Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cart Before The Horse?

Maria Geryk addresses Amherst Town Meeting mid May

So in rather all too typical ass backward style the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee is taking public input (until tomorrow) on the performance of the town's highest paid public employee ($147, 000), Amherst Regional Public Schools Superintendent Maria Geryk.

I say ass backwards because back in April this same rubber stamp committee extended Maria Geryk's lucrative contract for a whopping five years. 

Yes, Amherst does go though Superintendents like college students go through kegs of cheap beer, so maybe a five year contract will bring stability to the top spot, but you have to wonder how serious the committee takes public input when they are only now asking?


Walter Graff said...

"I say ass backwards"

The definition of Amherst.

Tom McBride said...

The top people in Amherst are treated like business executives, except a business executive's position might be more tenuous. I have a friend that works for Mass Mutual, the executives are driven in limousines to a garage under the building, and are frequently given a ride on the company helicopter. Maybe we should just do that.

Larry Kelley said...

Now don't go giving them any ideas.

Anonymous said...

The SC is in the process of evaluating the Superintendent RIGHT NOW. This is the appropriate time to ask for feedback.

In this ass backward town, the SC is damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they did not ask for feedback as part of the process of evaluatin the Super you'd be moaning and groaning about it. They do ask for feedback and your still moaning and groaning. This is why the SC does not give a rats ass what you or Wally or Ed or anyone thinks about the things they do. You will all find something wrong no matter what they do.

Dr. Ed said...

This strikes me as similar to the "we have to post the job" stuff that you sometimes see -- give people a couple days to respond in hopes that none do, because you really don't want any responses.

The real wild card in all of this is what does Deval Patrick do? He has long been considered someone whom Obama would like to have as AG, Holder is more than a little bit unpopular with Congress right now, and if he goes, what happens to Mitchel Chester?

A different Commissioner of Education in Malden well might be asking a lot of questions about both ARSD and Maria G -- questions that none of the locals, lacking Kelvar underwear, dare ask -- but which bureaucrats in Boston (actually Malden) inherently could and very well might.

I will give Maria G credit for one thing -- she is incredibly charming. Other than Billy Bulger, who is even far better than she, I have never seen anyone with the ability she has to walk into a room and connect with everyone in it.

She is the person whom BP ought to have hired -- at any price -- to be their spokesman a couple years back when they had that well spewing oil (and LNG) out into the Gulf of Mexico -- Maria G could have convinced everyone how BP was really doing a good job containing the spill and how everything really wasn't anywhere as bad as people thought it was, and why it was proper for BP to be using chemicals that the EPA was screaming about them using and all the rest.

She's good at presenting the positive side of things, and I respect her abilities at that.

But it is kinda like some of the housing in Florida that blew down in Hurricane Andrew - and finding afterwards stuff like only four nails used to hold down each sheet of plywood on the roof! The contractors had made the houses look pretty -- and no one knew how shoddy they were.

Such is what I fear about the Amherst schools -- Maria G is so good at making them LOOK good that no one would really know how good/bad they really are. It would kinda like asking students (and/or their parents) to assign grades instead of having the teachers do it -- and to have the grades based on opinion and not evaluation.

Team Maria: If you don't want to be graded, what moral authority do you have to grade students?

Anonymous said...

"Open Government To The MAX" is the biggest farse of any community here in the good ole' Happy Valley'....and this weak and poorly planned request for public comment is a plain respresentation of that. Over the next 5 years this woman will do nothing to improve the school system while costing the taxpayers nearly three quarters of a million dollars in salary alone. The students are not receiving anywhere near the product for which their families are paying for...just look at the system's overall student performance vs surrouding communities. Has anyone at the municipal level in Amherst discovered that success is born in hard work, devotion to a cause, and the belief in true purpose? Amherst seems to think that alleged transparency makes over-paid, over-regulated, and over-administered town management acceptable. Try again Amherst.

Tom McBride said...

I have only a second to write but I disagree with Anon 12:23, it's not just bitching a moaning, it would of been better to do her evaluation before setting a higher salary for FIVE years. I agree with Anon 12:33, government hands out a lot of information, BUT, that doesn't mean they're flexible on all issues. After sending a note to several parties yesterday I got a long email back from a town official (not the manager) that was so complex it made things more confusing. There may of been a point in there somewhere, but he should of shortened it to a paragraph. I'm trying to get him on the phone.

Anonymous said...

Hope she enjoys her big salary for five years while she and her people offer a crap contract to the people who keep the buildings running and looking good.

Chimps, chumps and Ponzivillers said...

Hey what's Cap'n Hood been up to lately?

Radio controlled sail boating?

(what-a-friggan ~dump~)

Anonymous said...

