Thursday, January 16, 2014

Expanded Amherst Regional School Update

The Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee voted on Tuesday to continue the mission of the Regional School District Planning Board by agreeing to explore amending the 50+ year old Regional Agreement to allow the current 7-12 Region to extend all the way down to pre-Kindergarten, with only three of the current four towns aboard (Amherst, Leverett and Pelham).

That new agreement, however, would leave open the possibility of Shutesbury joining at the elementary level sometime in the future.

The state recently agreed that such a "hybrid" Region would be acceptable.  

The Regional School Committee also appointed all 12 members of the RSDPB to act as their sub-committee to formulate the necessary change in the Regional Agreement.  If that draft document is then supported by a two-thirds vote of the Regional School Committee the agreement would go to all four Town Meetings in the fall for approval, but would require unanimous support of all four towns.

The major stumbling block for approval in Amherst will be the touchy "governance" issue.  Amherst makes up 88% of the Region yet the new 9 member Regional School Committee will, apparently, consist of 2 members each from Leverett and Pelham and 5 from Amherst.

That barely gives Amherst a majority stake at 55.5% of the vote.

Or what you might call, "fuzzy math."

Current Populations of Four Town Region


Dr. Ed said...

Part 1 of 2(?)

Amherst makes up 88% of the Region yet the new 9 member Regional School Committee will, apparently, consist of 2 members each from Leverett and Pelham and 5 from Amherst.

I kinda hope they do it because while the existing arrangement is historical and hence can't be construed as a conspiracy to "dilute" minority votes, this one is being made by people who could reasonably be expected to aware that it serves to "dilute" minority votes.

And much like one can't prove ones sanity, one can't prove that ones intent wasn't to dilute minority votes. Eric Holder's Justice Department -- the civil rights division of which is now headed by Mumia Al Jamal's attorney -- is going to find that all four towns qua towns violated The Federal Voting Rights Act and the consequences of that are far more draconian than you can possibly imagine.

And when they notice the virtually all-White elementary schools outside of Amherst and the not-so-White ones in Amherst, don't be surprised if this turns into a desegregation case with forced busing -- like in Springfield and Boston -- those precedents would be binding on any suit against Maria G's Empire.

Notwithstanding this, what you would find at a minimum would be school committee members elected by district (and not "at large"), the creation of a number of "minority-majority" districts where the minority voters (who need not be parents) could be assured of controlling who was elected to the district's seat, and it is highly likely that the districts would be drawn irrespective of municipal borders.

Instead, there likely would be little slivers of at least Pelham & Leverett (if not Shutesbury too) in much larger Amherst districts -- the smaller towns divided between multiple districts and having little individual say in anything anymore.

And don't think you folks will be the ones who get to decide how your towns are divided up -- nope, it'll be some college intern in DC who does it. And as much as you laughed at Michelle Bachmann confusing Concord NH with Concord MA, it's equally likely you're going to be dealing with some kid who neither knows the difference between Leverett MA and Everett MA -- nor cares.


Dr. Ed (part 2) said...

Part 2 of 2(?)

Instead, it'd all be about giving the Black voters the maximum possible control over the district -- which, you know, I'd actually like to see happen.

For a bunch of reasons....

Now one other thing about school committee districts is that UMass would have districts too -- based on population and not number of registered voters -- and hence someone like Ed Cutting could not only wind up on the school committee but probably wouldn't even need a dozen votes to do so.

As much as you want to say about him, he at least is a fourth generation teacher who at least cares about education. You could wind up with some 19-year-old doing it as a joke -- or some young Edward Snowdon wannabe who merely intends to reveal as much confidential and sensitive personnel information as possible.

The same thing would happen to the Selectboard (and likely entities such as the Housing Authority board, the ARA board and the library trustees) -- and imagine having a third of your Selectboard seats controlled by UMass.

Imagine a third of the Selectboard being 19-year-old UM kids who either think the whole thing is a joke, or (worse) are seeking retribution for having been arrested for something and seek to just disrupt everything as much as possible.

We're not just talking that drug-addled Ford guy up in Canada -- we're talking utter bedlam here. Nothing would get done...

Were the board to boot them off, they'd be re-elected again, and Boston would be all over you if you tried to get UMass to do anything about them -- not just the Ethics Commission but the AG, Sec of State and others...

(In fact, UM couldn't even touch them -- for anything -- it'd be like trying to suspend Billy Bulger's daughter (who attended UM while he was President of the State Senate).

Oh, I'd truly love to see the minority votes of Amherst "diluted" some more. Remember that not everything I do has my fingerprints on it....

