Friday, January 8, 2010

The problem with a delayed lead.

So my friend and fellow blogger/town official Catherine Sanderson is experiencing a bit of a backlash from today's Amherst Bulletin column invoking the still sensitive specter of 9/11 and the immediate aftermath to make a valid point about questioning authority and current paradigms concerning revered institutions. And in the People's Republic of Amherst, none are more revered than the public schools.

I for one took no offense at the 9/11 comparison to our "little Peyton Place" and the "Harper Valley hypocrites." I just thought it was dead wood that detracted from their admirable main point. This is after all Amherst--so I can't blame her for sucking up to the average Bulletin opinion page reader by opening with Anti-Bush sentiment.

But the "appalled" response by California transplant Baer Tierkel on an Amherst Town Meeting listserve he founded was a tad over the top. Mr. Tierkel was one of the main proponents of the "Amherst Plan" Override that failed in 2007. Disgruntled, he took both his children out of the venerable Amherst public schools dividing them between a Charter School and a Private operations. Although one has now returned. So I guess he's entitled to use the term "our schools."

Tierkel doesn't agree with the "racist accusation" but "fully agree with people's right to criticize you." Hmm...So if Anonymous Nitwits call her a "dumb bitch", would that be just fine because it's their Neanderthal way of criticizing her???

As those Southern California surfer dudes would say Mr. Tierkel, "lighten up."


Catherine & Steve

I was appalled at your use of the death of thousands of people as a
comparison point, in any way, to our schools. As someone who knew peoplekilled in 911 and as the child of a military family who has given a great deal to our country, I'm just appalled at your using their sacrifice to further your agenda.

Additionally, I feel that you do not have a fundamental understanding of theimpact of your tone on your ability to accomplish your goals in our schools.

You seem to have no concern for the collateral damage you cause with yourstatements and the impact that has on creating more effective and efficientpublic education in Amherst.

Your column also seems to indicate that you are above criticism. I would
guess that I agree with 70% of your positions, yet I fully believe that in a
democracy it is ok for people to question and criticize your approach and
your positions. Indeed that seems to be what you are defending - your rightto question. In fact as you say, we need an unfettered debate and hardquestions need to be asked. It seems to me that there are people asking those questions of you and criticizing you. And you don't like it.

Someone calling a position of yours 'racist' is not challenging your right
to ask questions. It is someone criticizing your position. As is their
right in a truly open debate. You might not like it, but that's the way
debate works. I don't agree with the 'racist' accusation, but I fully agree
with people's right to criticize you. Honestly, I haven't talked to anyone
who questions your right to engage in debate or ask questions. I've talked
with a lot of people that don't agree with you and your approach.

I also don't understand why you would waste column space (5 of 7 paragraphs)writing about yourselves, rather than the issues.

As always, I thank and applaud your work for our schools. I just wish you
take a different approach than using a tragedy of the death of lots of folks
as a way to leverage your work for our schools.



Today's offending school Bulletin Column


Anonymous said...

Baer Tierkel, fck you.

Anonymous said...

Larry, I gotta do all your work all the time or what old man?

I even gotta motivate you?

You must've been a slob as a kid.

Anonymous said...

Baer made sure to post his diatribe to his entire town meeting list, rather than to Catherine Sanderson personally.

In short: it's not a letter, it's a performance.

The actual substance of the column gets so badly ignored in his rant, that it's apparent that there's something deeply personal going on here: perhaps about Mark's Meadow, perhaps about the override, and Ms. Sanderson's reservations about it.

The Tierkel Bertrand Churchill political party in town has developed a certain conformism about it in recent years. And, if you challenge their party line, they tend to slap you around. They are easily offended.

My sense is that Ms. Sanderson has tapped into some fairly subterranean undercurrents of unhappiness about the Amherst schools in the populace out there. These are folks who don't want to be labelled publicly as racist or elitist. They just want kids, theirs and their neighbors, to get a good education and they're unsure whether that's happening. And they don't have the thick skin of Larry Kelley and Catherine Sanderson.

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, what would this blog be without Cowardly, Anon, (foul mouth) Nitwits?

LarryK4 said...

Yes Mr. Morse, the "Amherst Center" folks can be pretty unforgiving.

And at this point they want to cover Andy's ass since he was at the helm during the Override failure, the purchase of unneeded modular classrooms for Marks Meadow and the last ludicrous contract with the all powerful teachers union (where he gave away the store.)

Anonymous said...

"all powerful teachers union (where he gave away the store.)"

Blah blah blah blah blah...

Who is making all the money in this town and why, Larry? Anyone you know? Hmm?