If you look around at all of the local schools it becomes clear that Amherst reputation hangs on by the commitment of parents who push their kids, use Kumon, Sylvan, and tutors. Amherst became mediocre before Maria. She has the power to bring them back but lacks the experience and possibly the vision. We live in the land of education and will continue to blindly over fund our schools no matter what mediocre talent is the head of our schools. Very sad situation.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:21:
Maria Geryk is anything but a mediocre head of our schools and she definitely has a vision of where she wants to take the schools. If you don't know that fact you have not been paying attention. And clearly you have never spoken to Maria directly. Before commenting on her lack of vision you might want to have a conversation with her or attend/watch on Amherst Media some school committee meetings.

Anonymous said...

If we don't agree with you, we're not paying attention.

Well......that makes for a lively discussion.

Dr. Ed said...

I have actually spoken in person with Maria G -- I asked her about this then-new and quite controversial document, and she appeared never to have heard of its author -- the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. In her ignorance, she jeopardizes not only all Federal funding for the district, but also the four respective towns, but I digress...

After the Phoebe Prince suicide, which very much was disability-related, I genuinely wanted to know how she was implementing this earlier referenced letter of guidance

This was/is a fair question for any superintendent of schools -- and particularly for one with a background in SPED, which kinda is what Maria G's is.

What I did not know is that the Mass Dept of Education also sent a copy of the ED/OCR letter to Maria G, with a cover letter from Mitchell Chester. A copy of that is here:

A competent superintendent could articulate exactly what her interpretation of these important regulatory documents was, and what exactly her district is or isn't doing in response to them.

Remember that this is the same thing as "Title IX" -- and the same people. If ED/OCR had sent out a Title IX "Dear Colleague" letter addressing gender equity issues in high school sports, one would expect the superintendent to be aware of it -- and concerns would be raised if she didn't.

Her professional judgment may be that they were bullshite and she intended to ignore them, or that the district was already in compliance with them, or that she was going to do specific things to be in compliance with them -- in Amherst she'd better be able to respond to a question about a national letter about Title IX. And likewise, she ought to have been able to respond to this.

OK, Team Maria, I'd like to know what you are doing to implement the regs on disability harassment -- and I'm sure that a lot of parents would as well. (I strongly encourage parents of children with learning disabilities to read the OCR stuff cited above -- and on occasion, I have been known to advise parents, Larry knows how to reach me.)

Phoebe Prince didn't have to die, and I really would like to know what the ARSD is doing to prevent something like that from happening again.

Dr. Ed said...

Standard IV: Professional Culture.
Promotes success for all students by nurturing and sustaining a school culture of reflective practice, high expectations, and continuous learning for staff.

How the hell does she do that when she (a) does not hold a valid teaching certificate, (b) does not have a doctorate (in anything, and (c) does not have a doctorate in either school administration or curriculum -- in fact, has no degrees in either.

How the hell does one do "reflective practice" without knowing what it even is? And absent some really funky forms of clairvoyance, how does one learn what it is without having been taught that? In other words, having the degrees in education that she does not have....

We can say that a doctorate isn't worth the paper it is printed on, that she doesn't need one, etc -- but that's inherently inconsistent with this standard, which theoretically is one of the criteria for her evaluation.

She is supposed to be heading a district which has "continuous learning for staff" -- which values things like doctorates in education -- which she doesn't have. A district which respects and honors teaching as a profession, as reflected by professional licensure (i.e. teaching certificate) which she also doesn't have.

Maria G holds a SPED certificate -- that's not a regular classroom and it's the same thing as saying that anyone holding a classroom certificate is qualified to teach SPED (something which those with SPED certificates would vehemently disagree).

Again, we can argue that certification is irrelevant, that "teachers are born and not made" and that education courses and teaching curriculum is completely without merit. We could argue that -- I don't know how many teachers in the district would, particularly as it would toss out both their step increases for years as a teacher and their level increases for having (or getting) advanced degrees, but we could argue this.

We could argue this -- but not if we also have Standard IV. The two are logically inconsistent.

Anonymous said...

I did not say anything anyone needs to agree with or not. I did not state any opinion that needs to be discussed. I stated a fact. Maria Geryk has a vision.for.the schools. I have heard her articulate it and she certainly has talked about it a school committee meetings. You may not like her vision but to state that she has no vision is.just plain inaccurate.

Dr. Ed said...

I stated a fact. Maria Geryk has a vision.for.the schools.

A N D ????

Whoever has the authority decided that she should be evaluated with respect to four criteria. OK.

I look at the fourth criteria and she clearly isn't able to meet that -- not without a classroom teacher's certification and a relevant doctorate. I'm not saying that the criteria is legitimate, only that she isn't meeting it.

Then I go to a question that she ought to know -- that any competent superintendent ought to know -- kinda like asking a high school student what you do when there is a police car with blue lights on behind you, and her response was kinda like "what's a police car?"

