Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another Major School Shake Up

Rob Detweiler, former Director of Finance & Operations

UPDATE 8:00 PM  Kathy Mazur, Human Relations chief, is taking over the Budget Office with the part-time consulting assistance of former long-time Director Paul Carlson (who has come out of retirement); and Sean Mangano has been appointed Assistant Finance Director.


ORIGINAL POST:

Director of Finance & Operations for the $50+ million ARPS school bureaucracy has become persona non grata and nobody seems to want to explain why.  Rob Detweiler, at $101,305, was in the top-ten for highest paid employees in a system chock full of highly paid employees. 

The Regional School Committee went into Executive Session Tuesday night and since it's, you know, an Executive Session, we have no idea what they talked about.  The agenda said "To conduct strategy sessions in preparation for negotiations with non-union personnel ..." (Which, coincidentally enough, the position of Director of Finance & Operations happens to be).

What I found fascinating is the original meeting, scheduled for January 21, was hastily posted with "EMERGENCY EXECUTIVE SESSION" screaming off the page, but then was cancelled due to bad weather.  If the Executive Session was a routine bargaining session, why the EMERGENCY?  



Detweiler came aboard the good ship ARPS in 2005 to replace Paul Carlson, who retired after holding the important position for 26 years.  At the time Amherst Regional school Committee Chair Marianne Jorgensen said, "We're very pleased with that pick.  Rob has the vision that will fit in with the school system."

Apparently one of them -- Detweiler or the school system -- have gone blind.

This vacancy at the top comes at a time when Superintendent Maria Geryk is under tremendous stress.  The controversial nut "ban" in the schools last fall is taking up more time (over an hour at Tuesday's Regional School Committee meeting) than the beleaguered budget discussion, which now proposes laying off a dozen full-time employees.

And of course the incident on Monday where because of an alleged "threat" of a kid carrying a gun to school to ward off bullying the High School was closed. Which some folks view as an overreaction. 


From: Larry Kelley
To: Gerykm
Sent: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 7:05 pm
Subject: Rob Detweiler


Hey Maria



Is Rob Detweiler no longer employed at the schools?  He was not at the BCG meeting on Monday morning, and also not at the Regional School Committee meeting last night.

An Anon posted on my blog earlier that he was no longer Finance Director (which by itself would not mean much, but when combined with the other two things ...)

Larry

70 comments:

Anonymous said...

Larry, read the public meeting law again -- there are some specific things they must do after an executive session to tell the public what they did.

Of course, I'm starting to wonder if Maria G is simply eliminating all potential replacements in a desperate attempt to save her own job.

Anonymous said...

It's all an overreaction until tragedy strikes. Then it's how come you didn't take precautions. I strongly support the actions of the superintendent in closing the school. Rather 10 false alarms than 1 tragedy.

Anonymous said...

Two things on the Monday incident == first, if the Gazette is accurate and the school technology person identified the individual who had made that posting, that *she* did it and it wasn't a police request to the ISP, folks should ask how.

Was it done on a school computer? Does the school have a dial-in modem pool and was this used? Was the site (and hence the posting) on a school computer?

If the answer to all three of those are "no", then folks ought to be asking questions.

Second, why the hell wasn't the bullying dealt with????? I'd love to see him make a self-defense argument (and that's really what this probably was) -- he was trying to defend himself against violence which the school failed to protect him from.

Maria G claims that there is an anti-bullying policy. Well????

Anonymous said...

It's all an overreaction until tragedy strikes. Then it's how come you didn't take precautions.

For years, that was the justification for refusing to permit gays & lesbians to adopt children.

It also was the justification used to lynch African Americans throughout much of the 20th Century. This is the mentality that lead to that -- they went so far as to brutally murder people as a "reasonable precaution."

And as all the terrorists were Muslim, why don't we just lock up everyone of that faith? After all, it's only a reasonable precaution against another tragedy...

This is a very dangerous rationale to start having....

Caren Rotello said...

Larry,
Do the 12 positions reflect potential cuts to teachers, aides, administrators, or some combination? I can't find any specifics in the meeting minutes nor other sources.
Thanks!