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Tierkel thinks that labelling a line of argument or inquiry "racist" is actually fair game. I don't know where he thinks that that would be ok or productive.

And he decided to simply ignore the various discussions she and Steve identified that they believe are being suppressed, as if they were never mentioned in the column, and started in on her personally.

If Steve and Catherine are guilty of anything in the column, it's being naive to think that there would be a freer exchange of ideas here or in any academic community than in some other town.

Actually, I think that the name-calling and labeling in order to shut down debate is simply more sophisticated here.

He wouldn't have posted that Email on his group list unless he thought that others from that list were going to pile on her with him. It's schoolyard stuff.

Here, as on other occasions, we have to argue hard to promote the free exchange of ideas, because it can't be taken for granted. Yes, even here.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

"Yeah, what would this blog be without Cowardly, Anon, (foul mouth) Nitwits?"

And you know just how true it is.

Oh, I'm an anon, but I get things done... becuase I'm WAYYYY outside the outside. Know what I mean, sugar hips?

Anonymous said...

"The Tierkel Bertrand Churchill political party in town has developed a certain conformism about it in recent years. And, if you challenge their party line, they tend to slap you around. They are easily offended."

Sniff sniff sniff...Wow, corruption really does have an odor of shit.

Oh, sorry Larry, I used a bad word again.

I bid you peace.

Anonymous said...

Tierkel's moral outrage is cover for any number of motivations but primarily it's meant to disempower Sanderson and Rivkin.

It's hard to beat competence with faux moral outrage but for some reason all the smart people in Amherst fail to see it for what it is. They're conditioned to be responsive to it.

Rich Morse peels back the layers better than anyone.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marcy Sala said...

"Tierkel's...motivations...meant to disempower Sanderson and Rivkin."

Why would he want to disempower candidates that he endorsed and worked to get elected? ...with his big political machine no less! The letter sounds to me more like an honest expression of disagreement, not even so much with their opinions, but with their manner of expressing or framing them: as in tearing down former school committee members and their positions on various issues (as a way to differentiate and elevate their own), drawing analogies to the blind patriotism mentality of the Bush/Cheney years (brought on by genuine tragedy and systematic fear mongering--of which I see neither of in this situation).

I had a similar reaction to Baer's when I first read the editorial. There was a substantive argument that got lost amidst the overly dramatic and personalized landscape within which they tried to frame it. The rhetoric related to school issues in this town has gotten a bit over the top, in general. And I include in that assessment, accusations made of being racist and elitist. Why do we need to attack and/or over-personalize our own and others' opinions to such a degree? Why do we need to operate from such entrenched little camps of superior thinking? Question what you need to question. Assert what you need to assert. But don't belittle and begrudge those of us who may not be in total agreement. There is a lot of nuance in the differences that exist in educational theory and practice. Maybe if we tune in to those places, rather than rejecting them outright, we could get some place.

LarryK4 said...

Because Marcy, the two candidates--Rivkin and Sanderson--did not live up to Mr. Tierkel's expectations after he used his machine to get them elected.

Marcy said...

I guess I see some pretty large disparity Larry, between disagreeing and wanting to disempower. But I guess that speaks to my larger point (which you've chosen to ignore) about our discomfort as a community with differences of opinion.

LarryK4 said...

Oh, I think Mr. Morse covered that point pretty well.

After twenty five years of this I know all too well that academic Amherst purports to welcome voices from the margin but, in fact, despises them.

And it's not "discomfort" at all, it really is an orchestrated attempt to marginalize.

Anonymous said...

I guess this comes down to the question as to whether you can "make nice" and get anything done around here.

We have a system of government that is nearly impossible to wrestle to the ground, not unlike our federal government.

We have full-time extremely well-paid appointed officials reporting to part-time volunteer elected officials, with jobs and other obligations, with differing understanding of their oversight function over the various arms of government. Some would say that the volunteers are overmatched in this regard.

And we have a highly educated citizenry extremely skilled in the rhetoric of outrage.

Northampton has a mayor to deal with a similarly skilled population; we don't.

Good luck to those interested in progress. I think that the Mark's Meadow gauntlet for SC followed by the redistricting gauntlet has been instructive. I think that an elected official with a commitment to get anything done has to be stubbornly provocative in that environment. All our 1960's boomer notions of forming a circle and getting to consensus needs to go in the junkheap. We need something more than love here.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Of course, the voices from the margin that I would welcome include:

1) Mr. Levasseur;
2) Eve Ensler and "Vagina Monologues", which many people think sheds light on the whole experience of sexual abuse, dirty words and all;
3) People who believe that the American flag is a symbol of oppression;
4) Mr. Kelley's efforts, however misguided some may think them, to play "government watchdog", with or without picture-taking from the public way.

