Monday, August 5, 2013

Dream A Little Dream Of Amherst

Yeah, another one of those ludicrous "lists" that every digital outlet loves to publish these days to attract hits.  Although this one was first published back in May, it now seems to be gaining traction.

Although I'm surprised the Amherst Chamber of Commerce or UMass Office of News & Media Relations has not issued a breathless press release with the headline "We're Number 2!"

This one you just know is suspect when they screw up two-out-of-three purported claims to fame.

According to

 "Home to Massachusetts' flagship public university, Amherst takes the second spot on our list. Amherst boasts strong schools and decent housing costs. It's also a safe community. While not the most fun town, its substantial population of students adds to its hipster cred."

Our schools are certainly EXPENSIVE, pushing top 10% in the entire state for per student cost; but not nearly so "strong".  And our housing cost are FAR from "decent" (mainly because of the presence of all those "hipster" students). 

But we most certainly are "safe," even if APD does arrest 3 or 4 drunk drivers per week. 

Memo to one-for-three ain't bad ... if we're talking baseball.

No wonder they just sold for a (swan) song.


Anonymous said...

Our housing prices are cheap compared to similar Boston suburbs. Try buying a house in Newton.

Tom McBride said...

Try buying a house in Hadley and paying taxes there. Big improvement.

Anonymous said...

Not when you have to pay to send your kid to private school.

Where the men wear burkas said...

Try being surrounded by Ponzivillers.

Go ahead.

Tom McBride said...

The quality of life in Hadley is pretty good, and I understand the schools are good as well. I think the parents are interested in education, which helps a lot. And what a terrible misfortune to live among less pretentious citizens (I think one of the responders called them hicks, that's horrible). We live in Amherst, where once source on the web (Wikipedia) said we were about the largest municipality in Massachusetts to not have a council/manager form of government instead of the cumbersome style we seem to cling to. We're not hear to listen to our own voices and live like aristocrats, pay the manager and superintendent huge salaries all in hopes of building our huge image that was noted in some magazine. We're here just to provide a decent place to live with affordable housing and good schools and fewer restrictions on zoning. How we got so full of ourselves, I left that question unanswered a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Hadley has fewer restriction on zoning and look how unsightly it is. When I was a kid it was nothing but beautiful farmland. Now it's as ugly as it gets.

Anonymous said...

Amherst parents are sending their kids to Hadley schools-

and if you think Hadley looks bad- Amherst is looking quite shabby too!

Walter Graff said...

"about the largest municipality in Massachusetts to not have a council/manager form of government instead of the cumbersome style we seem to cling to"

As former Amherst resident Thomas Sowell says, when you take a bunch of liberal intellectuals and put them in charge no one wants to take any blame so they create a system where no one has to make any decisions, be responsible for any decisions, and who hire outside groups to do all the research and make decisions so they can be the blame when nothing goes right and not the intellectuals. Intellectuals are high on themselves, and think their sh!t doesnt stink because they are ordained "smart" so can't have anything that destroys that fantasy. Classic Amherst.

As for all of the absurd fearful and ignorant comments about Hadley, look at it this way, Amherst people look down on Hadley residents... not as well educated. All part of the intellectual God complex that makes up Amherst.

Anonymous said...

If the Hadley schools are so good why is perennial Amherst schools basher and new Hadley resident Catherine Sanderson school choicing her kids to Amherst? She is another person who has praised the Hadley school system in the past. But look what happens when the rubber hits the road.

Anonymous said...

Catherine is not Hadley. She is not school choicing her children back into Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Catherine is not living in Hadley? Is that what you are saying Anon 7:35? I could not tell what you meant.

Anonymous said...

Catherine Sanderson? Quick, break out the burning torches and ring her house! Her again--that, that woman who raised $1,000s to build a new playground at Fort River, pushed to change the failing elementary math program, get more preschool seats for poor kids, add a Spanish language program to elementary schools, save the district millions by working to close a school, redistrict so all the poor kids didn't wind up at Crocker, have better curriculum, hire an experienced bi-lingual superintendent with a track record of helping failing and high-achieving kids, and so on. Good to the likes of her out of here.

Anonymous said...

When Marks Meadow closed, the schools HAD to redistrict. CS had nothing to do with redistricting. And, truth be known, there are poor kids spread out all through Amherst. Lets get our facts straight.
CS did not want the bilingual superintendent - she wanted the guy from Hartford. She was quite upset at the time that the guy from Hartford did not get enough votes to be chosen..and as luck would have it, the wonderful bilingual superintendent did not last even one year. Wonderful choice he was!
The curriculum has steadily improved under the guidance of Maria Geryk and Rhonda Cohen - CS had nothing to do with that. The elementary math program was changed by the decision of Rhonda Cohen - not CS. If we had listened to CS we would have been stuck with Singapore Math - a very poor choice.

Lets try to get our facts straight. CS and her cohorts were the worst thing to happen to the Amherst schools in decades...she did nothing to help our schools. The closing of Marks Meadow would not have happened if she was the only person who wanted it to happen...the entire school committee voted for its closure.
Amherst is finally recovering from her time on the SC and making progress in many areas.
And I add my voice to ask the question, if the Amherst schools are so bad and the Hadley schools so wonderful ( according to her and many others on this blog) why is she school choicing into the Amherst schools. Makes one wonder. I would think she would be thrilled at the opportunity to send her kids to the wonderful Hadley schools.

Dr. Ed said...

"It's also a safe community. While not the most fun town, its substantial population of students adds to its hipster cred."

There are parts of town, such as certain parts of South Amherst, which are considerably more dangerous on a per-capita basis than any part of Boston.

And saying "not the most fun town" is not only an understatement but flies in the face of the second part of the sentence. It begs the inherent next logical question of "why" -- why isn't Amherst a fun place with all the young people there?

It would be like saying that Hampton Roads isn't friendly to the US Navy but its substantial population of sailors adds to the patriotic feel of town.

No, Hampton Roads is a Navy town and Amherst is a college town -- and the fact that Amherst isn't a "fun" town notwithstanding being a college town shows the inherent problem and why the rioting occurs.

