Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Bigger Piece of the Pie?

Should Amherst settle for less representation in a Regional School district?

The headlong rush to regionalize local schools at the pre-K through grade 6 level was derailed by our current partner in the 7-12 Region, Shutesbury, pulling out of the proposed merger.  

The Amherst Regional School District Planning Board has been meeting for almost two years and like the gambler who has invested a fortune in a slot machine the urge to see a "return on investment" is exceedingly high.

Thus tonight's meeting is  a crossing (or not) of the Rubicon ... or maybe a Waterloo. 


I've written a letter on the need for proportional representation on any new Regional School Committee. Under the new Regional school committee proposed last Spring, an Amherst resident'
s voting strength was to be 1/10th of a Pelham resident and 1/8th of a Leverett resident. Proportional representation is a Constitutional right but could be given away if Amherst voters or Town Meeting members agree to it by voting to accept a disproportionate new Regional School Committee. 

The smaller towns are greatly concerned about Amherst's size and fear their elementary schools may be closed due to declining enrollments. These are reasonable concerns and the towns should think hard whether to join with Amherst which has 88% of the population of all the towns. But it is, I think, really unreasonable to make it a goal and condition that on any new Regional school committee Amherst's voting power be reduced from 88% to less than 55%. This could make it harder to address the issues and concerns faced by Amherst's elementary school children, parents and schools. Right now, our elementary school committee that is made up of 100% Amherst residents and we control 100% of the $22 million elementary school budget.

If you want to sign this letter, please email me back at your name, address and your precinct number. Please share my letter with anyone else who you think might be interested. If they want to sign, please ask them to email me with their name, address and say whether they are a Town Meeting member.  The response to this letter has been strong.  

I will present the letter at both the December 5th meetings (and continue to collect names after). The Amherst's members of the RSDPB (Regional School District Planning Board) will meet this Thursday, December 5th in the 1st Floor meeting room at 5:45 at Town Hall and the entire RSDPB will meet in the Town Room from 7 pm to 9 pm.  Please come to these meetings to learn more and voice your concerns.


Janet McGowan


An Open Letter to all Members of the Regional School District Planning Board:

We urge the RSDPB members now exploring different options for regionalizing the elementary schools of Amherst, Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury to consider both the educational advantages—and the fair and equitable representation for Amherst residents. Amherst now pays 77.37 % of the assessment for the current 7-12 Region, and our population is 88% of the total population for all four towns. Under the one man, one vote Constitutional principal, Amherst must have its fair proportion of the votes on any new Regional school committee.

We support Regionalizing our schools—

· if there are concrete educational benefits for Amherst students,

· if it improves the economic sustainability of Amherst schools, and

· if the votes of Amherst residents have equal weight to the votes in the other towns.

In Amherst, we are from many different cultures, nations, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, economic levels and races. Our voices should be heard in the governance of our Regional school committee and we want our votes counted equally. We do not support Regionalizing if representation on the new Regional school committee is disproportional and Amherst votes are diluted. With the exception of a single Region, in the Commonwealth all other Regions have proportional representation on their school committee or weight the votes of members by town. Each town elects their own members onto their Regional committee. A proposed Pre-K-6 Regional Agreement must recommend no less.

We hope that you will address this critical issue soon. We hope that you keep the public well informed of your discussions and deliberations through media, meetings (with public comment), and emails to town residents and parents—all taking place well before any town votes on a new Region.


(name) (address) (town meeting member?)


Tom McBride said...

I wonder what Shutesbury has that makes them think they're so special?

Larry Kelley said...

They are worried that if their elementary school is absorbed into the collective, it could be closed down to save money.

Anonymous said...

A headlong rush to regionalize that they have been studying for 2 years? Hardly sounds like a headlong rush to me.

Larry Kelley said...

The downtown Parking Garage took 25.

Dr. Ed said...

This is the "dilution" of minority votes, and it is illegal. I wonder how Team Maria would do in Federal Receivership....

Anonymous said...

All I can say to Leverett & Shutesbury - buyer beware:

Representative Alice Peisch
Joint Committee on Education
State House
Room 473G
Boston, MA 02133

RE: HB 3574 Support

Dear Chairperson Peisch:

I am writing to express my support of House Bill 3574, An Act relative to the withdrawal of the town of Worthington from the Gateway Regional School District.

As a parent and community member, I support this bill because it will give Worthington back what every small town needs – a local public school. When the Gateway Regional School District voted to close our school in 2010 our community rallied and created a small private elementary school in the old school building. However, we feel that it’s important to the children and the community to have a public school again. Without the stability of a public school, new families may not move here, our population may decrease, and the heart of the community will be missing.

Passage of this bill would allow us to re-establish a public elementary school in our small rural town, and we would develop a fee-for-service relationship with the Hampshire Regional School District for grades 7-12, and for Superintendency services. At every Town Meeting since the public school closed, our residents have overwhelmingly voted to move forward with this project. We are ready and willing to support the school with our time, talent, and tax dollars.

Thank you for your consideration of my support.



Cc: Senator Benjamin Downing
Representative Stephen Kulik

Anonymous said...

11:09 a.m.:

Hmmm. Sounds like once you're in, you're in, for better or worse. Definitely food for thought.