Let it all in, with safeguards for individual parents to say "no" for their children. This blog, for example, should be rated PG-13.

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

Well I'm with ya on three out of four. As you well know, there are limits to free speech: you can't yell "Republican" in an Amherst movie theater.

Washed up (like Anne Awad) Eve Ensler and her one-trick-pony "artistic" effort Vagina Monologues is perfectly fine as long as you do not allow tween girls to perform it on the public dime (and Amherst Regional High School was the ONLY one to allow in 2004.)

Anonymous said...

A tween is a child between the ages of 8 and 12 years old. That is not a high school student now is it?

Realist said...

Speaking as someone who grew up in Amherst, lived in Amherst, and worked in Amherst for many, many years, I will say this: Amherst has lost its heart. That, in a nutshell, is a big part of the problem now as we wrestle with all of these issues. We've become a town of big-brained, know-it-all, CYA-motivated folks who would rather engage in a debate with a thousand people than get down in the dirt and truly help just one struggling person. Oh, we will TALK about helping people and/or changing dynamics within the Town until the cows come home, but when the rubber hits the road & we need to actually DO something bold & courageous, well...that's when we start forming committees, discussion groups, focus groups, blue ribbon panels, etc., etc. so we can hide behind those groups and abdicate our individual responsibility as human beings and citizens of this once-great town. The people with any real power seem more concerned with dodging & ducking the inevitable sniper fire from the know-it-alls on the sidelines than being real leaders with a vision AND the backbone to pursue that vision. The only exceptions I've seen to this in recent years are Catherine Sanderson and, at times, Stephanie O'Keeffe. What a shame.

I agree with Rich Morse: it's time for REAL leaders to step forward & for our public discourse to return to a civil level that focuses on the isues at hand - and SOLVING those issues - rather than posing & posturing for the Peanut Gallery & trying to score "points" with clever (and empty) rhetoric. All of our eyes have to be cast FORWARD - to the extremely choppy waters ahead for our town - and NOT to the sides, where the self-important types with an opinion on everything seek to slow us down. Let's get to work!!!

Anonymous said...

The very absolute crystal clear center of the problem in Amherst is expalined right here, right now, in this thread.

Larry, I've bashed your ass hard but man oh man, 5 stars for you and all the others contributing to this discussion.

Wonderful. Nice work!

Anonymous said...

So Larry, let's get doen to brass tacks. No override and no cutting police or fire depts. So, tell me where you would make the cuts? Millions in cuts.

Anonymous said...


It's actually more tragic than that. It's not about the people elected to government. It's the system that we've set up and maintained through the Charter fight. It's self-defeating.

There's nothing wrong with Irv Rhodes, Catherine Sanderson, Steve Rivkin, and Andy Churchill. Even Kathleen Anderson with her insistence on representing only a portion of her constituency is not the problem. The entire Select Board is made up of perfectly fine people (yes, including Mr. Weiss, who has ever so slightly migrated to the political center in town), who would be terrific somewhere else. But we've put them in a no-win situation.

Why? Because the unhappiness reflected on this blog is NOT reflected at the polls. Which leads me to conclude that the masses in Amherst are satisfied with the status quo in high definiton. They know that Town Meeting, which they pay limited attention to, will maintain that status quo, come hell or high water. Otherwise, they can ride herd on government at the override votes and then they are free to slumber on.

For people interested in change, it's a tragedy. But for people interested in no change, it's great. We're getting what the slumbering majority wants.

This is why, as a cost cutting measure, the Mark's Meadow episode was so extraordinary. The School Committee unanimously bucked the tide. So you drive Ms. Sanderson and Ms. Rivkin out of office at your peril. It takes intestinal fortitude to accomplish anything, and they got the other 3 members to come along. But it was heavy lifting, and will not be repeated often, NOT in the absence of full-time elected political leadership.

Rich Morse

Rick said...

I guess people here don’t like Baer much. He’s a friend, a good guy and doing a lot to try to help wake the “slumbering majority”, in part by pushing rational people to run for Town Meeting. He’s definitely not a rubber-stamp guy, and not afraid to be critical of his friends in government to their face. A great guy to have in town; we loose him at our peril, as well as Sanderson and Rivkin.

Anonymous said...

"I guess people here don’t like Baer much. He’s a friend, a good guy..."

What's that got to do with anything. So he's your buddy, go have a beer with him...

(and wake up)

Anonymous said...

"So Larry, let's get doen to brass tacks. No override and no cutting police or fire depts. So, tell me where you would make the cuts? Millions in cuts."

I'll tell you where to start.

Find the corruption and ELIMINATE it.