Imagine if a group of Muslims were to gain political control of Holyoke and -- with the Islamic view of alcohol -- closed all the bars, sought to ban the possession/sale of alcohol and eliminated the St. Patrick's day parade.

Think there may be a few "issues" coming out of that one????

Dr. Ed (part 1) said...


Part 1 of 2

Amherst is a petty and vicious town populated by bullies -- and one need only look at how well-intended Catherine Sanderson was treated to see that.

First, she took on a sacred cow -- Mark's Meadow -- and instead of Bailey Jackson being blamed for killing it -- and he is the one who did kill it by (a) eliminating the teacher certification programs and (b) eliminating MM as the "experimental school" -- thus forcing Amherst to hire staff to do what UM students had once done -- instead of blaming the Black Man who is responsible, PCAmherst blamed the White Woman who sought to clean up the mess.

Second, Sanderson was behind the desegregation of the schools -- yes, there would have been redistricting -- but if she hadn't done what she'd done, it would only have been a matter of time before a NAACP suit and Federal intervention.

Team Maria wouldn't have done well talking back to a Federal judge. No....

CS did not want the bilingual superintendent - she wanted the guy from Hartford.

In light of how poorly the bilingual superintendent performed -- which this CAN openly admits -- I think that Sanderson was quite right in not wanting him.

She didn't want the guy who turned out to be a disaster -- and you're condemning her for that?!?!?!? What's next, condemning Gerald Mooning for ordering sand & salt as it is a nice sunny day today?

Personally, I'd be inclined to condemn the people who wanted the candidate who failed, or the DPW guy who *isn't* ordering sand & salt for next winter's inevitable use.

The curriculum has steadily improved under the guidance of Maria Geryk and Rhonda Cohen

And divine inspiration?

If nothing else, everyone involved knowing that there was vocal community support for curriculum improvement (not just CS) didn't empower Geryk to make changes she otherwise would have found harder to make????

If we had listened to CS we would have been stuck with Singapore Math - a very poor choice.

I'm not certain of that. Even though I was actually certified to teach it, math curriculum is not my area of expertise and people whom I respect -- who *are* experts in math curriculum -- tend to favor Singapore.

I'm also not going to touch off the Whole Language versus Phonics debate -- or Obama's current reincarnation of it -- only to suggest that there are different learning styles and hence different learning needs (without even getting into SPED things like Dyslexia & ADHD) and much as good teachers quietly use aspects of both Whole Language & Phonics to meet the needs of the entire class, I suspect that the ideal math curriculum has aspects of both "new math" and "Singapore math" in it.

Dr. Ed (part 2) said...

Part 2 of 2

Further, say what you want about Sanderson, she backed up her beliefs with legitimate research which she made publicly available. Maria G did not do this -- Team Maria merely called CS names, they never produced any legitimate research disputing anything Sanderson said.

My doctorate is in curriculum -- I know what research looks like, I may or may not agree with the conclusions the researchers reach, I may raise issues about the methods and underlying assumptions, but I know what research looks like -- and as Maria G's MEd & CAGS is from the same UM School of Education that mine is from, she ought to know what it looks like too.

So where's the research base for these alleged improvements? I'm a "trust but verify" kind of guy and while I lean towards qualitative rather than quantitative research, an assertion of improvement needs to be supported by some sort or means of quantitative measurement.

So where Sanderson put the research supporting her beliefs out onto the internet for all to see, Team Maria has neither done this nor -- having made the desired changes -- documented their success.

Say what you want, I haven't seen it -- and Maria G *still* hasn't answered a question I asked her some years ago, back when an answer would have been relevant to something I was working on at the time.

Amherst is finally recovering from her time on the SC

I would argue that a Backdraft is quietly building up -- and sooner-or-later something is going to touch it off.

If nothing else, Sanderson was like the firefighter up cutting holes in the roof with a chain saw -- "ventilating" the fire so as to prevent a backdraft (or flashover). Now everything's sealed up tight -- fire's still burning, there are a lot of explosive gases heated way above their ignition temperature and all it will take is an unanticipated puff of air for the whole thing to explode.

There is a reason why you check both a door and the doorknob with the back of your hand before opening it -- Team Maria is going to inadvertently (and likely nonchalantly) open a door into the educational equivalent of a backdraft -- it's only a matter of time....

why is she school choicing into the Amherst schools.

Could it have anything to do with that's where her children's friends all go to school? Could it be that - as a Professor of Psychology -- she knows how traumatic a new school system can be to children? Could it be that being loving parents, she (and her husband) have decided to keep their children with the friends they have always known?

Could it be the case of parents putting the interests of children ahead of their own, of doing what they consider "best for the child" socially, even if they have to make up the educational deficits at their own expense?

Anonymous said...

That guy from Hartford was bilingual and an ELL student, byt. And that guy from California also was bilngual. And Rhonda Cohen is trying to fix all the curriculum problems parents have been pointing out for years. Apparently the key is not to say anything out loud. The school committee has gone back to sleep and hasn't done much since.

Anonymous said...

chinese charter use singapore math and they top most of the state on math mcas

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Just wanted to say that my blog is still up, so anyone can actually read my thoughts from the time I was on sc - my views about closing marks meadow and re districting (and the support I did or did not have), how I voted on all superintendent hires and why (including my lone vote for dr. sklarz over dr. rodriguez), and my views on math curriculum (including my statement in December 2009 we should choose everyday math, which the district did move to three years later). I don't believe it is appropriate to discuss the educational decisions I make for my three children on a blog, because it violates their privacy. But anyone who is genuinely interested in why I've made particular choices for my children is free to contact me privately for such a discussion anytime:

Anonymous said...

I think housing prices are a real bargain in Amherst if you compare it to Hadley or Northampton. Amherst is a quaint little New England town as long as it is a good fit for the individual that moves here. The taxes are certainly high compared to the other towns but otherwise a pretty good deal.

Anonymous said...

But Catherine...a 7000 square foot house in Hadley?

