Florence.<br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Diaz, who has been riding the bus to school since she was in kindergarten, said she’s not sure how she will get from her home in Florence Heights to the high school more than a mile away if busing cuts made to balance this year’s $28.61 million schools budget remain in place.

“My mom goes to school in Greenfield in the mornings so I have no transportation other than the bus,” she said. “To walk it’s about a half-hour and there are a lot of hills.”

Administrators say the transportation cuts — which will affect 242 of the high school’s 905 students — top the list of items to be restored if city voters approve the $2.5 million override measure in Tuesday’s special election. Of that amount, $1 million is proposed for the schools.

Other items school leaders aim to bring back if the override passes are associate principal positions eliminated at the high school and JFK Middle School, and some of the 14 full-time teaching positions cut from the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Most of those positions are in art, music and other electives at the middle and high school.

School Committee member Downey Meyer said he worries about the long-term impact of such reductions.

“Years ago, we used to have music in the elementary schools,” he said. “When things go away, they don’t come back.”

If approved, the override would permanently add 79 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in Northampton, or $235 to the annual tax bill for a single family home valued at the average of $297,323.

School Committee Vice Chairman Edward Zuchowski said final decisions have not been made about which school positions or how many will be restored if voters back the override.

That discussion will take place at a school board meeting set for 7:15 p.m. Thursday at JFK, two days after the election.

What is known, Zuchowski said, is what will happen on the school side if the measure fails at the ballot.

“Those cuts have already been done,” he said. “The layoff notices have gone out, the courses have been slashed. There will be less teachers in the classroom next year.”

The School Committee approved a budget in April containing $773,403 in cuts to balance the bottom line.

Those steps reduced the director of academic effectiveness position to part time, eliminated a special education teacher at Jackson Street School, a library position at Leeds School, a music teacher at JFK and further reduced the hours for full- or part-time art, band, music, theater, computer science and technology teaching positions at NHS.

Since then, an additional $250,000 in cuts have been approved, including two associate principal positions and a custodial position — bringing the total number of full-time positions cut to 17.8 for the coming school year. The school committee rejected the idea of extending busing cuts to middle school students to help make up the added shortfall.

The budget also calls for raising school lunch fees from $2.50 to $2.75 and athletic fees from $150 to $175 per sport this fall.

Ward 7 City Councilor Eugene A. Tacy, an override opponent, believes the schools need to revamp priorities for cuts by restoring busing and arts programs and eliminating advanced math and foreign language classes at NHS.

“I don’t think you have to be fluent in a foreign language in high school,” he said. “And I don’t think you have to be teaching math classes they could take at community college.”

Instead, Tacy has called for “zero based budgeting” of the schools, which he described as starting from zero and building a budget based first on what the state requires the public schools to provide.

Other override opponents say the accounts of school cuts are scare tactics — a way to make those who oppose the measure appear as though they don’t care about education.

“Stop using students as a political ploy,” Florence resident Robert Gould wrote in a recent letter to the Gazette.

School leaders say the state has been adding requirements without offering added funding in recent years, including for special education services, a new teacher evaluation system and standardized testing. That leaves fewer options for balancing the budget.

“I wish there was a way we could address the budget without cutting teachers, but the problem is public education is mostly people,” Meyer said. “People will also say, ‘Well, there are lots of middle managers in the School Department.’ But when I walk into the superintendent’s office, I don’t see a lot of people. There was a time when that office was full.”

Others say the cumulative effect of budget cuts in recent years act as a hidden cost to the schools.

“Every year we have to make cuts it’s worse than the year before. We’re making cuts post-cuts,” said veteran School Committee member Stephanie Pick. “Asking our teachers do more with less and having more kids in front of them, that’s not the direction we want to go with our staff.”

At Jackson Street Elementary School, Principal Gwen Agna said some class sizes are already above 20 students.