It's here.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6PM, put up or shut up. specifically point out the corruption so it can be addressed or stop whining and telling us the sky is falling.

Mr. Morse, you are making alot of great points lately. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...


Baer Tierkel did not "take" both his children out of the Amherst public schools following the failure of the 2007 Override.

His child who attended a charter school for two years INITIATED and ADAMANTLY ADVOCATED for the switch. AND, the switch occurred Fall of 2006, before the 2007 Override failed.

Since you twist and manipulate these facts to fit your personal attack on Baer, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LIE ABOUT?

Alison Curphey

Anonymous said...

Cut the corruption? Somebody lives in fantasyland if they think that Amherst is anymore corrupt than anyplace else. There's a real budget that has to be balanced and it can't be balanced by rhetoric. What's to be cut? I'm waiting.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:00 said, "its here"
Where and What? If you know of something speak up now or YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!

Realist said...

I know you asked the Larry the question re: "Where do we make the cuts?" but he appears to be taking a rare day off today, so I'm going to weigh in with some ideas...

First of all, Rich Morse - as usual - is right on the money with his observations about the sleepwalking majority (makes me think of the thought-provoking movie, "V is for Vendetta"...if you haven't seen it, rent it & see what can happen if the masses stop paying attention to what their government is up to)

Secondly, we have lost all perspective here in Amherst re: what is "essential" and what is "nice to have." We spent many, many years constructing this beautiful Mercedes-type government - with all of the associated bells & whistles - and now we're being told that we can't afford the upkeep on this beautiful car that we put together when times were good. Well, you know what?...a nice Toyota ain't so bad! And, despite what the Chicken Little's are telling us, THAT is what we're talking about here. Look at some of our neighboring towns (eg Greenfield) and you'll see some REAL pain when it comes to budget cuts! We added many, many layers of administrative staff at both the Schools & the Town over recent years that we can no longer afford. We just need some leaders with some real kahunas to poke around and find those positions & then deliver the bad news.

Lastly, we have to call out these folks who want to create smokescreens of rhetoric to further their agendas rather than taking issues head-on and leaving persdonalities out of the discussion. Yes, Baer is a great guy with a great heart, and head, for public service, but he blew it on this recent back & forth w/ Catherine Sanderson and he should say so immediately, which would - in the long run - actually strengthen his overal position w/in our town. Nothing like a sincere mea culpa to sway public opinion in your favor!

Anonymous said...

"Anon 6:00 said, "its here"
Where and What? If you know of something speak up now or YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!"

Know of something?! Lol, we do.

And if/when decide, so will everyone...

...especially the vipers.

LarryK4 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarryK4 said...

So Alison Curphey,
I like it--I really do--when folks actually ID themselves when making comments. Thanks.

But you could, just maybe, have mentioned that you are Baer Tierkel's wife.

And okay, so ONE of your kids decided (all by themself) six months before the Override to switch to a Charter School; and then switched back.

Still makes you wonder about the quality of education in Amherst that precipitated the switch in the first place (and I assume a helicopter parent like yourself approved it.)

Anonymous said...

"Lastly, we have to call out these folks who want to create smokescreens of rhetoric to further their agendas..."

Seems to me, that was what Mr. Tierkel was doing. Problem is, you don't like it when those you agree with are the ones being called out. And therein lies the crux.

Anonymous said...

its hard to take this blogger seriously when he name calls (10:00) and then wonders why people would comment anonymously. you are a bully. in your blog and off.

LarryK4 said...

And you're a wussy Anon. And as a result, nobody takes you seriously (not even your wife.)

Anonymous said...


(but it has to be done)

Anonymous said...

Larry & Realist,

Where do we cut?

Anonymous said...

Rick Hood is right that the record here needs to be set straight about Baer.

And I said either here or on Catherine's blog that the main "collateral damage" in this little dust-up was to Baer himself BECAUSE there is indeed something very valuable for him to damage.

There has been an important transformation taking place in recent years in Town Meeting, and once again the Bulletin hasn't been covering it. Although the time-wasters may strike back with a vengeance THIS year, the sessions last spring and fall were shorter than ever. There's a reason for that, and much of it comes from the Email list that Baer assembled and manages.

With all due respect to the blogs and to the Bulletin, the level of discussion on that list is higher than anywhere in town, with some really great thoughtful people on there. The consistent quality of conversation puts Mary Streeter's ideologically limited Yahoo Group (aka Anne Awad's Small Circle of Friends) to shame.

In addition, Baer has been instrumental in getting new sane people to run and to stay in Town Meeting, people with other obligations who simply can't sit there forever. His Email group very intensively does its homework and so many members are ready to vote WHEN THEY GET THERE (a novel concept).