What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

Anon: 1;26

Can I get some of what you are smoking or drinking. I really want to live in the delusion you are experiencing. Life would be much easier if I could. This darn reality keeps getting in the way.

Very little has changed in our schools. I hear they are getting rid of Honors 7th grade math and possibly eliminating Algebra in the 8th grade. Is a step in the right direction.? The ever increasing cost of our schools without real student performance improvements, is that an improvement? Maybe you mean how much better low income and minorities do in our schools? Oh maybe you could site the next great program that will change our schools. You know the one that will be a smashing failure and never be spoken of again. Is that the improvement.

You mention how much better it is getting, but fail like so many before you to mention what is getting better. Just platitudes to your delusional state of mind. Don't bother with a baseless rebuttal it is not worth anyone's time.

Dr. Ed said...

chinese charter use singapore math and they top most of the state on math mcas

Dr. Ed goes to conferences and -- like I said -- people whom I respect speak favorably about Singapore Math and its results.

Other than criticizing "Calculus for Third Graders" -- I had enough trouble with it in the Eleventh Grade -- I try to stay out of this admitting that this is neither my area of expertise nor something that I have researched in great detail.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 5:22 - it is fortunate that the time I no longer spend working on school committee is now spent writing books and giving talks, which indeed help one pay for a larger home (and one with lower taxes than my amherst house).

Anonymous said...


The response to you is still......Pavlovian after all these years.

I hope that it brings you some comfort and amusement that these sentries guarding the most fortified bureaucracy in all of western Massachusetts get so panicked whenever your name is mentioned.

Dr. Ed said...

Three things:

First, FERPA (Buckley Amendment) applies to K-12 as well and I hope that Team Maria's Minions understand that they ought not be even mentioning (let alone discussing) specific students.

FERPA applies to educational agencies and institutions that receive funds under any program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. This includes virtually all
public schools and school districts school....An educational agency or institution subject to FERPA may not have a policy or practice of disclosing the education records of students, or personally identifiable information from education records, without a parent or eligible student’s written consent. See 34 CFR § 99.30.

Here's Wright's Law on FERPA and here's the folks you complain to if a school (or college) violates FERPA.

It's my understanding that the Commonwealth can (and will) revoke a teacher (or admin) certificate for misconduct of this sort. I have sources there, even with the twit that is currently running it, and if you folks want me to find out explicitly, I will -- or you can just consider this "a word to the wise."

Second, there are crazy people out there and the more I think about it, I have real concerns about putting anything about anyone's children onto the internet.

Particularly like things that would help some creep find them -- there are a lot of demented and quite sick people out there and I don't think that this is anything that any ethical person ought to be doing.

But Catherine...a 7000 square foot house in Hadley?

She's not a public figure anymore, boys 'n' girls, and I really think you should leave her alone.

This is -- or at least used to be -- "a free country" and if she (and her family -- who have done nothing to any of you, ever) wants to live in an abandoned ICBM silo, that's her business. Likewise if she decides to shave her head and put a stove bolt through her nose -- or decides to become a guy and changes his name to Charles.

You were all "sensitive" enough to use the "preferred gender pronoun" in reference to the individual involved in that fatal bicycle accident -- you were "sensitive" enough to honor an anatomically female woman's choice to be considered male, but not to honor another woman's choice as to what house she lives in?

What the hell is the difference?

For all your mantras of nonjudgmental-ism, you folk seem to be downright fascist. You will tolerate diversity as long as it is diversity that you approve of -- otherwise one must conform. That, boys 'n' girls, is textbook fascism.

You know all that stuff about "how does gay marriage affect anyone else?" -- well how does the house that Catherine Sanderson lives in affect anyone else either?

And if she really has moved out of town -- to Hadley or to the Himalayas -- that means that you don't have to worry about her running for School Committee (or anything else) again. That doesn't please you?

So as was suggested that the US do in Vietnam -- Declare victory and go home. Leave her and her family alone!

Larry Kelley said...

Actually what they need to worry about is when Catherine writes her book about all those adventures in Amherst.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry -- I still intend to write The Ivory Gulag as well.

Anonymous said...

Throw a stone in the puddle and watch the ripples. Great fun. Hope Ed doesn't have a heart attack. It's great fun to picture him sitting at his computer sputtering away as he furiously types on his computer. Take care of your health Ed.

Anonymous said...

Now it all comes back -- four Amherst school committee members voted for the superintendent candidate from California -- and were outvoted by the other towns plus one Amherst member. So a majority of Amherst members lost on a regional vote.

Hey, bring on a regional committee for the elementary schools! Cut back Amherst's power even more!

Anonymous said...

According to the APRS budget docs for FY2014 (still posted on the ARPS web site), the district projects that 3 Amherst children will school choice to Hadley this coming school year. This is not exactly a mass exodus.

Though I don't have the exact figure, I am sure that the number of Hadley children school choicing into Amherst is higher than 3. The Amherst Bulletin ran a story on the Amherst district's Family University initiative this past spring and both of the families the article profiled were from Hadley and choicing kids into Amherst.

Larry Kelley said...

ARPS data on exiting the district is VERY inaccurate.

Last year they said zero students from Amherst went to Deerfield Academy.

I personally know of four who were attending there at the time, and I hear from a reliable source the number was at least 10.

Anonymous said...

According to the info given to TM, almost 20% of Amherst school children leave the district.

They'll make anyone a scapegoat said...

"But Catherine...a 7000 square foot house in Hadley?

What's up with that?"

No no, Catherine's doing the psychology thing.

If you want financial advice, email this guy:

He'll tell you ~everything~ you need to know about making it big and "spreading the wealth".

Anonymous said...

Not everyone choices in to Amherst schools on the record.

We have had children from out of town off the books in the past.

Anonymous said...

Really anon 12:32, ask Wally about it. I'm sure he can explain how it's done.
Just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:52 again
I agree that the district has pretty poor data on kids leaving the Amherst schools, especially for private school enrollment (such as with those Deerfield Academy omissions).

However, I think the school choice figures are probably pretty accurate since money is changing hands, and Amherst getting reimbursed for students choicing in and paying reimbursement for students choicing out.

