Monday, May 17, 2010

Keyston cops meet Jerry Springer (continued)

So this 5/13 public meeting just keeps getting better and better. If ACTV decides to come up with a "best of" annual list, this one gets my vote.


TomG said...

What can't Irv say what he wants instead of getting wrapped around process issues?

Catherine wants the SC to know it options. Whether Union 26 meets before that is not a big issue. What is a big issue is for the SC to know its options and start to decide if it wants to pursure a modified union.

Irv seemed frustrated but for the life of me, I cannot decipher what he actually wants to have happen.

Anonymous said...


I infer that what we were seeing was just the very tip of a large iceberg of primarily behind-the-scenes nasty conflict between Irv on one side and the other two Chairs and Maria on the other, leading up to that meeting.

And the fact that Maria is now right in the middle of something purely political is what prompted Steve Rivkin's critical comments about her knowing what her proper role is.

To me, by not staying above the fray, Maria seems to be frittering away something very, very important and useful for her and all of us: the broad consensus of respect for her in Amherst and the Region. Once it's gone, it's gone.

What is too bad is that nobody knew how to back out of a parliamentary impasse and gracefully move on. Could the Amherst delegation getting up and walking out have been much worse than what actually happened?

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

So why can't the chair of Union 26 request a meeting without Amherst member's approval? I don't get that. Why do the Amherst members get to decide whether Pelham members of Union 26 deserve to be heard in public session (or not)? Is there a rule I'm not aware of that requires some kind of consensus about whether a meeting should be called or not? And for all of his stumbling and mumbling about process and procedure, Irv is the biggest offender of being outside the rules of order. He interrupts other speakers, does not wait to be recognized before speaking and, in this meeting particularly, repeatedly talks over the chair of the region. What an embarrassment to our town.

Anonymous said...

I could not have said it better, Anon 7:34. Irv was not the only were Catherine and Steve.

What is the big secret? Why can't the Amherst SC members simply tell the Pelham SC why they hired a lawyer.

I mostly disagree with Rich Morse's comments. But I do agree that I hope Maria stays above the unseemly fray.

Joel said...

When are "equals" not equal? Apparently when someone from the hill towns decides to throw a temper tantrum.

Someone asked why Pelham can't unilaterally call a Union 26 meeting? Actually, the question is why can't the Pelham chair of Union 26, working secretly with chair of the Regional SC (a Shutesbury resident) and the incredibly compromised Superintendent, force the Amherst SC to discuss something before its members have all the information they requested?

If the Amherst SC had ambushed Farshid, Tracy, and Maria the usual suspect would be calling for Irv's, Catherine's, Steve's, Rob's, and Rick's heads on a platter.

Let's be open and honest about this, the Union 26 is a fantastic deal for Pelham and a seems to be a bad deal for Amherst. Anyone who lives in and pays taxes to Amherst has to be a complete f-ing moron if they don't want the Amherst SC to, at the very least, find out if the Union is costing us money and not providing us with any real benefits.

The override passed. A lot of people with no extra money are paying higher taxes to run our schools. It would be immoral not to investigate every possible savings in administrative costs.

Of course, some of the Anons here might want to check with the hill town residents before we even study how we're spending our money in Amherst.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

I sent this email to the Amherst School Committee and to Superintendent Geryk and thought it might be of interest to this discussion:

Dear Amherst School Committee members...

I am writing in support of your inquiry into withdrawing from Union 26. It is clear to me that the current arrangement is not in the best interests of Amherst students, Amherst taxpayers, and frankly, the administration. I believe in proportional representation and the Union is clearly not set up that way; Amherst is an an unfair disadvantage. I also believe we need to look anywhere and everywhere for cost reductions and efficiencies that do NOT directly impact the students in the classroom. The current need for our Superintendent to serve three separate districts, attend multiple School Committee meetings, and try to juggle the sometimes competing needs of three separate districts (for example, the issue of school choice into Pelham) make the job unnecessarily complicated, potenially unattractive to candidates, and requires a higher level of pay than is truly sustainable.