He has also instituted a rating system for incumbent members which I've used in voting. And, although I believe that he's had some difficulty in articulating a credible rationale for that rating system (Larry and I have done very well in that system over the years, mind you), it recognizes that the Town Meeting ballot each year is extremely bewildering for voters. And he's been roundly attacked for instituting it and publishing it from what I would call The Aristocracy of Time, that is, the folks who serve year after year, term after term, and think that they are somehow entitled to be reelected over and over, many of whom have contributed to the body becoming until recently an interminable, anti-democratic, bloviating debating society.

So Larry uses the term "machine" pejoratively to characterize the loose coalition of intelligent TM members that Baer has headed up in recent years. But that level of organization and forethought was necessary in order to get some control in this human behemoth called Town Meeting, where the operational majority for so many issues is two-thirds. So Larry and I and, I would submit, the entire Town have been beneficiaries of Baer's movement to make Town Meeting more responsive and more accessible.

Baer Tierkel gets the lion's share of the credit for that.

But when he lets it all hang out, he really does. And it usually does not serve his purposes. The danger is that he can fracture His Coalition of The Reasonable on yet another fault line with Catherine and a significant number of parents and voters on the other side. And there will then be three, instead of the current two, groups of Town Meeting members who don't listen to each other AT ALL.

And, whether I like it or not as an override supporter, there is a reasonable argument out there for
either delaying an override vote for a year or two and/or voting "no" on this next one. So Catherine does not need to be hung in effigy because she is hesitating on this issue. And that's what I think was driving Baer's outsized anger here.

Rich Morse

Marcy said...

I'm really not getting your point here. I can disagree with Catherine on an issue while at the same time finding many areas of agreement with her on others. And whether I'm in sync with her or not related to a given viewpoint, I can still greatly respect her and the work she is doing on behalf of the town. And the same is true of Baer and any other political or public figure in town. Why must we always be in lockstep with each other? Why must we make the leap from disagreement to fractured relationships and coalitions? Why is there such "danger" lurking in the process of our discourse together? To use Catherine and Steve's Bush/Cheney analogy, are we really an "either your with us or against us" kind of community? I hope not. Isn't that the exact mentality they were speaking against in their column?

I haven't seen the "back and forth" between Baer and Catherine that has been referred to in this thread, so maybe there's more to this difference of opinion than I'm aware of, but it seems to me that it's the overblown reaction to Baer's letter that has caused the most damage. This seems to me to be another one of those mountains out of a molehill, lets put the magnifying glass on this issue and see how much we can inflate it, kind of occurrence that you're usually so adept at identifying.

Rick said...


Lots of good stuff you said. But I think the point being missed is that Baer was not criticizing what Catherine is trying to accomplish and in no way is he trying to “drive her out”. It’s only her methods he was criticizing:

“you do not have a fundamental understanding of the impact of your tone on your ability to accomplish your goals in our schools.”

” I would guess that I agree with 70% of your positions…”

“As always, I thank and applaud your work for our schools. I just wish you take a different approach…”

I agree with Baer on that. I also hear the people who think you have to be that way to get anything done. There is a middle ground of being very firm but with a different tone. This is just a disagreement on what tactics will get the job done – nothing more. In my view Catherine’s tactics sometimes have the effect of causing people to run away from the public schools, not improve them. Like Baer I agree with 70% (probably more) of what she is trying to accomplish.

It was reasonable to say that the analogy to critics of the Iraq war rational was a bad one to have made. Bad enough to be “appalled” as he said he was? Sure - particularly because some people are more sensitive to such analogies than others, like people who knew folks who died in 911 and/or in one of the wars.

So he should apologize for being appalled by the tone of the article? Not my view.

Finally, you said ” But when he lets it all hang out, he really does.”. Exactly how often does he do that? And how many times has Catherine “let it all hang out” (or Larry for that matter) and then apologize for it?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

So, since a lot of this thread is kind of about me, here are my thoughts, for whatever they are worth.

First, I believe Baer (and anyone, for that matter) has the right to criticize anything an elected official says (in print, in a meeting, on a blog, etc.). That being said, I was disappointed that Baer chose to express his anger with my column (and I do believe that the analogy to the quelling of dissent by the Bush administration post-9/11 is apt) in an email that went to a large number of people. I'm not sure what he wanted to accomplish by doing that, except to have the opportunity to have other people criticize me as well, and that felt hurtful. The exact same private email sent just to me/Steve would have accomplished letting us know he disapproved of the lead in.