With kids whose parents live apart, one in Amherst and one elsewhere, I am assuming that the parents can decide to send their kids to Amherst or the other district and in neither case, would it be considered school choice. Is that incorrect?

Anonymous said...

I am very grateful to Catherine Sanderson for the years she spent on the School Committee asking tough questions and advocating for students.

I wish the School Committee had someone, anyone willing to stand up to the district administration in public, on record (not just behind closed doors). The School Committee is the superintendent's boss, but one would never know it watching the School Committee meetings of late.

Anonymous said...

Can one explain to me what the administration is doing that is so bad that we need the SC to stand up to them? Seriously. I don't understand the ferocity of the antagonism for the Superintendent that is so evident on this blog. Just EXACTLY is it that you folks want Ms. Geryk to do that she is not doing. EXACTLY what is so bad about out schools? What does Hadley have that Amherst does not? What does Northampton have that Amherst does not? Lots of folks speak in generalities here about "Team Maria" and how she is destroying our schools and the SC needs to stand up to her? Well, what exactly is she doing that is destroying our schools?

Anonymous said...

Well since you asked anon 3:52 here is my take.

The Amherst schools are not significantly better or worse than lets say Northampton. What is different is the amount of money we spend and the results we get from that spending. The results for testing MCAS or SAT’s is marginally better in Amherst. Personally I think that a lot of this could be explained by the much higher degree of education in our homes in Amherst. Better education in the family means at the least better in home tutors.

The other issue is the PR machine in town. This seems to have calmed down since certain people have stepped down from SC. When you keep seeing articles about new programs bound to save the student body and raise achievement for all then they are never spoke of again you really have to wonder.

Look at MAP testing. We were told it was going to give us individual areas of strength and weakness for our kids in math and reading. It would help the teachers better tailor their lessons to correct areas of weakness in the student body. We were told we could see the results in a few months. A few months turned into 9 or more after they realized they needed several test to give meaningful results. Clearly the people pushing for this testing did not really understand it if they made such a fundamental flaw in their sales pitch.

After several years of testing the teachers I talked to would show my kids scores to me but were never told to use them or even given a reason to use the scores. So we are just wasting money.

I have heard this year they started using the scores as a cut of for who gets into the faster track math in the 7th grade. They are discounting teacher opinions but sticking to the test. That is so counter Amherst.

There are many more examples but that is all I have time for. We spend a lot, we have the highest paid administrators and many of them, our scores and new programs are not putting us on the front pages of the Boston globe as the school leader in MA. So what are we really doing?

Oh and from the statistics at town meeting students are leaving for private school at a faster rate than in the past. Is it a disaster? Probably not but it is a huge waste of money. Did Maria start all of it? Certainly not. Does she appear to be correcting it. Well, not really. So there is going to be some deserved and undeserved heat at the top.

Got any concrete examples of changes that have been done? We would be happy to hear them.

Anonymous said...

MAP testing is gone. A new assessment system will be used this coming school year.

Anonymous said...

Wow, so we kept this program for 2 or 3 years. Wasted district money, teacher time and student time. Now we are ending the program. I bet there won't be a PR piece in the paper about this failure.

Onto the next distraction, or should I say new educational program sure to save the future children of America.

I noticed how anon 3:52 failed to offer any example of how the schools are working.

Why do people who say the schools are wonderful ask us what the problems are but fail to show us the wonderful successes of the schools.

Anonymous said...

This is anon 352. I never said the schools were anything. Good, bad or indifferent. I am simply trying to understand what the issues are. People on all sides here talk in generalities and I was simply trying to get some specifics. Thank you to the person who responded to my question.

Anonymous said...

More example for anon 3:52

Maria hired a curriculum director at the request of the SC back several years ago. The position was posted for $90K a year. The person hired was given a salary of $112K a year. Rumor has it they were making less than half that amount at their previous job. The individual hired was considered less than stellar and disappeared shortly after another curriculum director was hired for $120K. To add insult to injury in the pursuit of spending like a drunken sailor, another math curriculum position was added shortly after for another $80K.

So in 3 or so years we went from having no curriculum people to having two that make $200K plus.

Anonymous said...

For many years parents keep asking why we use a trimester system that allows for kids to take language and math in Trimesters 1&2, or 1&3, or 2&3 leaving large learning gaps for their kids.

Both the SC and the superintendent failed in their last contract negotiation to take back control of the choice of trimesters vs semesters from the teachers union. A critical components to turning Amherst around.

Anonymous said...

Why would you take one of the best principles in Amherst like Mike Morris, who had just gotten an Innovation Grant from the state for Crocker Farm, and move him to an admin job evaluating teachers.

It seems like they need their best and brightest to navigate the new state evaluation system.

If the school and teachers are so good you don't need one of your best leaders being sidelined to perform teacher evals.

I am sure Mike is up to the task I just think he could do a greater good elsewhere. Maybe as Superintendent?

Anonymous said...

Funny, I'm looking at several quotes from Catherine Sanderson in STRONG SUPPORT of Doctor Alberto Rodriguez, (she was AGAINST him BEFORE she was FOR him,) and these comments of VERY strong support were made AFTER she read his evaluations... and during the time she was regularly communicating with him, which was AFTER he "resigned" and moved back (although he was already there) to Florida...

When y'all read WHAT was in those evals... which Catherine READ... and then she spoke out in SUPPORT of him... My Goodness...

Catherine, why in the WORLD did you decide to come out in SUPPORT of Doctor Alberto Rodriguez after reading his evaluations? Did you think they'd stay HIDDEN forever? Didn't you feel like you needed to take a SHOWER after reading his evals, rather than come out in SUPPORT of him?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The district’s investigation, which started in May, was prompted by an anonymous letter claiming improper behavior.

Gotta love those CANS and their anonymous letters!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how our current administration would fair if the anonymous letter that Larry got several years was sent to a state investigator instead.

I believe Larry redacted all the names in his posting to the blog, but it was clear they were all pretty high up.

Its a good thing they pushed Rodriguez out as he was going to clean house in Amherst. It was him or them and they got him first. I guess it takes a ethically challenged guy to see an ethically challenged administration for what it really is.