Larry Kelley said...

Caren: They have not been very clear about that. If I had to guess, more teachers and aides rather than administrators.

Another reason why this development comes at a very bad time. He was experienced and will certainly have to be replaced.

Anonymous said...

If past is prologue--I would guess the cuts are to music, art and other special programs, all beloved by parents and the community, which will upset people and set the stage for an override. The cuts will be described as "devastating" as they are every year. Meanwhile the district adds more and more very highly paid administators and has negotiated unsustainable 4%+ wage hikes for the highest paid teachers in the region. All as the student population plummets. And the school committees will nod their heads.

Anonymous said...

It seems like now might be a good time for the Superintendent to get her blog and Superintendent’s Advisory Group going. There is sure a lot going in the schools & with the central office these days & such efforts could help with the district's PR.

Anonymous said...

I am anything but a fan of Geryk, but if you had to make a choice with the limited information she had what would you do. Sunday night she found out that there may be a student carrying a gun to school on Monday who claims to fear for his or her safety. Sounds dangerous. She made the only call she could.

To compare cancelling school to the treatment of gays or minorities is another example of over the top hyperbole that has entrenched itself into our social norms. It is the hyperbole that makes everything in this country so much worse, not the events themselves.

Anonymous said...

The notion that Maria is removing all potential replacements for her job is today's howler.

Now, that's a good one.

Always one good belly-laugh in the comments.

In the long run, no one is going to second-guess the Super for calling off one day of school. In Amherst, today's big deal is the ado that no one (except maybe Larry)can remember 3 years later.

Anonymous said...

Rob D. departure may have nothing to do with the district. The problem is that so many departures in Amherst never seem to be parting on good terms with people moving onto better options or retiring. Many departures are shrouded in secrecy and usually the mind can make things out to be much worse than reality. This coupled with so many short tenures raises the specter of of something nefarious.

Ray Sharick, comes on board, is well received. Mysteriously has some personal issues and poof he is gone.

Beth Graham. comes on board, has a mixed reception, never seems to get strong footing and poof she is gone and rumors of a lawsuit follow

Monica Hall, comes on board, makes lots of changes, several that never get received well. Lots of parental discord in the background, parents not happy, poof she gets a promotion

Mike Morris, comes on board as principle, does a great job, gets promoted to a position that seems to take him away from the value he gives to the district but seems to be helping the administration more than the students in his new role

Mike Hayes, comes on board, well regarded by teachers, some parents concerned, but overall seems to be doing a good job. Takes a hybrid leave of absence and announces he is leaving the district. We hear he is now at PVPA

Betsy Dinger, replaced Mike H. seems like she wants to move up into administration. Steps down after a year to go back to teaching.

It seems like it is tough to be on top in Amherst. Whatever happened to the days when people stayed for decades?

Certainly none of this may be the fault of Maria Geryk but the instability does make us wonder what is really going on in central office of one of the most expensive school districts in Massachusetts. It is clear that throwing money at the problem, whatever it is, is not the solution.

Anonymous said...

I love how the race card got thrown in the mix, once someone actually could go to jail for their actions if held responsible. Only in the happy valley and Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing:

These folks are leaving very good-paying jobs.

It could very well be that dealing with Amherst's parents creates some serious stress.

Based on what we see in other settings, would this be a surprise? (See recent second-guessing of Library Trustees.)

Anonymous said...

I think it's very unlikely that Amherst parents are any harder to "deal with" than those in other districts. It does make for an easy scapegoat, however. Go to SC mtgs or other forums and I think you will find, for the most part, polite parents who want to work with teachers and administrators for the good of the students.

Anonymous said...

Amherst parents eat principals, other administrators and some teachers up and spit them out with great regularity. You could never pay me enough to work in the Amherst school system, in any capacity. Who needs it?

Anonymous said...

what is this go-to position that everything is caused by amherst parents? this is said over and over by some here as this is gods truth and there is no evidence that this was the reason for anyone leaving.

Anonymous said...

and why is it necessarily the parents alone who are considered responsible for creating challenging, stressful working conditions? what about the administration itself?