Second, as I have expressed to Baer and Rick and Rich (and many others), I don't see change occurring in Amherst (or elsewhere) in a way that is supportive, friendly, and positive. People who like the status quo (and there are many) don't want change, so no matter how nice a person is, or what type of tone is used, they will see efforts to enact change negatively and will resist. What I find unfortunate, and in fact what was the point of the column, is that instead of people saying "I like X, Y, and Z and don't want change and thus don't think change is needed," too often in Amherst people say "you are racist/elitist/anti-teacher." That isn't a debate -- it is a personal attack. I share Baer's view, and I guess Rick's/Marcy's view, that it would be really, really great if change could occur in a friendly, supportive, and positive way with "good tone" at all times. I haven't seen any evidence that works. And I guarantee that if I used a nice, friendly, and supportive tone at all times, we would still have four elementary schools (including one that is largely low income) and an even more massive budget crisis.

One more thing about change -- I've heard concerns about the middle school for a long time -- my oldest child is now in 6th grade, and when he was in kindergarten, people told me "watch out". I expressed these concerns to members of the SC, and the superintendent (in a quiet way with a friendly tone) as did many others. And nothing changed. So, I asked at a SC meeting for a survey of all MS parents, since I continued to hear concerns. And one week later, there was a pretty defensive and critical letter in the Bulletin accusing me of being anti-teacher signed by most of the MS staff. That being said, there is now a review of the MS occurring, and I think this will be good for the MS and for the kids in Amherst -- but I'm sure these methods weren't seen positively by those who want change to occur in a subtle and quiet (and VERY slow) way.

Marcy no longer has kids in our schools; nor does Rick. But I have three kids ranging in age from 5 to 11. Steve has two kids (one is 6, one is 8). We feel urgency -- as do many parents we know. We don't want slow change, and that may require use of more aggressive methods than others find comfortable. I'm quite certain this town could have debated closing Marks Meadow for 3 or 4 years ... and then ultimately decided to do so, after we'd spent an extra 3 to 4 million to keep it open (and decimated other programs). What's my point here? There are real consequences of extremely slow change -- and that type of change probably can be accomplished (possibly) with a nicer, friendlier tone. But I don't think it helps kids who thus can't benefit from those changes.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

One more thing: in line with Rich Morse's thoughtful points, I believe that Baer's choice to send a pretty hostile email to me and Steve but copied to maybe 60 people has already led to some unfortunate back-and-forth on that listserve -- with some people expressing support for Baer's criticism and others expressing support for my efforts to initiate real change (and a recognition that this change requires ruffling some feathers). And I do fear that if the "sustainable Amherst forces" (and this includes me, and Rick, and Marcy, and Rich) get divided into pro-Baer and pro-Catherine sides, it won't be good for this town. I therefore haven't responded to Baer's criticism by "replying all" to the listserve ... because I don't think that is useful or productive. I have replied privately to Baer, and I believe we are having a constructive (but not public) conversation.

LarryK4 said...

Good for you CAS. Lead by example! I think by now most rational people would agree that Baer should simply have sent that email directly to you and Steve. the very least, sent it to you first, waited for a response, and then MAYBE publish BOTH (fair and balanced) on his private listserve.

During my 14 year tenure as a Bulletin Columnist my editor Nick Grabbe had a policy of NOT letting me respond with a Letter to the Editor to counter another Letter responding to one of my "let it all hang out" columns.

Anonymous said...

It's ok, Marcy, if you haven't followed the whole course of the conversation, but it's hard to claim that a message is a tempered one when you've sent it to 60 other people. And I think that the groupthink of the Bush Administration is spot-on as an analogy to what they are identifying here.

This was the bully saying, "There she is. Let's get her. Who's with me?" As I said, schoolyard stuff.

He doesn't have to apologize for anything, and he won't. And Rick, I've been on the receiving end of one of his blasts. (Perhaps I deserved it.) So, yes, he can dish it out and he, therefore, can sure well take it. And I've defended him when he's been under attack (he may not remember that), as when some folks thought that his relatively low numerical rating of Meg Gage as a TM member was some sort of crime against humanity.

But the initial mistake in his communication was this: it wasn't a letter; it was a fairly operatic performance, for an audience.

By a pretty good guy, especially when you are lucky enough to agree with him.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...


You don't know me. You don't know anything about my parenting. So, your labeling me as a "helicopter parent" is AGAIN an example of pure fiction on your blog.

What is truth? That you're not worth my time.

Alison Curphey

Anonymous said...

You know,

I have to say when I read something that I don't believe.

I don't believe that Baer Tierkel agrees with Catherine Sanderson on 70% of her positions.

I don't believe that a difference on mere style, tone, and "approach" creates a response of that intensity.