Anonymous said...

I think it is funny how people post that Sanderson liked A-rod. She liked the guy from Hartford better but worked with what she had. She was a bigger person than the administration that pushed him out instead of working with him.

CS did not want A-rod originally but the teachers wanted him and most of the School committee did to. I never hear people talk about how the majority of the SC failed at their hire and how the teachers were wrong about him.

Most of the parents wanted the guy from Hartford. In Amherst the parents rarely get what they want.

Anonymous said...

It all begins and ends with Ms Mazur

Anonymous said...

anon 8:38:

The woman who wrote the anonymous letter a few years back no longer works in the system.

There was nothing within the letter that was factual as it related to anybody working in the system at the time.

It was not a matter of who got who first; he was the only employee who was committing several serious ethical, and multiple legal breaches, and on a remarkably regular basis. (The fact that he was rarely at work was the least of his infractions.)

Anonymous said...

Catherine said:

I don't believe it is appropriate to discuss the educational decisions I make for my three children on a blog, because it violates their privacy.

Of course, she has no problem violating the high school principal's kid's privacy by publishing, on her blog, comments about the educational decisions that her parents made for her...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why the administration went after full control of the after school programs. What were the programs doing wrong that they had to be taken over by, I believe, LSSE. The whole thing seemed rather heavy handed.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Dear Anonymous 2:33,

Sorry for the confusion on this issue of children's privacy. I am a private citizen, and therefore I am free to make whatever decision I want to make about my children's education without the public's concern. I believe that employees of the public schools, including the principal of ARHS, and members of the SC are public officials, and are indeed responsible for explaining decisions that involve their children's educational choices. When I was on the SC, not only did the high school principal not use the public schools, but several members of the SC used private or charter schools for their own children, which I believe entitles the public to an explanation. One of the factors involved in my decision to not run for re-election was my own belief that it was inappropriate to serve on the SC while sending one of my children to private school, which I intended to do (and indeed have done).

Anonymous said...

Of course, Catherine, those questions about school committee members' and school employees' decisions about where they decide to educate their children in an appropriate and civilized manner, as opposed to the unrefined and harassing and demoralizing manner with which it was conducted on your blog.

Regardless... neither you nor the public are or were "entitled" to receive their explanations about private decisions, nor are they "responsible" for doing so. You are once again demonstrating that you really didn't know what your job as a School Committee member was.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why the administration went after full control of the after school programs. What were the programs doing wrong that they had to be taken over by, I believe, LSSE. The whole thing seemed rather heavy handed.

This issue has been discussed, described and explained by school and town officials ad nauseam on-line and in the papers and at publicly televised meetings. look it up yourself.

Anonymous said...

The new curriculum director, Dr. Rhonda Cohen, is excellent, and a great addition to the district. I'm still not clear though about why we had a separate math and science coordinator at the district level. He has a PhD too, but doesn't impress the way Dr. Cohen does. Other recent hires in the central administration -- for example, Faye Brady -- also have PhDs. Mike Morris will have one soon too. He tweeted earlier this summer about starting a new PhD program. It's a 3-yr program designed for school administrators who are working full-time. Who is missing a PhD: our superintendent, though perhaps she is working on her degree too.

From the first time I met Mike Morris, I thought he could make an excellent superintendent (though he is great in the schools too). I've heard our current superintendent mention this as well.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 5:02 - I'm certain you and I disagree about many things, including the role of the sc, my contributions as a sc member, and likely how the amherst schools are currently fairing. You and I also disagree about the importance of having the integrity to own your comments, which I have always done on my own blog and on this blog, and which you are unwilling to do.

Anonymous said...

If Mike Morris were willing to take on the job of Superintendent of Schools in Amherst we would all be very fortunate. However people in town are overwhelmingly very happy with who we have now and the job she is doing and the direction in which things are moving. (7 or 8 people--Dr. Ed, Catherine Sanderson, Michael Aaronson, Walter Graff, Tom McBride, and Larry Kelley, and one or two CANs--notwithstanding.)

Anonymous said...

Superintendent Geryk isn't working on getting her Ph.D. Why should she? That would be a major waste of her time and money and we would get less out of her.

Teaching students seeking their Doctorates in School Administration... now that I could see in her future. (But why should she want to do that, either?)

My understanding is that Superintendent Geryk is the only Amherst Regional Public School employee with a Massachusetts State Superintendent Certification, and perhaps the only person living or working in Amherst with such a certification.

That works for me!

Anonymous said...

The role of the SC isn't debatable, it's pretty clear-cut. And catherine didn't understand it, obviously.

And I'm actually not having a conversation Catherine Sanderson, because I have no respect for her. The manner by which she caused strife and divisiveness within our schools and our town and the disrespect she regularly displayed at meetings was enough, but then the support she lent Dr. Alberto Rodriguez after she read his evaluations...that really sealed it.

Anonymous said...

There she goes again, trying to divert us from the real issues...

Larry Kelley said...

The real issue is you're a CAN.

That works for me!

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:23

I think there are many more CAN's than you think who are not happy with the schools. Most just don't bother to get involved because they know pushing the system is a complete waste of time. Amherst will talk you to death and tell you how much they understand your problems and then, for the majority of people I know, do absolutely nothing about it.

We can blame it on State and Federal Regs, we can blame it on our diverse town, we can blame it on overly demanding people, lazy administrators, bad teachers, etc.

In the end the schools will continue to grind out graduates. The question many of us ask is, are we really turning out graduates that are well prepared for life after high school. Could we do better? Do the low income and minority students really get the leg up that Amherst wants and spends the money on? Are we, and have we been spending our resources wisely? I just don't think so.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah CAN 6:23 PM

What he (or she) just said.

Anonymous said...

CAN 8:23:

You just don't think we could do better?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, yeah, the "majority of people you know", the "silent majority", heard it all before.

"Oh yeah? Well the majority of people I know think..."

Larry Kelley said...

Glad I don't hang out with CANs.

Anonymous said...