I also believe that there are many other good options that can better serve not only the needs of Amherst students and taxpayers but also those of Pelham. Forming a regional K-6 district, for example, would continue to have the benefit to Pelham of sharing a superintendent but would solve the problems of "serving multiple elementary masters" for the Superintendent, eliminate the school choice money leaving Amherst problem, and help with curricular alignment. If this is done now, as the schools prepare to reform into three Amherst elementary schools, perhaps instead they could reform into four elementary schools with one located in Pelham. There are many Amherst students who live closer to Pelham elementary than to Fort River, so redrawing the boundaries to include Pelham might help mitigate some of the potential crowding problem in our remaining three elementary schools. A regional K-6 district would also solve the proportional representation issue.

The best solution of all, though, is to form a K-12 district. That would be administratively and financially the most efficient as well as allowing the best curricular alignment (both vertical and horizontal). I hope the School Committee takes on the task of seriously evaluating this possiblity, including the possibility that Amherst seeks to form its own K-12 district if Pelham, Leverett, and Shutesbury are uninterested in joining us. You were elected to serve the needs of Amherst students and all citizens and it is in our best interest, and the best interest of our children, to form a K-12 district.

As always, I appreciate all your hard work and willingness to listen. Best of luck with this work.


Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I will just share one observation about the various postings in response to this entry: those who are in support of the Amherst School Committee's decision to get information on the Union 26 arrangement have used their full names (Rich Morse, Alison Donta-Venman) or at least an identifying part of their name (TomG, Joel). In contrast, neither of the posters (or, of course, it could be the same poster twice) who oppose gaining this information (and ridicule most of the Amherst School Committee members) provide any name or identifying information (Anonymous 7:34, Anonymous 8:42). I'm not sure why these 1 or 2 Anonymous posters wouldn't be willing to share their actual names, or at least share (honestly) where they live.

Anonymous said...

Because this blog is filled with right-wing idealogues and written by a zealot who has been accused of bullying and stalking among other things. I hope thst clarifies it for you.

Joel said...

I post with my name. I am a registered and still proud liberal Democrat. I appreciate Larry's blog and his posts, but I don't always agree with him.

How is Amherst's position vis-à-vis Pelham in the Union 26 a left-right issue?

LarryK4 said...

So, ever-so-cowardly Anon 11:37 AM:

If you ran a worker owned collective non-profit business like Collective Copies or Pelham Auto Parts, why would you allow 6% of the shareholders to have 50% of the vote at a board meeting?

Anonymous said...

Catherine NEVER chastises anonymous commenters on her blog who AGREE with her. In fact she defends their choice to express their opinion anonymously. Apparently there is a double standard. Just like there appears to be a double standard related to Amherst reps having every right to seek information related to the Union 26 agreement but Pelham not having that same right. Like I said earlier, the way this is being handled is an embarrassment to Amherst townspeople. And though Catherine likes to doubt that someone who she purports to represent--and actually voted for her--could possible be in disagreement with her, I'm here to say she's dead wrong.

Anonymous, living, breathing, working and paying taxes in Amherst.

LarryK4 said...

And we have your word on that.

And if you can't take the word of an Anon...

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Dear Anonymous 2:21 - I'm really sorry for the confusion here. I 100% support Pelham's right to seek their own legal counsel to investigate their options for changing or exiting the Union 26 agreement. I'm sorry I haven't been clearer on that front.

Joel said...

Wait, who said that Pelham isn't allowed to gather their own information? They have every right to talk to whatever lawyers and other authorities they choose.

I was put off by the Pelham folks using the Shutebury chair of the regional SC to call a Union meeting (something the Shutesbury chair shouldn't be able to do) without consulting the Amherst SC.

There are two parties: Amherst and Pelham. Amherst has to do what's best for Amherst and Pelham has to look after its own interests. What's unclear about that?

Let Pelham hire its own lawyer and gather its own information.