This is a disagreement on the substance. And I want to hear what Ms. Sanderson has to say going forward, because she's a student of the issues, whether she gets style points from me and Baer or not. And I suspect that she and I will part company on the override.

And, given the feigned or genuine offense that he's created in other people in town with his primarily worthwhile activities in town, I just don't think that he's in any position to tell elected leaders how to behave (and, therefore, I hope that she'll ignore it).

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

Gee there Alison,
Thanks for stopping by and gracing us with your invaluable time.

Anonymous said...


(but right on the money).

Anonymous said...

The old, corrupted, ingrown, infected, feeders off the Amherst tit, vrs the new, ready to shake this town to the core and sweep away the roaches who've ruined and want to KEEP ON ruining it for their own benefit...

My friends, this HAS to happen.

Take your town and make it right...

You, doing this good work!

Enough is enough is enough!

Perplexed said...

I find it interesting that Ms. Sanderson, who is so public with her own opinion and criticism of others--through both her blog and her column in the newspaper--expects those who have opinions or criticism of her to express it privately. Anyone is allowed to pile on publicly when they're in agreement--with their comments being labeled as thoughtful. When differing opinions are offered, she wonders aloud why they didn't choose to communicate with her privately thorough email. What's with that? And no, I'm not a disgruntled Mark's Meadow supporter. Just a perplexed citizen trying to make sense of all this drama.

Abbie said...

to anon@347

I can't think of a single named "individual" that CS has publically criticized (if you consider Baer's email as public). Please correct me, if I am wrong.

I think Catherine (especially) and Steve have invested a huge and unprecedented amount of time and effort to improve our schools. Despite the many accusations that they are "teacher bashing", which I have not observed to be the case.

All that said, I fully support an override because the alternative is unacceptable to me. Prop 2.5 limits and cuts in state aid are just too damaging. One can support an override AND still think the schools could improve in several operational areas. It isn't an either or proposition.

BTW, I feel dirty posting on Larry's blog but if Rich can do it...

Realist said...

Personally, I think you're more than a "perplexed citizen" (perhaps a good friend/family member of Mr. Tierkel's?) but that doesn't matter as much as your assertion that Ms. Sanderson is being hypocritical with her request re: Baer's recent - and very public - smackdown of her.

I think two things are at work here: one is overt and the other is more covert. The overt part is Mr Tierkel's and Ms. Sanderson's disagreement about the override question: they both believe very strongly in their positions and it's proving difficult to find a middle ground on this one. It's become one of those "either/or" things & so the debate is being framed as ulimately leading to a "winner" and a "loser."

The covert part is the "win at all costs" mentality that has crept into our way of being, with "the end justifies the means" mantra leading the charge. The end result is Pyrrhic victories, with both sides ending up bloodied, scarred, disillusioned, and exhausted. I believe - though I know others will disagree with me - that this method of political warfare was refined by far right conservatives many years ago. Political mud-slinging has been around for as long as there have been politicians, but this new approach - where if you can't win on the issues, then attack the person - has proven to be so effective that everyone now seems to be playing that same dirty game. That's a shame, because lost in all of this is the ability to focus on what really matters: the issues at hand.

The solution? Who knows. A good start, however, might be for all of us - "the concerned public" - to hold our public officials' (which would include all of the players in this most recent drama) feet to the fire when it comes to the "how" they deal with our Town's problems. I think the "Amherst Center" folks all started out with that lofty goal in mind but, over time, I have watched them get dragged down into the mudpit with everyone else & their rhetoric has gotten more personal and less substantive. Too bad. I just hope that they can manage to right their own ship and get back to a more balanced, centered, and thoughtful approach to the issues because Amherst needs such an approach right now & the ol' "when in doubt, sling the mud" approach only serves to make everyone a loser in the end.

Amherst NEEDS leaders who are above such nonsense & who can keep their eye on the prize despite the naysayers on the comfy, cozy, and safe sidelines. Let's hope they step forward, amke their voice heard, and resist the temptation to get dragged down to the level of the "fringe fanatics" who are, unfortunately, quite numerous here in our neck of the woods.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm with Abbie: for an override and happy to be the resident override supporter on this blog ready to be bashed repeatedly.

But let's not try to equate the huge body of Catherine's public discourse with what we got from Boss Tierkel on Friday. I've never seen her call out an individual by name for criticism, although her comments about "the mistakes" of SC predecessors came close.

I think that if Boss Tierkel had thought long-range in a strategic political way for just a second before he lost his temper on Friday, he might have considered that there may be a segment of the voting public that would vote for an override IF AND ONLY IF they are assured that there will continue to be elected officials on SB and SC who will be careful about every last dollar being spent in the way that Ms. Sanderson has. I know from conversations with elderly neighbors living on fixed incomes that there is considerable skepticism especially about our schools and their budgets.