How many of the approximately 6,000 parents of arps students do you know exactly, anon 8:23? 1,000? 2,000? What is the number of people that comprises "the majority of people you know"?

My guess: 13.

Anonymous said...

CAN 823 makes a point. It's hard to know if what we are doing will work. But I do believe the administrators in place now are trying many new things to try to find what will work. And when something is not working they are not afraid to do it and try something else. Like the map program,which I thought sounded good on paper but I guess did not work well in the end. Schools across the nation are struggling with the same issues we are here in Amherst. You can't just snap your fingers and get results.

Anonymous said...

if you keep calling me a CAN i'm gonna blow my top and start bawling or something!

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:43

You are right that it is good that a school system is not afraid to try new things. Some work and some fail. No big deal it is a part of life. For those of us frustrated it feels like we only hear about more and more programs. We don't hear about success. Programs disappear and new one's take their place. In the meantime 1200 kids graduate who are guinea pigs to what seem like and endless array of new experiments.

The district never seems honest about its failings. It is always Ra Ra Ra. We are so wonderful and special. It feels disingenuous, false, fake. Maybe it is not as bad as my frustration feels. Maybe people like me overreact to the school system. But, if they were listening so well, and are as good as some think they are, shouldn't they do something about my perception?

Anonymous said...

all the schools' new programs have not closed the achievement gap one bit. we still have institutional racism in the schools, and low expectations. what has improved under Maria's watch? the best thing that has happened is the hiring of Dr. Rhonda Cohen ( after the hiring and subsequent firing of Dr. Beth Graham, who knew nothing about curriculum and did nothing to improve it). the school district talks the talk, spends the money on whatever new program looks and sounds great, and then nothing improves. when parents ask for follow-up or an evaluation of a program, we are met by silence from the SC and Maria. At least when CS was on the school board, she asked for evaluation too. And, when she proposed something, she backed it up with evidence of why it has worked in other districts. we don't need new programs like MAP, or anything else, if they haven't beem proven to be effective and useful. back to my first point, all these new programs and spending, and nothing has changed about the achievement gap, especially in our high school. why aren't parents up in arms?

Anonymous said...

"Why aren't parents up in arms?"

Because the overwhelming majority of parents are relatively content with the system (as imperfect as it is) that they have chosen to buy into, over hundreds of others. It's only a small handful of discontents who choose not to see the clear progress the school system is making or has made over the last several years. Out here in the actual world parents are happy and express it face to face with each other and the staff and administration. And when they're not happy they express that face to face as well. Anonymous comments on-line represent an incredibly small fraction of the discussion that occurs daily about the state of education here in Amherst.

Larry Kelley said...

Isn't that a soliloquy from "The Stepford Wives?"

Dr. Ed said...

My understanding is that Superintendent Geryk is the only Amherst Regional Public School employee with a Massachusetts State Superintendent Certification,

Which apparently aren't that hard to obtain in this state. If I were to have one, would that make me qualified for the job?

I've already been told -- by someone high up in DESE -- that I could have a Principal's certificate with little more than asking, and from there all one has to do is to land some sort of "Assistant Superintendent for whatever" job for a while to get the Supt card.

And that's assuming that Maria G even has a Principal's certificate, I know she doesn't have a classroom teacher's one.

All of this assuming that the state didn't screw up as well -- that she is actually entitled to it.

Mistakes are sometimes made, clerical error and all. I'm told that this is particularly likely when one is concurrently getting a new or enhanced certificate and changing one's name on it due to marriage -- as Maria G did -- and hence has all the supporting documentation (i.e. transcripts) in a different name.

Saying that Maria G received a superintendent certificate is like saying that Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning received security clearances -- both factually correct and raising larger questions....

Anonymous said...

The best thing that ever happened to the Amherst School system was Sanderson and Rivkin moving away. Unsatisfied parents just gave up. Some parents moved, went private, choice, charter, and others just learned to suck it up and do the best they could. None of these people stopped realizing that the system is less than perfect. They just stop talking about it.

So no news is good news right? If no one criticizes your schools they must be great. Congrats to all those who fought so well for Maria. Now you have what you wanted and it sounds like mediocrity works for you. Good luck.

Dr. Ed said...

At one time it was socially acceptable to presume that while men earn their successes through hard work and merit, women merely "sleep their way to the top."

And hence why a double standard? Maria G most likely associates with men -- both school employees and other superintendents -- and no one is suggesting that she is having an affair with them.

Maybe Rodreguez had an affair in Florida, maybe he didn't -- and maybe even if he did, it wasn't relevant to job performance.

Case in point Pat Benitar -- one of the few rock stars not to have gone off the deep end into drugs and everything else. Separated from but still married, she had an affair with, and subsequently married, her lead gutarist.

Three decades and two daughters later, she is *still* married to him, and they are still performing. I personally know married couples whose academic work and personal lives are so intertwined that there essentially is no longer a distinction -- and the same thing often happens when a couple own a farm or small business.

Feminists once asked for women to be held to the same standards that men were held. I'm now asking that likewise be done for men.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that why MAP/response to intervention was ended was never explained to the community or the SC? Not surprisingly, they didn't even ask why we spent all that money and time testing our students, and why the program "failed". Was it because the teachers weren't using the data to craft their teaching? Was it showing how deficient our students are in the basics? Was the material tested not aligned with our curriculum? This is an example of a failing in our system. We don't know, we aren't told and the SC seems not to care enough to ask. Apparently MAP was good enough information to help place 6th graders into 7th grade math, however. It seems like we might be progressing towards progress, but time will tell whether these new initiatives will actually lead to better student achievement. Our students spent a LOT of time on MAP testing, instead of learning. We should expect to be informed why it was stopped and apparently failed.

Anonymous said...

And Dr. Ed once again displays his ignorance:

it's "Benatar", not "Benitar", you philistine.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:38,

I may not agree with Ed much but hassling someone for spelling and grammar on a blog makes you look like an elitist, stuffy, over educated snob.

Anonymous said...

I make sure all the students in my freshmen college courses know the proper spelling of Pat Benatar's name, and Ed's got his Ph.D for chrissake. If you've got a problem with that CAN 3:38pm well tough nails.

