Thursday, March 31, 2011

Election Post Mortem

Friends, Anons, Bloggers, lend me your eyes; I come to praise Catherine Sanderson not to bury her.

The good that she has done, lives after her...Long live the queen.

Gotta love the Freudian slip just before the 4 minute mark where she starts to say "neglected representative" of the school committee. You got that right Ms. Theilman. Still, a classy move on your part--and a well deserved one at that.

Senator Scott Brown will probably lose a few votes in Amherst for his nice gesture, and it's not like he was going to get many in the first place.


Tom Porter said...

"Tone matters"

But not as much as results.

And if tone truly mattered to the hecklers and the Hilltown SC members, ... they'd have been much better-behaved!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Larry, for those of us who did not see it.

I'm disappointed that others did not share in my overall judgment, that after one evaluated the body of Catherine's work on SC, weighing the pluses and minuses (and for me, there were both), one would believe that she deserved to continue as one voice among several on two committees.

But I also share in Catherine's judgment, that it was futile for her as an elected official and not in her family's best interest that she continue.

I'm also disappointed that many people did not look at both the full range of Professor Sanderson's intellectual interests and endeavors, easily accessed on the Amherst College website, and the affection and respect of Amherst College students for her as a teacher. This was a very lively, very energetic public servant, who, although perhaps not as skilled at the art of statecraft as she could be, had a wealth of ideas and had established lines of communication with people who felt that they had not been hitherto heard on School Committee. And she was a ferocious critic of the status quo regarding education in this town. I think we need that, tempered, of course, by others elected around her.

The "white elitist" label and the "tone" criticism became complete canards for me. When I looked and watched the meetings and conversed with her, I did not see or hear the dragonlady portrayed in the media. What I saw in her was someone who helped to diversify the range of opinion on School Committee.

I share her view that, if the children of professors in town continue to go off increasingly to private and charter schools in the area, that will be a major detriment to the quality of life and learning in our public schools. I believe the reality is that that exodus is already well underway, and it has gathered momentum independent of anything Catherine Sanderson, or Steve Rivkin, or anyone else has said or done in criticism of our schools. It is caused instead by many, many private individual assessments of our schools by parents town-wide. Yes, we can compete with private schools to keep a greater portion of these kids, because many of us come to the rearing of children PRESUMING public schools are a better place SOCIALLY than Deerfield or Williston for kids to grow up in.

I'm still trying to process what happened here politically, and I don't presume to have figured it all out. What I spot are two effects, that we could characterize as "wreckage": 1) a coalition of Town Meeting members committed to development appropriate to Amherst is now severely weakened, because several of that coalition's leaders could not stay on message, and elected to take off after Catherine, and 2)there is a narrowing of both the range of political opinion, especially on education, and the allowable styles of operating in the public square in Amherst, especially for women.

Rich Morse

LarryK4 said...

And disillusionment becomes the new normal.

Jim R. said...

"if the children of professors in town continue to go off increasingly to private and charter schools in the area"

- Do as I say, not as I do? Just like hypocritical parents that smoke and drink and yet expect their kids not to.

Phoenix Property Management

One Parent/Voter said...

I appreciate Rich Morse's thoughtful analysis. The absence of over-the-top rhetoric was a welcome change from so much writing on this topic.

But... it fails to acknowledge that I've heard (third-hand), that many teachers and high-level administrators felt under constant attack. They were deluged with so many requests from the committee for detailed data, with no consideration for how long it takes to compile the data, what other work they had to do, and how many times they'd been jerked around that week. I know that third-hand information is of limited value, but that is what most parents and voters in Amherst get, so please consider it.

In contrast, the following information is my direct observation--both my kids (the youngest graduated in '10) got wonderful educations in the Amherst schools. I know this by frequently looking over their work and talking with them. I'm grateful to the schools and the individuals (some known, some behind the scenes) who made this great education possible.

My kids' experience didn't square with all the negative critique coming from Sanderson and allied School Committee members. I think we do need careful review and reform of areas identified in the review, but Sanderson's methods seemed too broad and negative.

This is just one parent's point of view, but I've tried to be honest and cool-headed in presenting it. Apologies for such a long post.

Anonymous said...

I concur with parent/voter.

My children did great in Amherst schools-
When teachers taught- kids learned. When one WW teacher did not teach any academics all year (coloring sheets and crafts were the curriculum) the kids caught up the following year. (Hers was a great classroom for kids with academic difficulties!)