Thursday, December 5, 2013

Expanded Region Moves Forward (sort of)

 12 member RSDPB outnumber spectators in the audience

The 12 members Regional School District Planning Board, made up of three representatives from all four towns (Amherst, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury) in the current 7-12 Region, struggled with developing a "model" palatable to all four towns, but still allowing one (Shutesbury) not to participate at the pre-K through 6 level. 

But leaving the door open -- using the term "on ramp" -- for them to fully join the expanded Region at later date, but within a deadline.  And in the meantime allow for a possible sharing of the Superintendent who would be in charge of the expanded Region.

At one point in the somewhat contentious meeting the facilitator asked "Is there anything you all can agree on?"  To which Pelham representative Trevor Baptiste waxed philosophically, "Aligning curriculum among all four towns is a laudable goal." Dead silence.  "I was just trying to be positive" he quickly added.

Almost three hours later the entire Board voted unanimously to support the motion:

"To amend the current 7-12 agreement to a preK-12 agreement with the option that one of the existing four towns can remain 7-12 as long as that town is not Amherst, and that the town that remained 7-12 has the option to become a preK-12 member within a specified period of time, and that the town that remained 7-12 can negotiate with the Regional School Committee regarding shared superintendency services for their preK-6 school."

The motion is more of a memo that will be sent to the Mass Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education for a preliminary finding on whether the state would consider the creation of such a "Hybrid Region" legal. 

The RSDP Board also discussed turning over the process from here on in to the Regional School Committee but decided they want to stay involved. The Regional School Committee could appoint them as a sub-committee to continue shepherding the process.

The Leverett representative to the RSDPB, Kip Fonsh, is also Chair of the Regional School Committee and he reported their plate is full enough now without taking on this added burden.

During "public comment" Town Meeting member and parent Janet McGowan brought up the issue of governance, concerned the make up of a new Regional School Committee would disproportionally water down the voting power of Amherst who has a population that comprises 88% of the Region.

"Regionalization can't be at the expense of our constitutional rights," said McGowan.

If the state approves the RSDPB memo and the Regional School Committee votes to amend the Regional Agreement to form this "Hybrid Region" all four towns would then have to approve it, each at their individual Town Meeting.

At the end of the almost three hour meeting Chair Andy Steinberg thanked the entire Board saying it was an honor to work with them these past two years, but he was stepping down as chair.

 Andy Steinberg (left) announced he is stepping down as RSDPB Chair

Steinberg on Monday announced he is running for the Amherst Select Board. 


Anonymous said...


So the RSDPB is now officially a subcommittee to the school committee?

They have taken a vote, to, in principle, approve the creation of a K-12 region but one town (Shutesbury) can stay 7-12 but remain in the process and give their input on K-12 even if they never join. This was done to see if the state was ok with it? So if the state says no, they would have to start over again.

Shutebury will use the K-12 superintendent for their K-6 but stay out of the K-12 region. So they want Maria as their super but do not want to fall under the region and risk their school being closed in years to come.

Do you think the members of Shutebury realize what a bunch of spoiled little brats they look like? What did we expect from a town deeply divided with library issues. Clearly they can't come together on anything. And their members have the gall to say its Amherst members who can't get along.

I think the real problem with the SC has always been and will always be the rich, mostly white, elitist hill towns pushing their values on the diverse town that is Amherst. That is where the power play really is. It's just that no one in Amherst likes to talk about it because they secretly want what the rich white towns want.

And the circus continues. If we could put a couple of love triangles in the mix this could make for some great fiction based on fact.

Larry Kelley said...

No the RSDPB is still a stand alone "independent" committee.

But becoming a sub committee of the Region looks like a plan (and since the Chair of the Region is also a RSDPB member, it is probably a slam dunk).