Anonymous said...

there may be a student ... who claims to fear for his or her safety. Sounds dangerous.

When you read the sentence like this, doesn't it raise some issues?

Dangerous, perhaps, but for whom?

Why the hell isn't SOMETHING done when a student fears for his or her safety?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Anonymous said...

Parents do not have to behave badly only in SC mtgs - though they do there. Parents wear administrators down in private meetings. I think people in this town are sticking their heads in the sand if they think Amherst parents are no different than those in other towns. But I know I can't convince blog readers here - many of them are in fact those parents who are those that I speak of.

Larry Kelley said...

And you of course are God's gift to diplomacy.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think your snarky remarks make you look important, Larry? They only make you look like a child and cause people to discount any legitimate comments you may make.

Larry Kelley said...

I think whatever remarks I make carry a ton more gravitas than yours because I have the balls to do so under my God given name.

Larry Kelley said...

Or maybe it was my Irish Mother's given name. Either way ...

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm perfectly able to credit the legitimate comments Larry makes AND discount his snarky remarks.......as I would any other human being.



Larry Kelley said...

I need to install a thumbs up button.

Anonymous said...

off topic FYI: This afternoon's car fire (interior) at Rocky's was a taxi- The company name starts with the letter Z -

Anonymous said...

Let go because he was trying to keep school spending under control?

Anonymous said...

Poor Maria. You can run but you can not hide. The clock is ticking. The walls are closing in. The fantasy is over. The inevitable is coming. Time to start looking. Bye bye.

A Little Birdy said...

When someone finds major discrepancies and misappropriations and this may uncover what is a very deliberate manipulation of funds to places they are not supposed to go and to people who should not receive them, you get rid of the person very quickly before that person finds out the truth you have hidden for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

When MIke Morris was lured out of Crocker Farm it became very clear what the superintendent valued. Crocker Farm needed strong, fresh leadership, exactly what Morris brought to the table. HIs work there connected to many school children directly.

Then the state brought in a new teacher evaluation system and suddenly school districts had more work to do. So what happens, central office gets a new $100,000.00 position added to do the new evaluation, a needy school loses it strong leader and so it goes.

When you or I are told there is more work to be done, we usually don't get to hire more help.

Oh, and any day now, we'll start hearing about how many teachers will need to be cut, now that next year's budget has yet another new face in central office. Welcome to the hundred thousand dollar club!

Anonymous said...

I have talked to other people working in other school districts. Their districts are falling into compliance with the new evaluation system but they did not hire anyone to do this job like Maria did. Seems like a waste of a brilliant career that was really making a difference for some of the most needy children of Amherst.

Maybe Maria feared Mike M's competence and career trajectory into her seat. Put him in a position out of the way. Then maybe it was to just put a brilliant person in charge of a new system that could sink the ship if the state realized what was really going on. Who knows?

Speculation, what fun.

Anonymous said...

When someone finds major discrepancies and misappropriations and this may uncover what is a very deliberate manipulation of funds to places they are not supposed to go and to people who should not receive them, you get rid of the person very quickly before that person finds out the truth you have hidden for a very long time.

The flip side of this is if you have a professional license, and I'm thinking CPA here, and you happen to stumble across serious things, particularly if they are criminal enough for the folk at the top to be looking at criminal charges, you get the hell out of there and damn fast.

If you don't, you own the mess...

Anonymous said...

Wow! Talk about speculative gossip.

Larry Kelley said...

That's what happens when you don't get out in front of a story by being as transparent as possible.

In the absence of facts, folks tend to speculate.

Anonymous said...

Great, more power for Mazur. In what way is she qualified for the position? Speculate on that one.

Dr. Ed said...

I always said that Team Maria would implode spectacularly, and that they wouldn't need any help doing it.

We can start with Monday's Mess -- Unless Mitchell Chester gives her a waiver, the high school will have to make that day up. And DESE doesn't like to give waivers...

Yes, boys & girls, those are the Mass Regs I (hopefully) have linked to there, and you can read them as well as I can.

Second, there are some significant FERPA issues when you have a principal publicly announcing the discipline of an identifiable student, which is what the Gazette quoted him as doing.