“We don’t have any librarians left in the elementary schools or aides on the playground and there have been significant cuts to our supplies budget,” she said.

If the override fails, Agna said the school’s fifth grade will have nearly 30 students in each class next fall.

“I feel the time to really get kids to engage in school is in the younger grades,” she said. “Then we might not have to be as concerned when they are older and have to go into a larger classroom.”

At JFK, Principal Lesley Wilson said reducing arts and music positions will have a “significant impact” on elective offerings for middle school students next year.

“Our students take art and music in all three years. But now, they might have access to only two,” she said.

Wilson said teachers and parents at her school are also concerned about not filling the associate principal position, which was created to help manage special education services at JFK.

At the high school, veteran theater teacher Stephen Eldredge said he and colleagues whose positions have been reduced are still trying to figure out how to manage the fall schedule.

“It’s very difficult,” said Eldredge, whose hours have been cut by 20 percent. “If I’m part time, I don’t see myself directing and producing a fall production. There may not be a musical next spring.”

If the budget remains as is, Eldredge, who has taught at NHS for eight years, said he and other teachers with reduced hours likely will have to seek other work.

“I’m wondering how long I can last,” he said.

Incoming NHS Principal Bryan Lombardi said teachers are wrestling with the anticipated effects of busing cuts on student attendance.

“It’s a huge concern,” he said. “We’re having a conversation now about how we will work with a population whose attendance is impacted.”

Diaz, who is enrolled in the Alternative Learning Program at NHS, said her attendance has been good this year and she doesn’t want that to change because she may lack a ride to school in the fall.

“We have buses for a reason,” said Diaz, 16. “I feel like that’s a need and a purpose of the school. Cutting busing isn’t fair to the students.”

Related

Area lawmakers say local aid outlook improving

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — As city residents head to the polls Tuesday to vote on a $2.5 million Proposition 2½ override, many are looking to state lawmakers for answers to a decade-long trend of inadequate local aid from the state. Several speakers at an override forum held at the Bridge Street School Wednesday, including Mayor David J. Narkewicz, said the city’s precarious …

Lobbying on override question goes down to the wire

Friday, June 28, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — Odds are good if you live in Northampton and have a phone, Yes!Northampton volunteers have tried to call at some point in the last several weeks. They’ve canvassed neighborhoods, talked to homeowners or dropped off fliers — all in an effort to make their case for a yes vote on Tuesday’s $2.5 million Proposition 2½ override request. While …

Legacy Comments19

While I am voting yes for the over ride, I think busing should be cut, it is another freebie for people who already get a free ride. I have to pay already for my son to take the bus. Smith Voke still provides free busing to all of the Northampton students who are not close to the school.

I sincerely hope we are looking at creative solutions for busing. We desperately need someone at the helm to look at fresh, effective and inexpensive means to get our kids to school. Combing the JFK and NHS students seems like a terrific solution to fill the half empty buses, scoop up more students and save fuel. Submitting that now before the contracts are signed seems key. Let's keep some money for special ed and teachers!

So by making the restoration of high school bussing the top priority for override funds, the school administrators are essentially saying they are choosing busses over teachers. The cost of bussing has skyrocketed, which is why it was cut and why Salzer said it wouldn't be restored even with the override. Why bussing is being made the top priority now, and first mentioned in the press as such just three days before the override vote, is alarming. People need to know what they're voting for. I was going to vote for the override, but not if it means cutting teachers for busses. I think we need a follow-up article clarifying what we can fund and can't if the override passes.

Why not charge more for parking at the high school? If a family or kids can afford a car/gas to drive individually to school, they could chip in a more to the overall transportation system. Perhaps more kids would make use of the high school bus. Also, sell the bus passes on a monthly basis, not annual.

Written like a true liberal. If someone can afford to drive their own car to school instead of taking a bus seat away from someone else, let's charge them more so your kids can ride for free! I am quite sure there are others less fortunate than you are financially, lets charge you more so we can give it to them!