Anonymous said...

"Wait, who said that Pelham isn't allowed to gather their own information? They have every right to talk to whatever lawyers and other authorities they choose."

But not to their long standing Union 26 partners directly? How arrogant and discourteous is that? I am not objecting to Amherst consulting a lawyer and looking into changes that might be able to be made in a 100 year old agreement. I am objecting to refusing to engage in public conversation with their partners in that agreement; not in exhaustive detail or at length, just a brief, courteous conversation related to where things stand and why. In my view, that is the responsible and respectable thing to do and I wish our representatives hadn't hidden behind a cloak of self protective righteousness and secrecy. The whole thing has an unnecessarily aggressive feel to it.

And I still haven't heard an answer to the question about whether it is against some kind of rule of order for the chair of Union 26 to call a meeting of the Union 26 committee without "permission" from its members. I am genuinely curious about that.

Still Residing in Amherst

Joel said...

Anon 4:24's comment is just disingenuous and misleading.

I guess you would have been happy if Irv had let the Amherst SC been railroaded into a surprise meeting called by a resident of Shutesbury and then had the Amherst Union 26 members answer every question with: "I don't know, we're still gathering information." And, "We'll get back to you after we gather the information and talk about it at an Amherst SC meeting."

That's what you wanted?

The Amherst SC has to represent the interests of Amherst residents. They are trying to first gather the information on how the Union works, what it costs Amherst, what Amherst gains and loses from the Union, etc. And then, with that information they will next decide what is best for Amherst.

The conversation about what's best for Amherst has to be among all FIVE Amherst SC members. Union 26 doesn't allow that. Not all Amherst SC members are Union 26 members.

If Irv had acquiesced to the surprise meeting, the Amherst SC members on Union would have been forced to either speak only for themselves or they would have had to answer every question with "We don't know, we'll get back to you after we consult with the other members of the Amherst School Committee."

If you live in Amherst and pay taxes to Amherst and have or had kids in the Amherst schools, why on earth are you opposed to our elected SC examining as an SC what's best for Amherst before they discuss it with Pelham?

Let's be clear about this. The only way the Amherst SC can represent Amherst properly on this matter is to:

1) Gather information and share it with the community.

2) Analyze the costs and benefits of the status quo.

3) Analyze the costs and benefits of changing the status quo.

4) Determine if they can easily break the Union agreement.

5) Decide how they want to proceed if they want to and then can break the union agreement.

6) Meet with Pelham to discuss their decisions based on 1-5.

How on earth could all that have happened during the 30 minutes Farshid mandated for a meeting he had no right to call?

Joel said...

Anon 4:24 wrote:
"And I still haven't heard an answer to the question about whether it is against some kind of rule of order for the chair of Union 26 to call a meeting of the Union 26 committee without "permission" from its members. I am genuinely curious about that."

Have you ever been on a committee of equals? The chair isn't the Speaker of the House or the Majority Leader of the Senate. The chair facilitates the meetings and works on behalf of the other committee members. The chair doesn't have the right to force others to meet against their will.

And, the regional SC chair has ZERO right to have a hand in any of this.

Anonymous said...

You need to calm down, man. All I'm asking for is some simple, human courtesy between bodies with a long, amicable, working relationship. All that needed to be done was to respond in the manner Catherine began responding in, until Irv rudely interrupted her. We have x, y and z concerns and before we have any clue about how we're going to address those concerns we are employing a legal firm to research and advise us on the details/conditions/things that are negotiable and non negotiable within union agreements such as ours, etc., etc. We have no more to say about this until we have received the legal advice we have requested. The End!

Instead, what we got was a lot of overblown outrage and histrionics. And yes, I have been a part of various committees "of equals" and when the chair calls a meeting I attend and participate. If there is an agenda that I feel unprepared to proceed with, I state my reasons and rationale openly and honestly. There was nothing prohibiting our school reps from doing the same, other than what came across to me as their superior attitudes.

TomG said...