And then there's that ED-OCR "Dear Colleague" letter on bullying that I asked Maria about so many years ago now. If I were that boy's parents, I'd Google "US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights" and "how to file a complaint."

There's also a "hostile environment" policy that -- if what the Gazette reported is accurate -- the high school is in big time violation of.

And that's just off the top of my head, on that one incident....

Anonymous said...

Mazur's not qualified, but then again look who runs the school system -- the queen of unqualified.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Maria and Mazur were going around talking about closing Marks Meadow many years ago. She came across as Maria's right hand and very authoritative. Very strange for a director of HR. She seems to have a lot more responsibility in this district than an HR person should have. Until I found out her position I thought she was an assistant superintendent or something. Not a woman I would want to cross if I was trying to move up the Amherst school system food chain.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Kathy Mazur was both a member of the South Hadley School Committee and a director of HR in Amherst when Gus Sayer was hired by South Hadley from Amherst.

Nina Koch said...

I would say people tend to speculate even in the presence of facts. I find it chilling that the poster above finds it "fun" to read defamatory statements about people (behind a cloak of anonymity, of course).

No wonder the kids are struggling to find a way to use social media responsibly. Look at their role models.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Kathy Mazur was both a member of the South Hadley School Committee and a director of HR in Amherst when Gus Sayer was hired by South Hadley from Amherst.

You do, Roach Patrol. So why are you asking? (Yes, my question is as rhetorical as yours -- I know why you're asking. Getting any traction?)

Anonymous said...

Gus Sayer had retired from Amherst way before he was hired by South Hadley. If memory serves, I believe he was hired as an interim Superintendent in South Hadley first. Then was appointed as permanent Superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Gus Sayer had retired from Amherst way before he was hired by South Hadley.

Hmmmmm.....

If he actually "retired" as in "put in his papers" for his pension, this becomes quite interesting.

As I understand the state retirement system, once one officially "retires" and starts receiving a pension -- which is a certain percentage of the employee's salary -- one can only earn the difference between what was 100% of that salary and what the pension is.

For example, an employee earning $100,000 and getting an 80% pension would have an annual pension payment of $80,000 (for life) and hence could only earn $20,000 in a public sector job.

He/she/it could earn as much as desired in a private sector job that comes under Social Security, and before they changed the rules, a lot of teachers would retire in MA and then go teach in NH (which is under Social Security) and collect on both.

It's not uncommon for a retired superintendent -- or any respected high-level administrator (e.g. the retired school budget guy) -- to come out of retirement on a temporary & part-time basis when an interim person is needed, but they are temporary & part time because there are serious limits on how much and how you can pay them.

They have to be "03" rather than "01" as well...

So if Gus Sawyer did really retire, how did South Hadley hire him?

Anonymous said...

Oh Ed, give it a rest. People come out of retirement all the time. What the hell is your problem?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed
FERPA only applies to:
1)only to post-secondary and then
2) only to students who are 18 years or older.

Dr. Ed said...

FERPA only applies to:
1)only to post-secondary and then
2) only to students who are 18 years or older.


BULL-BLEEP!!!
Let me quote ED -- as in the US Department of Education:

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.

The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.


What part of "all schools" are you not able to comprehend?

The document I copied that from is at http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

Might I suggest you read it?

Anonymous said...

Kathy Mazur will do the budget? Are you *#$@ing kidding me. It is bad enough we have a super without the degree usually bestowed upon that position. What are Kathy Mazur's qualifications to manage the money in the district. People should be up in arms over this. This represents the majority of taxpayers dollars. I heard she did not graduate from college. Please someone tell me this rumor is wrong. Every time I think they school system is going off the rails it gets worse. How much worse does it have to get before someone steps in from the State.

Larry it would be great if you could do a separate piece on this update and find out if she is qualified. Also with the additional people the district is using to help her, and the bump I am guessing Maria will give Kathy, will it cost the district more than having a competent CPA do the job?

Larry Kelley said...

Detweiler had finished up the Elementary and Regional budgets just prior to, unm, whatever happened to cause his demise.

Anonymous said...

