Monday, November 11, 2013

Schools & Fires

Hampshire College and Hadley business block fires occurred Sunday 10/27

As a favor to a friend I recently covered the cute charity promotion "Amherst Mega Dessert Crawl."  Weekends are fairly slow, as I usually see about a 33% drop in readership, so I don't mind doing what newspapers refer to as "puff pieces". 

But then something kind of interesting happened.  My concerned-school-parents clientele hijacked the comments section, although the first comment did at least acknowledge what the post was originally about.  

By the time the dust settled a week later the article had generated 65 comments.  Not exactly a new record (235) but still w-a-y over average (11).  And triple the normal readership.  

One Comment mentioned the recent Regional School Committee Meeting where Chair Kip Fonsh bullied other members for not being mindless cheerleaders for the Amherst Regional Public Schools, branding it cannibalism.

Alerted by that Anon,  I grabbed the snippet off the Amherst Media website and posted a brief two paragraph story with the video.   Once again comments are through the roof (82) and number of visitors triple to quadruple a normal mid-week post.

Which just goes to illustrate pent up frustration with our public schools -- especially relating to open transparent communication with parents who are, after all, customers.  And Amherst is in the top 10% statewide for average per child education cost.

The last weekend in October three stories all came together in a perfect storm to rocket readership by 500%:

Hampshire College cancelling an Afro funk band for Halloween because they were "too white" first cracked open the floodgates; the fire a little later at Hampshire College Greenwich Dorm cranked them open even wider; and then only hours later the ravenous fire in Hadley destroyed the dam entirely.

 Hadley, when The Beast came calling

But major structure fires, fortunately, are far and few between.  Unlike the omnipresent --not to be confused with omnipotent -- Amherst Regional Public Schools.

 ARPS Middle School:  No algebra for you!


Catcha a bottom feeder by the toe said...

Hey come on Larry, who doesn't



I mean, they've got houses with 2 acre lots to pay off, right?


Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain the comment by 4:38? I don't follow. Is it a reference to the pay scale of school administrators or something else?

Anonymous said...

Too bad the school system doesn't invite the thoughts of students and parents. In the past 2 weeks, I've been asked by 3 businesses how my experience was and other schools ask parents what they think.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 7:26,

I am not the biggest fan of the schools by a long stretch, but I do think they offer lots of opportunity to applaud or rip them apart. There are the yearly school evaluations, lots of SC meetings, call or email for a meeting. you can just email your thoughts anytime. I think they can ignore us well but they love to let us talk and vent.

Michael Jacques said...

I put this on an older post but I will re-post for those who did not see it.

To help facilitate like minded people getting together I have created an email account. It is I will use this to get people in touch with one another off the blog. If you send your email to me it will be shared with others who send theirs in. Your email must include a name. Any that do not, will be deleted.

Good luck

Anonymous said...


on the town website at

(pages 29 - 32 of the TOWN MEETING HANDBOOK)
on the Amherst League of Women Voters website at

Michael Jacqeus said...

I realized that after re-posting my comment that it was lacking some context. The like minded people I refer to are the folks who posted about their concern with the possible changes in the math curriculum at the middle school.

Anonymous said...

When and where is the meeting with Rhonda Cohen, the curriculum director. I would like to go.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

A number of parents had the concerns addressed on this blog for many years about the education provided in the Amherst schools. They formed a group, wrote letters to the paper, and got several candidates (including myself) elected to the School Committee. During the three years I served on School Committee, I had a blog I updated frequently (which received considerable attention) and wrote a monthly column for the newspaper. We were starting to create change by requiring evaluation of our programs, regular surveys of parents, and comparison to other districts. And these parents received very little public support (much private support) and considerable criticism (including highly personal attacks). And now, these parents are mostly gone - they have moved from Amherst or stayed in Amherst but moved their kids to other schools.

This community now largely has school committee members who feel, as Kip Fonsch feels, that the job of the School Committee is to support the administrators. There will be no change in the schools until many parents are willing to stand up and say "this is not OK" to SC members and the superintendent. Writing anonymously on a blog isn't going to do anything. Nor is going to a private meeting with Rhonda Cohen.

Anonymous said...

I am one of those parents who spent a lot of time trying to make positive changes in the elementary math program (all to no avail as Investigations was chosen as the curriculum (only to be changed a year or so later with the ouster of Beth Graham) and have no idea if the two events are related). I agree with Catherine, meeting with Dr Cohen is a waste of time, as is attending SC meetings and emailing your SC representatives. I firmly believe given past events and efforts that the community's best hope for change wrt MS/HS math (or in this case to keep it largely the same 8-12th grade) is the idea put forth to petition TM. That is likely to force the attention towards what the community wants and expects of our schools. Hopefully, a group will form towards this goal and not be seduced and mislead by mumbo-jumbo from our curriculum leaders who will tell us that although it won't be called 8th grade algebra what will replace it will have a lot of algebra in it and that it won't be a problem (and it will be better) to compress 4 years of math into three years so that it will be possible for HS students to take calculus as seniors.

Your money, their bank accounts said...

"Can anyone explain the comment by 4:38? I don't follow. Is it a reference to the pay scale of school administrators or something else?"



Yours ever,

Roach Patrol

p.s. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Dr. Ed said...

More on Common Core -- a YouTube clip worth watching:

Yes, this is a Christian Conservative being interviewed on Fox News -- but listen to what she actually says, about how parents should have control over their children's education and the rest.

Anonymous said...

Current School committee members should represent community's voice. ask the questions that community has concerns with. There is no reason to occupy a seat on SC and remain silence.

If school is to adopt The Common Core Math and ELA curriculum as single curriculum pathway, thus teach to the lowest standard and ignore the majority students who is able and willing to learn more than the minimum for a better college, and better career, and better life in the future, that should alarm/worry many of us parents. Many parents don't have this information referenced in this blog comments. They don't know the designer of Common Core Math has such low assessment on itself. I would send the pointer to this blog comment to parents I know and let the word spread out and get parents informed. I will talk to other parents when I get a chance. The more people know the truth, the more positive force it will bring about to move our school to the right direction.

Dr. Ed said...

If school is to adopt The Common Core Math and ELA curriculum as single curriculum pathway, thus teach to the lowest standard

It's actually worse than this -- there's a strong streak of collectivism in Common Core. I don't mean left or right but collective as opposed to the individual.

It's kinda like the Borg Collective -- are children merely cogs in a machine or unique and uniquely valuable human beings?