And, lastly, Ms. Curphey, it's important to understand how many of us read this blog: selectively. I thought the personal stuff about your children and the parental decisions about them was way out-of-bounds and then I didn't give it a single thought. Given the limitations of the Gazette and the Bulletin these days (read the obits and wedding announcements and then on to the catbox), we responsible readers have to come here for the range of issues featured here.......and then we filter.

Stick around, Abbie.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

What a hypocrit. Mr. Chinese Immersion School has the gall to criticize someone else for their decision to send their kid to a charter school. That's rich.

Realist said...

These recent exchanges serve as a case in point re: what has become all too common & what's getting in our way as we try to pull out of the mudpit in which we find ourselves spinning our wheels. First, Larry makes an out-of-line "helicopter parent" comment, which is then met with some return shots, that are highly personalized, from an obviously upset Ms. Curphey, and then we get some piling on from the peanut gallery re: Larry's choice to enroll his daughter in the Chinese Immersion School. And then we're off and running in entirely new, and unproductive, directions. How does any of this relate to the original topic of budget cuts, etc.? It doesn't. All it serves to do is raise some individuals' collective blood pressure, entertain the rubber-neckers who visit this site, and lessen our chances of arriving at any true answers to our problems because we have created more "camps" and hurt feelings in our small town.

I agree with Rich M. - give those of us who visit this site, as well as other blog sites, some credit for having a brain. Just because LK, or anyone else, says something in print doesn't make it "true." Far from it. And just because Mr. Tierkel makes a public misstep (again, just an opinion) doesn't mean that everything else he has done for this town up to this point in time gets wiped away. Far from it. Personally, I enjoy seeing that my public officials are human from time to time, just so long as they have the courage to own up to that humanity. And I also like to see my public officials "stray from the herd" once in a while, and express an opinion that runs counter to their constituents. It shows that they have a mind of their own & the gumption to stand up for what they believe in. Unfortunatley, that type of public official is becoming a very rare breed.

LarryK4 said...

Very rare indeed--especially in the People's Republic of Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, no apology from Mr. K.

LarryK4 said...

Call them as I see them. (Although sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.)

Anonymous said...

Looks like prozac sucking anarchists really can ruin a town...

...but what do I know, I'm just an 800 lb. gorilla in the room.

LarryK4 said...

Well then maybe it's time you (or at least your ego) went on a diet.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Tierkel was correct: Ms. Sanderson's column was insulting to former President Bush, everyone who voted for him, and the men and women of America's armed services -- all to make an entirely irrelevant and inapplicable comparison between people criticizing a local official and an actual war on actual terrorists.

Is everyone in Amherst addicted to inflated, offensive rhetoric?

Realist said...

Me thinks I smell a rat. You sir/madam are obviously a close associate of Mr. Tierkel and only further reinforce the notion that most people would rather chew glass than apologize for a mistake. As the old saying goes, "keep your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them." Sorry, Mr. Tierkel, but you were dead wrong on this one & you owe Ms. Samderson an apology - if not for your words themselves, then certainly for your chosen method of delivery. You, and your friends/associates, can send up smokescreen after smokescreen but the truth still remains as truth: you blew it. Admit it and let's move on to more productive pursuits.

Ed said...

too often in Amherst people say "you are racist/elitist/anti-teacher." That isn't a debate -- it is a personal attack.

It actually is a logical fallacy. Technically the "Ad Hominum" ("against the man") fallacy.

Logical fallacies are defective arguments. In a debate, he who uses logical fallacies looses the debate.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in the email list group that Baer does his informimg/discussing with. Is this all available for non town meeting memebers to see and if so, where? Id love to read it.

If not, is this a violation of open meeting laws in any way?

LarryK4 said...

You can find it at:
Try emailing them and maybe they will let you into the discussion group. But you may not want to tell him I sent you.

Town Meeting, oddly enough, is exempt from the Open Meeting Law so they could actually create a listserve that has every single member and discuss things until the cows come home.

Anonymous said...

What, me Amherst?


Anonymous said...

"Well then maybe it's time you (or at least your ego) went on a diet."

Got this way living in Amherst.


And as always, I bid you peace.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. or Ms. Realist,
Why is it that anyone agreeing with Mr. Tierkel's viewpoint MUST be a close friend rushing to his defense while anyone agreeing with Ms. Sanderson's PUBLIC positions or her feelings of affront at being PUBLICLY called out for them are just regular folk watching with unbiased wisdom from the sidelines? Despite your moniker, that doesn't sound realistic to me. How 'bout we be grown up and just take people's comments at face value?