ANON 7:06 said -- "People should be up in arms over this. "

And that's the problem. It's Amherst. In this town folks don't complain. The ones that do complain are looked at as having two heads so nobody bothers. Amherst hates two things, change and complainers. Imagine, a town that has a chance to become a first class place to live. Sadly it chooses a type of government that holds it back and it does little to create the best public school system in the state, an honor you'd think the plethora of parents in this town would want. Instead it has a school administration that is a complete embarrassment and is concerned more with peanuts than education. What a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Are the facts: the human resource director with only a high school degree and a long track record of poor administrative hires is now in charge of $40 million in school funds? Any training in accounting or finance?

Anonymous said...

How much worse does it have to get before someone steps in from the State.

I can't see Mitchel Chester stepping in for anything short of human sacrifices -- the MTA has too much influence with the Deval Patrick administration -- Malden is well aware of Maria, but can't do anything because of the politics -- remember what happened to Charlie Chieppo.

Now as to the money, that's a different story and there is a state auditor who very well may be willing to p***-off the MTA and left wing of the MassDems in order to avoid loosing to a Republican this fall, and that's where I would go.

The other wild card here is that it takes what, 10 signatures to call a special town meeting? Maybe 50?

When was the last time there was a truly independent audit of the school system? By "independent" I mean by someone Maria & Co didn't pick -- someone they didn't even *know*?

The town meeting can not question Maria's personnel decisions -- I don't even think the School Committee can. Nor can it really question her budget that much, particularly the current one which has already been approved.

But what the town meeting CAN do is requesting an accounting of the money which the town has provided the district -- the town meeting is well within its rights to ask for this, particularly if it pays for it.

It will be a few thousand dollars but the advantage of the *town* paying for it is that the town meeting gets to select who it is, you may have to put it to bid but remember it is "lowest *qualified* bidder" and being independent is a legitimate qualification.

Remember too that CPAs are licensed, people who have taken both tell me that the CPA exam is tougher than the Bar exam, and like a disinterested lawyer, an auditor who has no personal interest in any of this isn't going to risk a license defending Team Maria.

So there is a special town meeting which (probably after a subcommittee has solicited & reviewed RFPs) [asses a motion along the lines of "We hereby request Supt Geryk to permit the firm of Beancounters R Us to conduct an audit of all funds appropriated by this town and we allocate $xxx to pay for the same."

Now Maria G doesn't have to allow this, but if she didn't, that's when the state (or Feds) would step in. If TM was paying for it, if the firm/person was properly licensed (CPAs) and generally reputable, and it truly was independent, her refusing this would have a lot of people asking "why?"

If the town did this sort of thing every week, she'd be able to claim harassment and such, but a one-time request, just after the sudden and unexplained departure of the CFO? This is a quite reasonable request, particularly if you are paying for it.

Checkmate.

If there's nothing there, there's nothing for the auditor to find, either. If it's sloppiness, well it *is* Town money and the town does have the right to ask her to be a bit less sloppy. BUT if it was something more, something properly documented by an auditor with all the protocols followed, something that she could neither explain nor justify, then Malden would have to act.

If no one else did first.

And I emphasize that this is only if there were to actually be something there.

Anonymous said...

Are the facts: the human resource director with only a high school degree ... in charge of $40 million in school funds?

If one were able to explain how one knew this, and/or how an interested bureaucrat would be able to confirm it, I suspect it might be time to "drop a dime."

School finances are COMPLICATED! I'm told that the Federal Title I money alone is a nightmare -- and there are other Federal funds, and State funds, and the money allocated from the towns, and "school choice" money and heaven only knows what else.

And that's in a normal school district -- this is a combination of three unique entities -- there are some significant legal reasons behind some people getting three paychecks, they are actually working part-time for all three districts.

There are folk in the US Dept of Education who follow up on their money. There is the State Auditor as well -- that sentence would get their attention.

This isn't like the practice of law, I don't believe that she's actually required to have a CPA or even a high school diploma to be budget director, and the argument will be that she has the retired guy there to advise her, but anyone with a scintilla of comprehension of how complicated a school budget is will instantly conclude that she will inevitably have managed to mess *something* up.