She may well have a vision -- I'm not saying she doesn't -- all I am saying is that she doesn't meet one of the established criteria, and that she showed a disturbing lack of relevant Superintendent-type knowledge in an area that is most directly related to her area of expertise.

That, too, is a fact. And unless the Team Maria Fan Club can articulate an answer as to how the District has implemented this OCR regulation, she is placing not only the schools but the four towns in a great deal of jeopardy because the penalty for noncompliance with an OCR mandate can include total termination of all Federal funding to the recipient.

You know those "Violence Against Women" grants that the APD has? Team Maria is placing them in jeopardy as that's Federal funding, as are a lot of other things...

Dr. Ed said...

One other thing: this is a legitimate question, not a "gotcha" one.

If I had wished to ask one of those, I would have instead innocently asked her what her position on the "whole language" versus "phonics" debate was. While not as virulent as it was a decade ago, this is the educational equivalent of the Red Sox v. Yankees and any answer she gave would inherently piss off at least half of those hearing it.

As I am "secondary" -- my teaching certificates are Grades 7-12 -- I could innocently claim to not realize how controversial an issue this was and then express concern about her inability to maintain a harmonious relationship amongst the Elementary Ed folks.

And those of you who know who I really am, and have heard the stories about me (a few of which are actually true) know what I can do with the spoken word when human life is on the line (or when I am really scared) but I keep a tight reign on that ability and would never use it in a situation like this.

No, that was (and is) a fair question for someone coming out of a SPED background and claiming to have the competence to be a Superintendent of Schools. She is the person responsible for having an answer (even if she hires a half dozen people to tell her what it should be, she still is the person who has to physically have the answer and to sign any letter to the Feds in which she articulates it).

Its like asking Junior what he's gonna do if the police car behind him turns the blue lights on. That's not a "gotcha" question, instead it is something that every parent ought to be damn sure of before letting Junior take the family car out for the evening.

So too here -- how does she not have an answer? Maybe she has one -- I try to be fair and will give her the benefit of the doubt -- but she never told me what it was, still hasn't, and I haven't heard it.

And one other thing -- notwithstanding me, she really ought to publish her answer (assuming she has one) -- there is, after all, this lovely district website... There are parents who likely would benefit from knowing what her answer is...

Anonymous said...

Ed, my vision comment was not directed at you. I know it's hard for you to believe but the world does not revolve around you. I actually don't carewhat you think about Maria G. I know she is the best thing that has happened in our schools in years.

Anonymous said...

What is Geryk's vision?

Anonymous said...

What is her vision?

You'll have to go back over the last several years of presentations and appearances, that have happened here in town, in Northampton, at area colleges and institutions including Amherst College, churches, civic organizations, on radio and TV and in print, so on and so on... no one who comments here is qualified to present her vision.

Her televised finalist interview in front of the school committee would be as good a place to start as any. It's best to watch her interview along with the guy's from PA that Catherine and Steve wanted to install, for contrast and comparison.

Anonymous said...

Usually when a leader has a strong vision, it can be stated in a sentence or two. Obivously, you can't articulate it and I doubt anyone will watch hours of community access tv to discern it. Clear as mud?

Anonymous said...

People should hear the vision directly from Maria. If you are really interested in what it is, call and make an appointment to talk to her. If you are only interested in flinging mud then you can go on being unimformed. But people who read this blog should understand that you are just slinging mud and are writing from a view point of uninterested ignorance.

Anonymous said...

I'm stupid, and that's why I can't articulate her vision in one or two sentences here on a blog. MG seems very accessible, if you really want to know, and if you really haven't been paying attention for the last several years... ask her!

Let us know what you find out, (if you're not too ascared to meet her.)

Larry Kelley said...

I hope you do not teach English for ARPS.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, remember the story about the emperor and his new suit of clothes?

Why do I think that Maria G's "vision" is the same sort of thing -- no one can quite tell what it is, but no one is gonna admit that they can't...

Anonymous said...

yeah, that's it ed, the two anon people who are commenting here who defend MG comprise enough of the populace that clearly "nobody" can articulate her "vision". Like there are throngs of MG supporters on here thinking, "Gee, Ed's really got us on this one!" You truly are delusional if you think you are arguing against an army of MG supporters here.

MG has mega-support from all stations: town residents, school staff and personnel, town gov, police, local civic orgs, the select board, the SC, local higher ed institutions, state gov...

why don't you and walter set up an appointment to meet with MG if you really want an answer to your "vision" question? (I'm not sure if she'll make time to meet with non-residents with no children who say weird shit about her on the internet and have nothing to do with education in the state, but you could find out.)

She has a Massachusetts State Superintendents Certification (something no one would ever give you) and that's all she needs to bring her vision to a reality.

You're just bitter because you wasted 10 years of your life and boatloads of money at "the cesspool" and you'll never accomplish what MG has in the state's public schools in the last 25 years.