Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Cloudy
35°
Cloudy
Hi 41° | Lo 24°

Nearly 200 Northampton High students protest budget cuts

  • Northampton High School students protest proposed cuts in the school's art program, Wednesday, on Main Street in Northampton. The cuts are intended to balance the budget for next year.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Northampton High School students protest proposed cuts in the school's art program, Wednesday, on Main Street in Northampton. The cuts are intended to balance the budget for next year.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton High School student and co-organizer of the protest Ana Baustin, 17, on right, sings "Tomorrow" from the play Annie, Wednesday, during a protest held in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Northampton High School student and co-organizer of the protest Ana Baustin, 17, on right, sings "Tomorrow" from the play Annie, Wednesday, during a protest held in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton High School student Norma Haynes, 16, sings a self-written piece about the importance of art, Wednesday, during a student-led protest against proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Northampton High School student Norma Haynes, 16, sings a self-written piece about the importance of art, Wednesday, during a student-led protest against proposed cuts in the school's art program.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton High School Students Ian Shaw, 13 shown holding sign on front left, Gabriel Feldman-Schwartz, 14, center, and Lior David, 15, walk down Main Street, Wednesday, during a planned protest in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Northampton High School Students Ian Shaw, 13 shown holding sign on front left, Gabriel Feldman-Schwartz, 14, center, and Lior David, 15, walk down Main Street, Wednesday, during a planned protest in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A sign hangs outside of the mayor's office, Wednesday, during Northampton High School's protest held in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    A sign hangs outside of the mayor's office, Wednesday, during Northampton High School's protest held in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton High School students Isaac Price Slade, 17, front left, and Emma Halper, 16, front right, stand outside the Mayor's office, Wednesday,  protesting proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Northampton High School students Isaac Price Slade, 17, front left, and Emma Halper, 16, front right, stand outside the Mayor's office, Wednesday, protesting proposed cuts in the school's art program.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton High School students protest proposed cuts in the school's art program, Wednesday, on Main Street in Northampton. The cuts are intended to balance the budget for next year.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Northampton High School student and co-organizer of the protest Ana Baustin, 17, on right, sings "Tomorrow" from the play Annie, Wednesday, during a protest held in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Northampton High School student Norma Haynes, 16, sings a self-written piece about the importance of art, Wednesday, during a student-led protest against proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Northampton High School Students Ian Shaw, 13 shown holding sign on front left, Gabriel Feldman-Schwartz, 14, center, and Lior David, 15, walk down Main Street, Wednesday, during a planned protest in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • A sign hangs outside of the mayor's office, Wednesday, during Northampton High School's protest held in response to proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Northampton High School students Isaac Price Slade, 17, front left, and Emma Halper, 16, front right, stand outside the Mayor's office, Wednesday,  protesting proposed cuts in the school's art program.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

The Rally for Creativity in Northampton Schools began outside the high school at 12:40 p.m., with students making their way down Elm Street to Main Street to assemble on the lawn of the Unitarian Society of Northampton and Florence. Their actions temporarily stopped traffic at some busy intersections.

Students carried signs reading “Save the Arts” and chanted, “Art, art, art,” as they walked along the snow-covered sidewalks.

Car horns honked in response, and at one house on Elm Street a couple stood on their porch and waved an American flag toward the student marchers.

At the rally, with police, elected officials and bystanders looking on, student speakers and performers — including members of NHS band, choral and theater groups — voiced support for arts and electives at the high school.

“We have a culture here of art,” said NHS senior Ana Baustin. “Northampton doesn’t have the money to support us and the School Committee doesn’t have the money to support us. So, we rally to say we don’t want to lose this.”

Faced with an anticipated budget shortfall of $1.25 million for next year, school administrators have proposed cutting up to 30 teaching positions districtwide. At NHS, those cuts could eliminate a full-time art teacher and a part-time technology teacher and reduce band, music, consumer science, engineering and photography teaching positions to part-time — some to as little as 0.34 time.

Noel Lienert, a freshman at NHS and a member of the band, said he was missing biology class to attend Wednesday’s rally.

“It was a pretty easy decision,” said Lienert, who marched downtown carrying his sousaphone. “I’d take band over everything else at the high school. The arts make it awesome.”

Fellow ninth grader and band member Lily Ruderman said she didn’t want her first year at the high school to be “the year the arts left.”

“I hope somehow this will have an effect,” she said, indicating the crowd.

NHS parent Jason Blais, whose daughter is in the high school chorus, was among a number of parents attending the rally.

“It’s great that this event is student-led,” he said. “I’m hopeful we can find a better budget.”

Blais said he wasn’t concerned that his daughter had skipped class to participate in the protest.

“This is about as much of an education as you can get,” he said. “It’s certainly worthwhile.”

NHS Principal Nancy Athas sent an automated phone call Wednesday morning to school families saying the rally was not a school-sponsored event and noting that students were “expected to attend all classes” Wednesday. Students said similar messages were read over the public address system.

High school administrators referred calls and emails from the Gazette seeking comment about Wednesday’s rally to Superintendent Brian Salzer.

Salzer, who was at the rally, said he was proud of the students for voicing their opinions and being willing to accept the consequences of missing class.

“Students feel the effects of the budget most profoundly,” he said. “The adults get into decision-making mode, but the kids are the ones who feel.”

Mayor David J. Narkewicz, who was also observing the rally, struck a similar note.

“I think this is a great show of school spirit and solidarity,” said Narkewicz, whose daughter, Emma, an NHS freshman, was participating in the event. “My message back to the students is that I don’t want to see these cuts happen either. I’m working around the clock on that.”

As the cast of the high school musical “Annie” prepared to take the stage for the rally’s final number, NHS senior Sarah Moss-Horwitz urged her classmates to stay involved in the issues.

“Keep this energy and continue” doing art, she said, “So someday, we can bring back the teachers.”

Legacy Comments4

"Salzer, who was at the rally, said he was proud of the students for voicing their opinions and being willing to accept the consequences of missing class." Really? Does anyone think for a moment that there will be any negative consequences handed out by the school staff for whom the students were demanding more money/jobs?

There is a shining spot in all of this budget talk. It's a beautiful piece of property right in the heart of Northampton. It reported a $17.5 MILLION operating profit last year, yet its 147 acres, valued at over $300 MILLION goes largely untaxed (it does qualify as the City's largest property taxpayer for the share that is taxable, just like the rest of us schlubs). But unlike the rest of Northampton's citizens and businesses, it saves $4 MILLION A YEAR in property taxes on their lovely grounds and buildings that are not taxed - the essential turf playing field closed to the public, the equestrian barn, the Gothic dorms and Victorian offices etc. This golden place my friend, is Smith College. And I think it's high time to update those arcane laws that exempted wealthy country club colleges from paying taxes so that our students can have art, our city will have adequate services for veterans and seniors and the police and fire who protect and serve everyone here, including the community on the golden hill. And so the rest of us schlubs won't have to keep voting in overrides to pay for those who don't.

Why stop with Smith? Why not tax all private educational and religious facilities. How many churches are sitting on valuable, untaxed property?

As a graduate of NHS, I wouldn't have made it through high school without my classes in the arts: band, art, music. I received an undergrad and graduate degree in fine arts. I now make a living in the arts. The fact that, in this age, arts classes are still not as important as any other class disappoints and saddens me. Instead of targeting one specific area deemed "less important" by ignorant administrators or school boards, if cuts are to be made, they should be equal across all areas. Every subject is important to students. And to some students, the arts are even more important: cutting them may be cutting their chance at success in the future.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.