It is like a police officer sitting outside a disreputable bar -- someone is going to be driving out of there drunk. And really clearly drunk, as in using both sides of the road, not a close call that he might have to justify later, the serious offender he is there to deal with.

Likewise, those who police finances will presume that someting is going to be wrong, and that it will both be really glaring and easy for them to find -- that it won't be a close call.

Remember too that vanity is involved -- folks with CPAs and years of experience are going to presume that no one could ever know & understand the stuff they can without that education & experience. Maybe she can -- that is irrelevant -- they are going to presume she isn't able.

Be one a psychologist, plumber, attorney or electrician -- you're inherently going to conclude that no layman could possibly do your job correctly -- and you will know of specific examples to justify this belief. So too here.

Anonymous said...

Could someone please teach me how to post in bold type? I have something very important to post about, and all caps just won't cut it.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Could someone please teach me how to post in bold type?

Ever notice the little line below the comment box that tells you exactly how to do it?

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for our message in bold

This web site might help if you are having trouble figuring HTML bold out.

http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_b.asp

Larry Kelley said...

I just wish they would come up with a HTML sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

I knew you'd get it, Larry.

This is no ordinary human, this is Roach Patrol said...

Against these criminals I stood.

Me.

Alone.

And you, ~YOU~ refused to listen.

Now, watch.

Watch

and

learn.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DZNDEqcSi0


You must stop

them

cold.


Understand?

Nina Koch said...

No one said that Kathy Mazur was doing the budget. To the contrary, they said that Sean Mangano was doing the budget. Here is a quote from the Gazette:

During Detweiler’s absence, his responsibilities will be covered by Sean Mangano, the assistant director of the business office, Geryk said. This will include oversight of the current budget and the proposed fiscal year 2015 budget for Amherst Regional High School, Amherst Regional Middle School and Pelham Elementary School, as well as capital planning.

I've seen the word "facts" in several postings, but I don't see people availing themselves of any facts.

Larry Kelley said...

But if Kathy told Sean to jump, he would ask "how high?"

Not that she would of course.

Anonymous said...

oh roach patrol,
your whole life?
alone against the frightful powers
of the dark amherst school district?
How did you ever survive?
you are my hero, Mr/Ms Patrol.
Can I call you Roach?

Don't you? said...

"Can I call you Roach?"


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmHEsR_MVio






































Anonymous said...

How is it that one school system can generate this much intrigue?

Are they creating this much interest and speculation in Northampton's schools?

Larry Kelley said...

Nope.

Anonymous said...

Like I said, Malden is well aware of what is going on, but short of either students being used as human sacrifices or glaring financial improprieties pointed out to them in such a manner that they can't say they didn't know about them, they ain't gonna do nothin.

Have no doubt that they are watching though, there's really no other district in the state that's this much fun to watch....

Anonymous said...

Carl Malden? Whats he got to do with this?

Anonymous said...

That's Karl Malden - with a K. I was also surprised to hear he was watching. :)

Anonymous said...

keep digging Larry... there is way more to this story!!!!! waaaay more.

Anonymous said...

To add: Coach AyAnna Hickman, the spouse of current assistant coach, former UMass great and Basketball Hall of Famer Lou Roe, comes on board to hammer out a Championship winning season Indoor Track and Field season within weeks and "POOF" they are attempting get rid of her. In addition, cover up the fact Rich Ferro, Athletic Director, use conjured up allegations and her pregnancy as justification for terminating Coach Hickman without any knowledge or fore-warning in a voice mail message while she was at the hospital with her very ill son. Hell, the school's athletic program suffers greatly, so for one person to come in and turn a program around without any support speaks swelling volumes toward Coach Hickman's coaching and motivating abilities. Her first year in Amherst as Head Coach and she is voted Coach of the Year, who produced divisional, regional, state and nationally recognized athletes only makes Coach Hickman more marketable and places a high demand on her as a coach!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lou Roe is not married or never has been married to Ms. Hickman!!!This women is delusional!!! So please don't give false information Anonymous said.... And keep on the subject at hand.