The high school buses are partially empty. I was trying to think of a small way to make riding the bus more attractive, so that more people would ride it, so that the overall money coming in for busing would be higher. The parking for the year costs almost nothing. The bus pass costs $300/year. A full bus of kids is better environmentally than a half-full bus and 30 car trips.Where do you see that I was asking anyone to pay for my child? This would be parents paying more, instead of asking the town for more sheesh.

Do the students/parents have to pay out of pocket $300/yr to ride the school bus? I am asking because I saw in the budget a line item stating that if bussing is eliminated it will save $70,000. When divided by the amount of students at NHS who take the bus (242) that comes to approx $300 per student taking the bus.

(page 127 of fiscal year 2014 proposed budget)

The proposed FY14 Northampton budget includes, among other cuts to our schools, the elimination of busing for Northampton High School students. If the override passes on Tuesday, high school busing is among the service and staff cuts that the School Committee will have the ability to restore with the additional revenues provided. Mayor David Narkewicz Chair, Northampton School Committee

Thanks for writing Mayor Narkewicz. Why was busing represented as something that was being cut either way in previous articles?

I don't know why that was represented. The School Committee, not the Superintendent, has final authority over NPS budgetary choices. We have not taken up what services and staff will be restored if an override passes. There is a special meeting scheduled for Thursday should the override pass. Under that scenario, the Superintendent and Administrative Leadership Team (ALT) would present recommended restorations and the School Committee will review and vote its final decision.

But now that they are starting later, they will have more time to walk to school.

Did Barbara Solow write that god-awful misleading headline? NO ONE I know has said, (and I quote), "Busing Cuts at Northampton High School Cited as Key Impact of Override Vote." NO ONE has said this except Barbara Solow.

Is Tacy being quoted properly here? Because I find it hard to believe he seriously thinks we shouldn't bother with foreign languages or advanced math at the high school. If that is what he really believes, though, could somebody PLEASE run against him so we can get this moron off our city council?

Alissa Klein, a wonderful person, is running against Tacy. http://www.votealisa.com/

...what is going on? Two articles say that busing will not be available for the high school even if the override passes...now it is the "key impact?" ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Ernie Brill, a retired Northampton High School English teacher; questioned the practicality of cutting busing to the high school, WHICH OFFICIALS HAVE SAID WILL BE DONE WITHOUT THE OVERRIDE. School superintendent Brian Salzer said that the approximately 900 high school students, 242 take the bus." Quote taken from the Thursday June 20th article "Override forum draws mixed commentary." http://www.gazettenet.com/search/7036076-95/voters-sound-off-on-proposed-25-million-tax-override-at-northampton-forum _----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "In an interview Monday, Salzer said “it seems highly unlikely” that busing services could be restored to the high school even if the override passes because of the added cost of the new bus contract. “We still need to bring back teachers and course offerings,” he said." http://www.gazettenet.com/search/6945254-95/bus-contract-bids-spell-budget-cuts-for-northampton-schools

Seriously, can someone who knows what is going on explain this issue to me? Is busing being suspended either way? If so, why is this headline being used?

This article contradicts what was quoted and printed in the Gazette on June 10th. According to the superintendent, even if the override passes, it is highly unlikely that busing to the high school will be restored. This article is a last ditch effort to use those "scare tactics" so many people are talking about. Why doesn't this article mention that the bid for the K-8 busing contract came in $225,000 more than expected? Instead, the busing cuts are now being blamed on the override. If you are going to print something like this, you need to refer to all of the facts. "In an interview Monday, Salzer said “it seems highly unlikely” that busing services could be restored to the high school even if the override passes because of the added cost of the new bus contract. “We still need to bring back teachers and course offerings,” he said." http://www.gazettenet.com/search/6945254-95/bus-contract-bids-spell-budget-cuts-for-northampton-schools

I am hoping Barbara Solow can get to the bottom of this.

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