Anonymous said...

12:24, i agree with you. Many involved parents have moved away or sent their kids to private schools. That doesn't mean the schools have gotten better.

What's happening with the math department at the high school? if your child gets one of the few excellent math teachers, you are set. but if not? many parents hire full year tutors for their kids. I am concerned about the parents who can't afford that. what happens to them? i'll tell you, they fail that course, or go to summer school, or repeat that course again the following year, and never get through the full cycle of high school math, limiting their post hs options...all because of the teacher. this is a systemic problem! Speak up parents. challenge the SC, Maria, the HS principal, the math department head...maybe contact Mike Morris in teacher evaluation. these poor teachers continue to "teach" our kids, and then our kids fail.

Anonymous said...

12:24 and 6:47 are clearly the same anonymous commentator...she's having a conversation with pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:09

I'll bite. I not as smart as you. How do you know they are both the same writing and how do you know it is a woman? Do I need an advanced degree in writing to see the patterns?

Anonymous said...

what is the basis for the statement the overwhelming majority of parents are relatively satisfied with the system? how do you know this? is this like nixon's famous silent majority?

Anonymous said...

Let the commentator try to deny it and prove I'm wrong...if she can pull that off I'll eat my shoe.

She knows that I know who she is...biter.

Dr. Ed said...

I make sure all the students in my freshmen college courses know the proper spelling of Pat Benatar's name, and Ed's got his Ph.D for chrissake

No, Ed actually has an Ed. D. so you, too, are guilty of misspelling things. But there is a larger question here -- if "all the students" in your "freshman college courses" are taught the correct spelling of her name, what the hell are you teaching in these courses????

I'm not even going to pursue this further -- your own words hang you....

Anonymous said...

hey, this is the commenter about MAP testing and wondering why it was discontinued. I am not the same person as the one that replied to my comment. What a weird idea, I think the 'accuser' is cracked.

I just wonder that after a year of beta testing at CF under M Morris, and then the district wide adoption of the program, we are now getting ride of it. You'd think someone on the SC would ask for a report (if the district didn't write one, then that in itself is a weakness). We spend a lot of $$, and our kids spent a LOT of time testing. Its called ACCOUNTABILITY, and just plain old good practice (in many places standard operating procedure- a final report).

Do I think this makes Ms Geryk a bad SI? No, but it is a persistent weakness. Good things have happened, new math curriculum (although it took much longer than needed), 7th grade math text chosen, later start time for MS HS (although not by much), added educational hours to elementary schools (why this deficiency required an outside consultant is beyond me, was it the only way the teachers union would by it?).

Anonymous said...

It is clear there are many stories of incompetence and inefficiency at the school system. I would like to hear from the so called majority of happy people in our school system.

What are the changes that you hold in such high regard? What has made a huge difference in your kids life at the school system? No one that I can remember has ever given this information. They simple say the critics are wrong because we say so.

Ok, so here is my challenge give us the good changes that are happening. Who are they helping. How do you know. Who initiated the change, etc. Don't just name a program and say it is great. Give us details as so many critics have done.

If you can not then we can conclude that the happy majority is a myth. Take the challenge.

Anonymous said...

you what has made a difference in my childrens' lives: great teachers. they are the people who inspired them, made them work harder, made the classroom into a productive, supportive and interesting place. they knew where their students were academically and socially and moved them ahead. they taught their students to love learning, behave respectfully and to work hard. it brings me to tears to think of those teachers.

it also brings me to tears the teachers that they had who weren't very good and all the problems and struggles that created. yes, we supplemented at home, sometimes hired tutors, kept encouraging our children to work hard and some days resorted to telling them they had to go to school because it was a law. where are the principals and administrators that leaves these people on staff in well paid job for life? they hear the complaints and almost always do nothing. how does it feel to be a hardworking teacher in the next classroom knowing that teacher isn't doing so much or worse, harm?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11;33,

I have experienced many great teachers in the school. Like you I have also had difficulties with weak or unmotivated teachers. We tried and still try many of the things your family has done.

The belief in education that we have, and try to instill in our kids, is just not reinforced enough. To much grade inflation. No consequences for bad academic behavior. We have been unfortunate not to have a majority of inspiring teachers. I know other parents who had better luck like you. My kids think that life long learning and social justice message at the school are just the words of hypocrites. It is hard to overcome this view.

With only so many years left in our kids education maybe choicing out makes more sense. Trying to get any real change has felt like a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Pat Benatar is the most important figure in 20th century music, so no, Ed, I will not apologize for making my students memorize the spelling.

My goodness, I'm only pulling your leg! I was writing a tongue in cheek response to the person who called me elitist and over-educated, which made me laugh because I barely finished high school.

But I can see from your responses to criticism of Ed's spelling of a rock star's name why some of y'all get so off-track and clearly misunderstand what's being said on these blogs. I was being facetious when I criticized Ed's mis-spelling.

Finally, the angry and dissatisfied anons on this blog are clearly a very small minority and often one person, posting several times to make it appear that there is an army of dissenters. Take a look around you. Most parents out here are happy and aren't paying attention to your anonymous complaints. The Amherst schools far and wide are considered strong and desirable. There are simply some in this town who will be dissatisfied no matter what the circumstances are.

Larry Kelley said...

Anytime I post anything relating to the schools my traffic for that particular post goes up by about 25%, and if Catherine Sanderson is mentioned add another 10%-15% on top of that.

But the really interesting thing is the number of Comments go up by a factor of 1000% or more.

And at the moment the comments critical of the schools certainly outnumber the "sun-will- come-out-tomorrow" cheerleader posts like yourself.

But hey, at least the sun is out today.

Anonymous said...

OK, so here is my challenge give us the good changes that are happening. Who are they helping. How do you know. Who initiated the change, etc. Don't just name a program and say it is great. Give us details as so many critics have done.

