Jessica Lavallee: Strive for more than ‘average’

  • R.K. Finn Ryan Road School kindergarten teacher Michelle Smiarowski and about 50 other parents, teachers, students and pre-schoolers gathered before the start of the school day on Thursday, March 21, 2019, to show support for the Education Promise Act now before the state legislature. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 5/14/2019 10:11:38 AM

There has been a lot of discussion about closing the gap between the wages and salaries earned by educators in Northampton and other districts within western Massachusetts. We have been compared to other districts, and proposals have been presented to try and close the gap between the average salaries and wages in other districts and Northampton.

I want to point out that if this does happen as proposed, this will still put us behind other districts. The question that I raise to you isn’t about money, although that is an important factor. What I really want you to think about is the idea that Northampton is average. In my opinion, average is not a word that I would use to describe Northampton’s educators and students. I believe we are anything but average, which is why I work here and why I school choice, my kids, here!

As a district, we win quiz bowl and get our students into Ivy League schools, so if you want average, you are not supporting the right community. If as a superintendent, mayor or School Committee member your expectation is average, then I ask you why? Our students and educators are not the status quo, and both deserve more from all of you.

I want to list out for you some of the ways Northampton is above average: In Northampton, you can drive by one of the elementary, middle or high school parking lots well after dismissal, and they are still packed with cars; those cars belong to educators that are staying well after their contracted time to support students in many different ways, including one-on-one tutoring, SAT support and coaching. We have educators who have exceptional credentials and continue to learn and grow with their students modeling lifelong learning through professional development, done on their own time with their own money. We have excellent enrichment programs, which are driven by teachers seeking new opportunities for their students to engage in, in lifelong learning including the cooking program at Bridge Street school, artist-in-residence programs across the district and our garden program, which other districts have adopted. Our curriculum, which is mostly written by our teaching staff, sets us apart.

The commitment that our students and faculty devote to the arts and political activism rises above others. So I ask you again, is Northampton average? Is this really what we should be striving for?

Jessica Lavallee
Hatfield


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