Joel - thanks for your explanation of Irv's concerns. It wasn't clear to me when I watch the clip. It makes sense now. I think Irv and others are right. Do the research, then hold the meeting. I'm very glad the elected Amherst members have taken this up.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Catherine NEVER chastises anonymous commenters on her blog who AGREE with her ... Apparently there is a double standard.
May 18, 2010 2:41 PM

Larry its nice to see you've attracted ten year old bloggers who are interested in these topics albeit pre-occupied with equanimity.

Let's teach the pre-adolescents how to make an argument on topic, not ad hominem. You try first.

or we could go with the more concise:
We have a victim. Call a wahmbulance!

Rick said...

This thing is not complicated:

1. The Amherst School Committee made a mistake in how it pursued the Union 26 issue. It could have done it in a way that showed much more respect to its partner in this agreement (see below). Pursuing the issue is fine. How it did so was not. I regret not having thought of the better way of doing it when I voted to do it the way we did.

2. What happened at this Regional School Committee meeting was a second mistake, in reaction to the first one. In my opinion, Union 26 should not have been put on the agenda. If Union 26 wanted to call a meeting it could have called a separate meeting.

Which mistake was worse, you can decide. They were both mistakes.

At last night’s Amherst School Committee meeting, I took responsibility for my part in mistake #1. Nobody else has yet taken any responsibility for mistake #1 or #2.


Here is how we could have done it better:

a. The Amherst Committee could have discussed issues that some members have with Union 26 in open meeting, which in fact it did so.

b. At the same meeting the Amherst Committee could have made a motion like this:
“Seeing as some members of the Amherst School Committee are concerned with aspects of the Union 26 agreement, the committee will undertake an information gathering exercise to better understand the agreement and any options there may be to modify that agreement, and ask that in the agenda for the next meeting we include the topic of whether or not to hire a lawyer to help us with this. Further, the committee asks that the chair request a meeting of Union 26 so that the three members from Amherst could inform Pelham of this decision.”

c. Then at the following meeting we could have done the vote to hire a lawyer.

We'd lose a month doing it that way. Big deal, this is not super rush.

Joel said...

I was at last night's meeting and I have to say that I completely disagree with Rick here. I think the other Amherst SC members did as well. Rob Spence summed up his objection to Rick's marriage analogy and I think most people on the SC and in the audience agreed with that.

What Rick isn't saying is that Irv read from a series of emails he wrote to Farshid, Tracy, and Maria PRIOR to the regional meeting. His questions and concerns were simply ignored. Irv made clear that Farshid, Tracy, and Maria disrespected him and the town of Amherst with their behavior.

The emails from Irv were to Farshid, as Regional chair, Maria, as superintendent, and Tracy Farnham, as Union 26 chair. Irv made it very clear that Farshid and Tracy refused to even respond to his inquiries. Irv and Catherine also made it clear that members of the Amherst SC treat each other with mutual respect and that the chair (Irv) circulates the agenda to EVERY member in advance for comment. Farshid and Maria created an agenda without informing Irv, the regional vice-chair, even though Tracy Farnham had clearly been included in the discussion.

Rick may want to apologize, but it's clear that Irv was willing to discuss this process with Tracy Farnham, but that she instead went to Farshid and Maria to help her embarrass the Amherst SC. Rick is playing right into their hands, potentially at the expense of the people of Amherst.

Look, Rick, you were out front as a supporter of the override. You are morally obligated to do everything in your power to save the residents of Amherst -- not Pelham or the other hill towns -- as much money as possible, esp. in administrative costs.

All this talk of tone and process is a delaying tactic. If you buy into it, you just waste the time and money of the Amherst residents you are supposed to represent.

Anonymous said...

"Spence summed up his objection to Rick's marriage analogy and I think most people on the SC and in the audience agreed with that."

Joel, you have nothing to base this comment on. I know SEVERAL people who were in the audience last night who completely agree with Rick. There is alot of playing fast and loose with the facts going on here.

