Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Amherst Schools Shake Up

 
UPDATE:  Thursday morning.  School Superintendent Maria Geryk confirmed this story and said an official statement would be forthcoming "soon", perhaps by close of business Friday.
 Maria Geryk Superintendent, Rick Hood Regional School Chair BCG meeting today

Beth Graham, Director of Curriculum and Instruction and member of the $85K club along with 20 other ARPS administrators, is no longer employed in the Amherst School system.

Ms Graham only started working for the Amherst schools on July 1, 2010 and was hired away from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School, a competitor that has siphoned more students from Amherst than any other Charter school in the region.

Assistant principal Susan Kennedy Marx sent a memo today to parents saying she had been told by  Superintendent Maria Geryk that she would now be serving in central office and is no longer assistant principal at Fort River. 

Amherst has one of the highest average administrator costs in the region at $697 per student vs. state average of $446, so perhaps Superintendent Geryk plans to leave one of these vacated position open.

The Amherst Schools have been in disarray of late:  Fort River Principal Ray Sharick resigned suddenly last year, Regional Middle School Principal Michael Hayes announced a few weeks ago that he was taking a one year leave of absence to spend more time with his children, and Amherst Regional High School Athletic Director Karen Keough-Huff resigned her $86,237 job four months ago for "personal reasons."

Ms Graham was supposed to tweak the math program. 2011 MCAS scores, however, were disappointing

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good. We were never sure what Beth did in her job anyway.

Anonymous said...

Huh. She should probably stop abruptly leaving schools without much warning. That's exactly what she did at PVPA.

Anonymous said...

entirely predictable from even the most cursory examination of her CV. The sad thing is that our math program and our kids are the ones to suffer from her lack of experience and knowledge for the job she was hired for- Curriculum Director. No one will be held accountable...Next in line

Anonymous said...

What a total waste of tax payer money. The whole lot of them and Geryk too.

Anonymous said...

Yea, we should throw all the administrators out! We don't need any of them.

Anonymous said...

also not surprised that Appy isn't concerned about why our student costs are so very high compared to the state average. A couple of the SC candidates are likewise uninterested (O'Brian and Shabazz). Blank check anyone? Rubber stamp?

I couldn't vote for anyone who is unconcerned with our (v high) costs- guess that leaves Rhodes and Aronson.

Anonymous said...

Rhodes wasn't concerned about the high costs, until it became a big issue. He goes where the wind blows. Aronson has always been concerned about costs, and financial accountability. He definitely gets one of my votes.

Anonymous said...

This school administration reminds me of the cop at the accident scene:

"Nothing to see here. Move along."

Right now that approach seems to be working.

Anonymous said...

Beth Graham was a band teacher from UMass Lowell. Only a special ed teacher from Westfield State who had never been a principal or a teacher in a regular classroom (that would be Maria Geryk) would think that Beth Graham was a 115k curriculum director. Remember that the School Comm approved a lower pay scale and administrative status for a hire--Geryk bypassed them and gave Beth Graham a higher salary and higher rank than had been approved.

It's not surprising that Graham is apparently suing--no one in their right mind would ever hire her for over 100K--this was her big paycheck, and she could never get that again. The same thing worries me about Maria Geryk--if and when she is pushed out, she will fight tooth and nail because no one else in the world would ever hire her accept as a special ed teacher from Westfield State, and that doesn't pay 140K.

Anonymous said...

Are we really a community that is dismissive of degrees from public institutions of higher learning? It is an invalid means of assessing a person's intelligence and competency. It also sends a deeply mixed message to call for an inclusive community while implying that these degrees are automatically lesser. How would a person without an advanced degree be 'positioned' in such a snobby hierarchy? It would not surprise me if a people were to feel marginalized by such commentary.

Anonymous said...

What about hiring administrators who actually have done the job before and successfully? What's wrong with a proven track record? We'd have fewer administrators and stop this endless revolving door. This must drive the teachers crazy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michael Aronson for shining a spotlight on the administrative mismanagement. The School Committee has not been listening. Instead of administrative oversight, they just gave Maria Geryk the green light to make incompetent decisions. Of course she would hire Beth Graham, because she has no clue that we don't need more incompetent administrators, and she doesn't know enough to hire people who can actually do the job.
Mr. Aronson has my vote.

Anonymous said...

Article in today's Gazette says that Marx's job change is effective after today. What is the rush, and what's going on at FR? Some parents don't seem too happy with the FR principal.

Anonymous said...

It seems like everyone has forgotten that Catherine Sanderson was raising these questions for her entire time in office and was slammed for it! If I recall there was even a committee to look into it who couldn't get answers from admin. and couldn't come to any conclusions. We've already had the runaround regarding our high costs for years.

Anonymous said...

Cost (inc. benefits) to the district of 2 years of Graham: about $250k. Cost for math expert Dr. Chen's study: $40K. Results? Chen ignored by Graham and now Graham is out. Math scores declining. All this on Geryk's watch. Who will call her to account?

