Northampton School officials approve elementary school revamp


Published: 3/24/2017 12:00:25 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Students in the city’s elementary schools will see a major shift in the way they are taught in the coming academic year.

The School Committee on Thursday unanimously approved Superintendent John Provost’s budget plan, which reduces educational support positions, adds special education teachers and moves students receiving special education services into the mainstream. The approved budget for the coming fiscal year amounts to $28,838,966.

The overhaul addresses what many are calling “our high needs future.” The proposal came, Provost said, because the high needs population jumped 49 percent over the last three years.

And students separated from traditional classrooms are disproportionately male students, students of color and students on reduced lunch.

Provost adjusted his plan in the past month based on public input, including a final tweak detailed during Thursday’s meeting.

“We’ll be able to make these changes without laying off any ESPs,” Provost told the Gazette.

The approved plan eliminates 19 educational support positions, down from the 32 originally proposed. In turn, the district is able to add 5.5 special education teachers and one general education teacher. With an eye to minimizing layoffs, the plan retains 14 of the 19 ESP positions as building-based subs who keep their pay and benefits. Because several ESPs have recently resigned or retired, he said, the district does not need to lay any of them off. Still, the plan eliminates two elementary school librarians.

Member resigns

Ward 6 School Committee member Tom Baird, one of the committee’s newest members, resigned during Thursday’s meeting. He said professional changes led to the decision, and the resignation is effective March 31.

“I started a new job last July, which  increased my already lengthy commute,” he said in a statement. “In order to have a better work and family balance, we are moving to Connecticut. It has been my honor to serve on the Northampton School Committee and I wish you all the best.” 

Baird was elected in November 2015. The city charter states the City Council and School Committee must jointly appoint someone to fill the position until the fall election. 

Amanda Drane can be contacted at 

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