Anonymous said...

And I still want to know how much money we are supposedly going to save by pulling out of Union 26. It would be nice to know that BEFORE we spend more money on a lawyer.

Another smokescreen...we are doing this because there is money to be saved. No, the Amherst SC is doing this because they did not get their way in appointing Maria Geryk as Interim Super for the next 16 months.

If the overarching reason for pulling out of Union 26 was to save money, we would wait for the regionalization report and then decide what to do.

Amherst SC is putting the cart WAY before the horse by making hiring a lawyer the first thing they do.

Anonymous said...

"What Rick isn't saying is that Irv read from a series of emails he wrote to Farshid, Tracy, and Maria PRIOR to the regional meeting. His questions and concerns were simply ignored. Irv made clear that Farshid, Tracy, and Maria disrespected him and the town of Amherst with their behavior."

And Pelham's questions and concerns were also completely ignored. The Amherst SC has disrespected the Pelham SC in all of this also. And Irv Rhodes....when he is not chair of a meeting he is beyond belief...he interrupts and talks over people before he has been called upon. Would he put up with that in an Amherst SC meeting? Of course not! And neither should he. And neither should Farshid.

The Union 26 meeting could have been handled differently....but the Amherst SC is not above reproach here either..although I know that 4 out of 5 of them think they are.

Joel said...

Is "Anon" French for "I live in Pelham"?

Okay, I'll bite. How on earth is a political/bureaucratic agreement between two towns at all like a marriage?

I feel no deep emotional commitment to other towns.

My point was that the other 3 members of the Amherst SC were in agreement with Rob when he criticized the marriage analogy. Do you honestly believe, if you attended last night, that Irv, Steve, or Catherine disagreed with Rob? I know the other Amherst parents I sat with agreed with Rob.

Anonymous said...

Resorting to accusing members with differing opinions to yours as being non Amherst residents is not only childish but incredibly arrogant and presumptuous. All Amherst taxpayers should believe what you do Joel, right? Because you, after all, are all knowing and of such superior insight and intelligence that no one else who lives within our borders could possibly find flaws in your thinking or come to different conclusions. And you wonder where ACE folks have gotten a reputation for arrogance and elitism. Wonder no more.

Joel said...

I use my name and it's linked to a fuller description of who I am. I think that to do otherwise is childish.

Anonymous said...

"My point was that the other 3 members of the Amherst SC were in agreement with Rob when he criticized the marriage analogy. Do you honestly believe, if you attended last night, that Irv, Steve, or Catherine disagreed with Rob? I know the other Amherst parents I sat with agreed with Rob."

Now you are being disingenuous, Joel. You know that is not what Rick meant. But there is no point in arguing with are always so RIGHT!!!

But I do take issue with the idea that just because all the folks sitting with you agreed with Rob, then that means that everyone in the room agreed with Rob. And, if you did not agree with Rob you must not be an Amherst resident.

Well none of the Amherst residents sitting with me at the meeting (Oh by the way, pardon my French, I am also an Amherst resident) none of those residents sitting with me agreed with Rob, or agree with the Amherst SC's highjinks. We are all equally appalled. We were proud of Rick for taking some responsibility for an ill-conceived strategy to leave the Union.

By the way, I believe the acronym ACE stands for Arrogant, Condescending and Elitist. The core members of ACE have all three of those characteristics in common. I do not believe all who signed the ACE letter have those characteristics, but certainly all the core members do.

Newsflash to Joel, Catherine, Steve and Rob - you DO NOT have a monopoly on knowing what is best for the children of Amherst. Just because someone disagrees with you does not make them a non-resident of Amherst. Neither does it make them wrong.

Joel said...

Bon, mon ami de la Pelham,

How is the Union 26 bureaucratic agreement, made more than 100 years ago to facilitate the sharing of administrative costs and responsibilities, like a marriage? Where are the romance and emotional ties? Hell, where's the joint checking account?

Save the name calling and try to answer the question.