LarryK said...

I think you just did. Anons, however, don't count.

Anonymous said...

So much for all Mike Hayes promises for big improvements under his watch. A leave so soon, like he didn't know when he took (asked for) the job about the amount of time and effort involved. The community was promised big changes and improvements by Hayes (and Ms Geryk) when was given the job.

Maybe something could actually be done about the MS crazy math program while his ego is absent next year...oh wait, what was I thinking...

Anonymous said...

amherst does seem to have a revolving door when it comes to administrators. why is this? salaries are big and there are lots of positions.

Anonymous said...

In case you missed it, Mike Hayes will be working part time during his leave of absence. He will not be gone entirely.

LarryK said...

I'm sure the average American worker who is employed "part time" puts in a tad more than 10%.

Anonymous said...

the point i was trying to make is that he will continue to have his hand in decision making and will continue to attend school committee meetings.

I should add that perhaps there is a revolving door of administrators is because of the rabid, totally ignorant of what goes on in the schools people in this town...most of whom populate this blog.

LarryK said...

Nice gig.

Anonymous said...

"amherst does seem to have a revolving door when it comes to administrators. why is this? salaries are big and there are lots of positions."


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AMHERST - Karen Keough-Huff, the former athletic director of Amherst Regional High School, submitted a letter of resignation last week, said Kathryn Mazur, the director of human resources.

The letter cited personal reasons and said her resignation was effective on Nov. 4, Mazur said.

Keough-Huff, who became athletic director in 2005, began a leave of absence on Nov. 3. Rich Ferro, a science teacher at the Regional Middle School and former assistant principal and dean of students, became interim athletic director at that time.

Superintendent Maria Geryk declined to discuss the reasons for Keough-Huff's leave of absence and subsequent resignation.

Keough-Huff earned an annual salary of $86,237. She is still being paid, Mazur said, though she wouldn't say when the last check will be processed.


Amherst schools' power elites, ruining the future of our children (and our pocket-books), one out of step employee at a time.

We love Roach Patrol! said...

Jeepers, what's Cap'n Rick Hood been upta lately???


Priorities

My strength and experience are highlighted in my first three priorities. These are the areas I feel I can make the most progress in, and will spend most of my time working on.

1. Better communication
I will work hard to implement methods to better inform the public about what is happening in the schools. I will work to foster a culture inside ARPS where personnel think, “what do we know that folks out there need to know?” .

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION = THE TOOLS TO DO IT WITH + THE DESIRE TO DO IT



--------> FAIL <--------


2. Financial transparency and aggressive cost and efficiency analysis
I will work hard to make sure it is clear to the public where their dollars are being spent. I will push for efforts to identify areas for increased efficiency, and attack areas where cost savings may be obtained. I will constantly ask the question, "Do we really need to be doing this?" and if so, "Can we be doing it more efficiently?"


--------> FAIL <--------


3. I will work hard on issues involving race and class in the schools
Priorities should include: hiring more teachers of color; inviting teachers and administration into a productive conversation about these issues; getting the students themselves involved (as they often have better conversations on these issues that the adults do); gathering more data about which groups are not doing well in school, figuring out why, and taking steps to correct conditions that support inequity.


--------> FAIL <--------


4. Support and push for the implementation of all the ARPS District Goals
In the fall of 2009 the School Committee published the final version of the Amherst, Pelham, and Amherst-Pelham District Goals. I strongly support all of these goals and will work hard to achieve them, and support board members and school administrators with specific expertise in these areas.


--------> FAIL <--------
--------> FAIL <--------
--------> FAIL <--------


It never really was about the schools anyway, was it, Hood?

Anonymous said...

LOL...Such wonderful entertainment on a beautiful spring day! Thanks again, Larry.

Kathy Perry said...

More like a wake up than a shake up but what the heck, any change has got to be a good thing! Michael Aronson has my vote!

Anonymous said...

Whenever the schools come up, the unhappiness flows.

Anonymous said...

That photo says it all...arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Curriculum decisions are easy and free, yes free:

Just have Mark Jackson give us a copy of the curriculum from the tony private school hid kid attends and ARPS can copy it. If Mark can pay $30,000+ per year to send his kid to private school (in addition to his Amherst property taxes), the least he can do is boost the curriculum and help us implement it here. I'm sure his kid's private school has an effective Math curriculum and I know it doesn't have ARHS's Science curriculum (no one has ARHS's Science curriculum).

Anonymous said...

"That photo says it all... arrogance"

Really? Arrogance? The photo depicts two people apparently listening to someone else speak. Where do you see arrogance in the photo. Methinks some on this blog just try too hard to be negative about everything.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rhodes reports to Nick Grabbe that he had "knots in his stomach" coming home from meetings in 2009 and 2010, a situation that we are expected to believe is all better now.