My challenge to you: attend and pay attention to the several weekly televised meetings about progress in the schools; attend the regular coffees and meetings with school officials, including principals and superintendent, and ask what's changing for the positive at those; watch the regular "Voices From Our Schools" segments televised on ACTV; make an appointment to meet with the superintendent and voice your concerns to her and demand answers; read the regular reports in the Amherst Bulletin detailing personnel and program changes; talk face-to-face to other parents who disagree with you; join one of the many parent groups and committees and find out what's happening first hand by being involved in a productive and positive way; talk to current and alumni students of ARHS who are leading successful post-Amherst academic and career lives... I'll come up with some more.

I'm just one CAN who barely finished high school out here...why would you put the challenge to me? Do you really care what I think and say?

Larry Kelley said...

You earned the challenge because you seem to spend an awful lot of time on a blog defending the schools.

I think if you really read some of the insightful concerns voiced just on this single post, you would know that those concerned parents have pretty much done everything you suggest.

So yeah, maybe you should come up with some more.

After all, what else do you have to do on such a beautiful day?

Anonymous said...

Wanna go hit some golf balls with me?

Please show me one comment I have made on this post in support of the schools. My comments are against chronic whiners, not FOR the schools. I have my issues with th schools, believe me. It just does no good for our town on the whole when complaints take on a one-sided confrontational form they do here on your blog often.

Larry Kelley said...

If you keep sticking your head in the sand, somebody may mistake it for a golf ball and whack it.

Anonymous said...

Fine. Enjoy your on-line life with Ed and Walter. You and your blog are dead to me.

Larry Kelley said...

The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.

You now have 999 left.

Anonymous said...

I'm the guy who threw out the challenge. It was not meant for anyone particular person. I really would like to hear from anyone what new improvements in the schools are working for them.

You can post as an ANON so no one will know who you are. It would be great to know that someone in the system not only says the new programs are good but can explain why. Isn't there anyone who can do that?

And Larry thank you. I have done all those things to work with the system that anon 2:01 suggests. I spent years doing those things and more. It was a complete waste of my time.

Anonymous said...

Our school committee members could choose to be a lot more proactive in advocating for our students and our schools than they are. Below is the description of the powers of the school committees as defined in MA general law. School committees "can establish educational policies and goals" for the district and do not have to defer to the central administration as much as our does. The superintendent reports to the school committee. Plus, it still seems crazy to me that the superintendent's contract was reviewed for 5 years (& with a clause for an additional year unless the SC determines far in advance not to renew her contract) ... without any public comment, before her annual review was complete, and while some of the school committee members were out of town and unable to participate in the discussion. 5 (6) years is very long timeframe for this second contract, considering many superintendents leave in shorter terms than that.
MGL, Chapter 71, Section 37
"The school committee in each city and town and each regional school district shall have the power to select and to terminate the superintendent, shall review and approve budgets for public education in the district, and shall establish educational goals and policies for the schools in the district consistent with the requirements of law and statewide goals and standards established by the board of education."

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the people who oppose the Retreat will be more in favor of the proposed off-campus student housing on Olympia Drive.....
It's not a bad location for such development (near the UMass police station & close to campus) though how they can be proposing to have NO on-site parking for tenants is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

Anon 757. Can you tell us how the SC defers to the superintendent in the area of setting policies and goals? I have watched several SC meetings over the years and the SC DOES set the policies and determines the goals. The Superintendent puts in place the programs to meet the goals according to the policies set by the SC.

Anonymous said...

i am a different poster than 1 i was linked to earlier. someone has it "figured" out all wrong.

now to something important: the parents who can supplement when their child gets a bad teacher, will always be able to make sure their kids do okay in the school system and beyond. after talking to a teacher, then a principal and then a superintendent about disruptive behavior problems (mostly in ARMS) as just 1 example, and nothing changes...then what? try MAP testing. cancel that. what's the next educational flavor of the month program to "try" on our kids?

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that if the schools work for you then count your blessings. If they do not make one of the following choices, trying working with the teacher. If that does not work don't bother the administration unless you are trying to change your child's teacher.

If that does not work consider, tutors,sylvan, kumon, charter school, choicing out, home schooling, private school or the nuclear option, get out of Amherst.

Discussions with SC members and administrators is a clear waste of time. They are nice, sweet, and supportive and will do absolutely nothing to help you. Less than nothing when you consider the time you wast and the hopes you get crushed in the end.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:37 pm-
agree entirely with your post.
going to school committee meetings, talking with administrators, and suggesting changes or reconsideration of decisions is the most frustrating experience, and each time I have been left with the feeling that the concerns and points that I and other parents raise will make absolutely no difference. I know I am not alone in this frustration. I think this is one of the underlying reasons why most school committee meetings are so sparsely attended and why so few people want to run for school committee.

Dr. Ed said...

Most parents out here are happy and aren't paying attention to your anonymous complaints. The Amherst schools far and wide are considered strong and desirable.

The sad reality is that no matter how bad a school or school system is, at least some children will learn and do well. Conversely, no matter how good it is, at least some children will fail.

The sad reality is that teachers both are given credit for things which they aren't responsible for while being blamed for other things that they aren't responsible for either. Parents have a lot more influence on their children's education than they possibly imagine -- even things like always using correct grammar (and not using obscenities) -- at least when the children can hear you -- has more of an influence than any poor teacher stuck with teaching Grammar.

Dr. Ed said...

I will add this: In my classes, I often discuss "Dr. Ed's Purple Polka Dot Theory of School Improvement."

Think "placebo effect."

If I said that teachers who wore purple polka dots were more effective teachers; if I could convince teachers, students and parents of this, and got a bunch of teachers to volunteer to try it, I am absolutely sure that the kids would learn more.

Much like a sugar pill does whatever the person taking it expects it to.

There is also the William F. Buckley concept of "the first hundred people in the phone book" and while he suggested that for the makeup of the US Senate, I propose it hypothetically for the teaching cadre.

Is the teaching cadre better than random people with college degrees? That's the baseline, you don't compare the effectiveness of the teachers to nothing but to what a non-educator could accomplish.

OK, Team Maria, can you show that you are doing a better job than a random group of Amherst voters would do -- think "jury duty" and presume teachers selected in that manner -- are you (collectively) better?