Joel said...

Et encore une chose mon ami de la Pelham,

How does keeping or ending the Union 26 agreement help or hurt a single Amherst school child?

Rick said...

Maybe I can help here with the “marriage” analogy.

The Union 26 agreement is like a marriage in that it’s a relationship.

Yes a marriage is a much different relationship than a business or political relationship. But they are both relationships.

Here is another analogy that you might like better:

Let’s say I own a widget company and have a longstanding business agreement and relationship with a distributor. I decide I want to look into renegotiating that relationship and agreement; possibly ending it. The first thing I do is hire a lawyer to look into what I can and cannot do.
So far there seems nothing wrong with this.

But then the distributor finds out I am doing that and gets really pissed off because I did not come to them first to talk about the issues.

The chances of my having a good negotiation with that distributor just went down a bunch.

That is analogous what has happened here, with one exception: at least one member of the Amherst Committee (I think just one, Steve, but maybe more) did voice one concern about the agreement (the “unfair” 3-3 voting setup) at a public meeting. I just don’t think that is the courteous and respectful way of “talking to” Pelham about the issues, as opposed to face to face.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

So, I just have one comment here. I know and like Rick and I know and like Joel. I may agree with each of them on some things and disagree on others. But they are both posting here, trying to have a discussion, and using their names (as am I). If you disagree with how the Amherst SC handled things (or how a particular person on the SC handled things), then use your name and describe what you think and why. But to post anonymously blasting Steve/me/Joel/Rob/Irv/all of ACE is just rude and uncalled for, and does nothing to further any discussion. If you believe that the Union 26 agreement is fair and appropriate as is and we should therefore not examine it, say so and say why. If you believe that the Union 26 agreement isn't fair and should be looked into but you think the Amherst SC didn't go about it the right way, then say that. But have the courtesy to use your name -- because when you throw out these accusations and don't give a name, it does lead people to assume that you may have some ulterior motive (e.g., you do live in Pelham, you are Joel's jilted high school girlfriend, etc.).

LarryK4 said...

I tried to warn Joel about that girl.

Anonymous said...

Catherine and Larry, both, host blogs that allow and often commend the comments of anonymous commenters. As long as they agree with them. But those that don't agree with them are suspected of having ulterior motives. Go figure.

Marcy Sala said...

I respect Rick's attempt to draw an analogy related to the mutual interests inherent in our Union 26 relationship that might strike a meaningful chord with people. But, in reality, I think an analogy doesn't need to be drawn. Our relationship has been what it has been; a century old partnership intended to serve the educational interests of our collective children. So when Joel asks, "How does keeping or ending the Union 26 agreement help or hurt a single Amherst school child?", the question doesn't really resonate with me in the way, I think, he intends; which, I assume, is to justify Amherst SC members pursing information related to their "own" interests, without regard or respectful acknowledgment of the long standing "shared" interests that have existed between the two towns. It is not only Amherst children that will be affected by whether we keep or end the Union 26 agreement. There will be Pelham children, and school choice children and, depending on the reverberations that result, possibly Regional children. Aren't these "Union" or "Regional" partnership ways of funding our school systems artificial entities to begin with? Don't they vary by nature from state to state? Don't we have a moral obligation as a society to care about educating all of our children? I understand that our Amherst members have a fiduciary responsibility to Amherst residents and don't quarrel with their right to pursue whatever avenues they see fit to best meet that responsibility. But, to disregard the effect their actions may have (by refusing to engage in public discourse about it) on neighboring children and families that they have had a long standing alliance with, to me, is just plain wrong. And elevating the educational interests of Amherst children, as Joel does, above the educational interests of others is also wrong. The more I think about the shared representation premise behind the existing union arrangement, the more I agree with it. Because might (as defined by power in either dollars or numbers) does not necessarily make right. Which, I believe, is the underlying rationale behind trying to equalize minority representation.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Marcy, for your thoughtful post. I could not have said it better. I agree with you 100%.