It takes two sides to create a situation like that. And it's important to remember that the two primary "miscreants" were voted in. Does anyone think that the perceived problems that carried them into office have been addressed? Swept under the rug, maybe, but not addressed.

It does seem that, like the mighty power of the military-industrial complex in our national politics, we have something like an "educational bureacracy" complex in Amherst, whose members scratch each other's backs and apologize for each other when they fall down. They are empowered by a segment of the electorate that identifies with those educators' desire to have the unwashed public keep its hands off. They feel entitled to our tax dollars and essentially run things unimpeded.

So now we're being asked to vote for a teacher active in the teacher's union in a neighboring town to engage in so-called "oversight" here.

Like I said, "educational-bureaucracy complex", a closed system outside of democratic control. That's what we have, and there's basically nothing that Mr. Aronson or anyone else can do about it.

Anonymous said...

Three of our four School Committee candidates speak of School Committee as if it caught a cold in 2009 and 2010 but that it's all better now.

The same three have pledged to be kinder and gentler. They'll keep their hands off the stuff that is best left to the expertise of the educators.

Whew! What a relief! Now we don't have to worry about a system that hasn't yet fully embraced the idea of educating elementary school students in a second language, has a bifurcated secondary school math curriculum one half of which parents are counseled to avoid with their children, and fails to give adequate teacher feedback to middle-school students on their writing. Thankfully, all of that is left to the experts and off the SC's agenda.

Anonymous said...

I am totally confused by the Gazette article. (A) Graham hasn't been director of Curriculum for some time. She has a new title to do with teacher assessment or something (a new position as far as I could tell). (B) Is the move of the assist principal from FR in some way related to Graham's exit? I thought we already had someone as director of social justice (or some other related title)- isn't that Marta Guevara's job? Do we really need two folks doing that job?

It seems much like a game of musical chairs. Is our current director of curriculum going to actually work on the curriculum. When will our school committee request to see a report on were we are in the process of alignment, for example. Presumably these documents exist...Would a FOI request be able to access them?

Face it we've had curriculum directors for years at least going back to Hayes, then we had the principle of Pelham work on it, then we hired Graham. The question is has a single one of them had any impact on our curriculum? Or is any the progress made due to the efforts of the principles (as I suspect). If that is the case why are we continuing to pay tons of dollars for this position?

Anonymous said...

why is it that the school's finance director, superintendent and the school committee members can't explain why amherst pays more to educate its students than neighboring northampton (and gets the same results)? why don't they know where the money goes?

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if the staff directory for the schools listed the names and titles of administrator positions. It would be nice to have job descriptions for each position, resumes and have an organizational chart posted on the arps website. This information would go under "what do parents want to know."

Anonymous said...

Northampton gets the same results? Do they? How do you know? A few weeks ago in the Gazette there was an article about Northampton's school budget that indicated their middle schoolers have to share very outdated computers amongst an inordinate amount of students. And their honors high school classes have over 30 kids in them. Is that what Amherst wants?

Anonymous said...

For the record, this is what I submitted to the SC during the assessment of the Superintendent in January. I should add that it was dismissed by the SC for the purposes of Ms. Geryk's evaluation - although a search for the position of Director of Student Services began shortly after this was submitted for their review. (Must have touched a nerve!)


January 9, 2012

Attn: Amherst School Committee

Re: Evaluation of Superintendent - comments about Evaluation Standard #2 and Standard #4

To Whom it concerns:

These observations address Evaluation Standards #2 and #4 and refer to the Superintendent's hiring practices for key players on the ARPS management team. Below I identify one hire that the School Committee should scrutinize as an example of Supt. Geryk’s performance.

Upon her installation as Superintendent, Ms. Geryk filled the post of Student Services Director with a colleague from the Special Education department. However, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this individual does not have the license for this position. Since this individual was well known to the Superintendent, it is clear she knowingly hired someone without the appropriate qualifications to manage a multi-million dollar budget and dozens of employees within the ARPS system.

That the Superintendent failed to consider candidates who may have been more qualified, and better suited to this job is of real concern. Hiring unqualified individuals to substantial administrative positions compromises the integrity of APRS.

It is incumbent upon the School Committee to note that Supt. Geryk chose not to seek the most qualified individual for one of the most powerful positions in her administration. Committee members must then ask whether this is a common practice and what impact it has on a district with falling MCAS scores and many other pressing issues.

If the School Committee finds that the Superintendent made decisions to fill positions without seeking the most qualified candidates, her evaluation must reflect this finding.

Respectfully,

Michael Aronson

Anonymous said...

Results refers to outcomes, i.e., how well the students learn, write papers, analyze information, pass tests -- not what conditions they learn under (number of students in classes, what computer they use). Understand the difference between these two terms?

Anonymous said...

Has there been any update provided by Ms. Geryk?

LarryK said...

Not yet. I was told that I would be on the list.

Anonymous said...

And what are we all waiting for with bated breath for Maria to say to us?

LarryK said...

"The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear why Beth Graham is suing the School District.