UPDATE: Saturday 1:25 PM
The Springfield Republican reports
UPDATE 1/20/11 8:00 PM
So the venerable Amherst Bulletin went to bed late this week trying to keep up with this fast moving story, and at the very least they conjured up an adequate above-the-fold headline "...as controversy swirls around the search process." Indeed.
Center-of-the-storm Amherst School Committee member (and fellow blogger) Catherine Sanderson recently posted why these new developments make her "Disappointed in our community."
And I could not agree more. For almost 30 years I have watched the well organized "insiders" take advantage of voter apathy in our local elections and use fear and intimidation to squelch dissent.
Fortunately for us, Ms. Sanderson is not a wuss.
The Bulletin Reports
ORIGINAL POST 1/19/11 12:15 PM
From: Julia Rueschemeyer
To: Amherst Regional School Committee
Sent: Wed, Jan 19, 2011 11:44 am
Subject: Concerning campaign to undermine the search process
I am writing to inform the Committee of how disappointed I was to receive the following bulk email encouraging me to support Maria Geryk for superintendent. Please note that I received this email before the outside candidates have even had the chance to meet and speak to the community. This email calls into question the candidate’s willingness to relocate to Amherst. Certainly not something to be assessed simply from their resumes. It indicates to me that there is a well-orchestrated, deliberate campaign to subvert the selection process and keep Maria Geryk in control of the schools at all costs.
I am concerned that Jennifer Welborn, a District teacher, appears to be leading the charge to promote her current boss (who impacts her evaluations, work policy, promotion, etc.) This seems to be an extreme conflict of interest. Further, promoting her agenda to parents who might have students in her class, and might fear retaliation for a differing viewpoint, is also tremendously problematic. It would be one thing to write a letter expressing her personal opinion directly to the School Committee, but it is highly inappropriate to participate in an organized effort to recruit others to write on Maria’s behalf.
This campaign is being conducted by email blast, largely by, and directed at, affluent, white parents. Therefore the letters received by the school committee about candidates will be dominated by this socioeconomic group, disenfranchising other segments. It is also an effort to specifically thwart two outside candidates with significant expertise and experience with students of color, and is directly in conflict our critical District goal of social justice, our desire to have all segments of the community participate equally in the process.
The public opinion process had already been damaged by Maria’s releasing her name in the newspaper before the Search Committee announced the finalists, creating more press coverage for her than for any of the others. This campaign further corrupts the community responses.
If Maria were to be selected by the School Committee these actions will forever taint her appointment. People will always assume that she was hired not because she was the best candidate, but because she had the backing of the Amherst political machine.
I hope that the School Committee can rise above these political tactics, and make the right decision on the individual merits of each candidate, and what is best for the children in the school system.
Sent: Mon, January 17, 2:00 PM
Please read the letter below from Jennifer Welborn, a well-respected member of our teaching community, and contact our school committee members to (1) Delay the appointment decision (for at least a couple of days, instead of the currently planned couple of hours) after the last interview to allow for public input and thorough consideration of this extremely important appointment, and 2) indicate your preference for a candidate - and I am endorsing Maria Geryk for the same reasons as Jennifer - she has a proven track record in Amherst, she has roots here, and she has the support of our teachers. Please join Jennifer and me in urging our School Committee to come to the rational decision to not gamble on another potentially transient superintendent!
PS - As I was selecting you to receive this email I got the all-call from the school delaying tomorrow's start of the interviews due to the threatening weather forecast. That renders some of this message moot but it still is a good message to sent to the school committee to take their time, take the time to get public input, and make their time well spent by picking the best candidate. Many thanks for YOUR time!
Here's Ms. Welborn's message:
From: Jennifer Welborn Sent: Monday, January 17, 2011 5:30 Here is a copy of the letter I am sending to all members of the school committees. Feel free to copy/use as you wish and/or forward to other people.
I am writing to you with regards to the upcoming school committee vote for the next superintendent of the Amherst-Pelham Regional School system. I am: an Amherst resident; the mother of two children in the public schools and a teacher at the middle school. As a member of the aforementioned 3 different groups of people in town, I believe I have my finger on the pulse of both the community and at the very least, the teaching staff at the middle school.
Both my children are very active in the schools, in sports, and in the community so I am out and about every minute that I am not planning and grading! Everywhere I go, people--even people who do not have children in the public schools- talk about the need for STABILITY, CONTINUITY and COMMITMENT in addition to the skills and experience needed to cope with the challenging job of being a superintendent in our system.
Unfortunately, as you know, the superintendency has been somewhat of a revolving door the past few years. Of the three candidates, I believe that Maria Geryk is the one who shows the most promise of providing the long-term stability, in addition to the requisite skills and experience, (which she has ALREADY DEMONSTRATED) of leadership that we sorely need at this point.
I am sure, after reading the bios of the other two candidates, that they are fine men, with abilities and experience that may well be valuable and helpful to our system. I am not convinced, however, that either one of them, would/could commit to the position over the long haul.
I, and a plethora of other people (parents, community members, other teachers) believe we do not need to appoint someone from the outside, who will take at least 6 months to learn the ropes and get traction.
We need someone who already knows this community, has ALREADY demonstrated skill and expertise (Maria has successfully stepped up to the challenge two times now) and who is committed to staying for awhile and working with all stake holders to improve the schools. Thank you for taking the time to read this email.