Walter Graff said...

If everyone has the children's best interest in mind it won't matter who has more or less. School reform is about doing what is the best thing for all children involved. Probably better that Amherst can't make decisions without anyone else. They already make the worst so input outside the system would be helpful and will hopefully improve eduction for all.

Dr. Ed said...

Two other things --

First, remember that it would be number of Black people in the "minority majority" districts -- not even Black citizens, let alone registered voters or even parents.

That's how the Voting Act works -- it's debatable if it is intentional or not, but these districts tend to have a lot of non-citizens (who aren't eligible to vote) in them, which serves to further exacerbate another structural flaw they have -- very few people do vote in them.

Elections aren't contested which is how you wind up with a Diane Wilkerson (cash in bra woman) or the guy just convicted of essentially trying to rape his date (same seat), or the incredibly antisemitic guy who almost got elected to Congress from New York City.

If national patterns held in Amherst, very few people would vote in the "majority-minority" districts (both school committee and selectboard) which would enable newcomers to be elected.

Team Maria wants to say that college degrees don't matter -- they could wind up with a single mother who dropped out of high school when she became pregnant -- and whose heart is in the right place even if her grammar isn't the best -- telling Team Maria how it's gonna be in "her" school district.

Above and beyond my wanting to see this happen for it's own entertainment value, you'd have the school system forced to respond to parents and to actually focus on the children which is, after all, what they were supposed to be doing in the first place.

Second, the issue of violance in the schools -- which concerns me -- would be addressed. As would the other social issues.

I don't know a Black parent who isn't terrified that his/her son is going to wind up "getting killed in some stupid gang thing" -- and as to a daughter -- equally terrified that she will either wind up pregnant and/or with some truly dangerous man who either physically abuses her or drags her into his criminal life.

"[G]etting killed in some stupid gang thing" is a direct quote of a Black mother who personally was earning a six-figure income at the time -- someone whose name you would recognize if I was to use it -- and she was sincere about her fears.

Two or three Black mothers on the school committee -- women who don't hold faculty or administrative positions elsewhere and hence can say any damn thing they please without worrying about how it would affect their "day jobs" -- two or three women like that would change things for the better.

And the type of person who would be willing to run as a single mother -- secure enough in her convictions as to what the schools ought to be (and ought not be) -- isn't someone whom Team Maria's Minions would be either able to schmooze or intimidate.

Thirty years from now, such an electoral system could produce people as morally bankrupt as the current system does -- but it would take that long and until then, things would be much better.

Dr. Ed said...

As an aside -- anyone interested in the Federal Voting Rights Act ought to read Abby Thernstrom's Voting Rights and Wrongs which is reviewed here.

I should perhaps mention that she wrote this prior to the recent US Supreme Court decision on DOJ review of district/election changes -- and SCOTUS agreed with her.

Hence that part of her book is no longer relevant -- but the vast majority of it still is.

Dr. Ed said...

Walter Graff said...
If everyone has the children's best interest in mind it won't matter who has more or less.

Al Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) -- which actually is the saner of the two national teacher's unions -- although it isn't hard to be saner than the Never Educate Anyone (NEA) tends to be -- is credited with saying:

"When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

The 1994 education reform act was a "grand bargain" -- teachers were underpaid at the time and the unions wanted more money -- and others wanted better schools -- and everyone won (or lost) but the deal was more money and better schools -- Ed Reform.

We literally doubled teacher pay -- and it has gone up from there -- yet the teacher's unions have managed to chip & chisel (and with Deval Patrick and Mitchell Chester, dynamite away) the better schools/better education part.

Amherst is a prime example of how Ed Reform failed -- Team Maria and her minions -- control the board. (I like to remind my conservative friends that the union -- any union -- more or less does what most of it's members want -- or at least what they'll tolerate -- or it gets voted out and replaced with a union that does...)

School reform is about doing what is the best thing for all children involved.(emphasis added)

Walter, the kids getting screwed are the ones who (a) want to learn and (b) have the ability to learn.

Imagine what the ARHS Varsity Football team would look like if every student -- male and female, including the physically disabled and/or blind students (and pretend there are some if there aren't) was required to play an equal number of minutes (or seconds) in each game.

Imagine what the practices would be like when the kids who didn't give a damn about football (e.g. me) were required to be there and fully participate. Think the coach would get much done?

And what about the kids who wanted to play football and were good at it? Think they'd enjoy being benched, knowing that Suzie would fumble the ball yet again? Think he'd enjoy being told that he could only participate in a game that was to Suzie's ability level?

This is what we are doing to a different group of kids, and it is no more unfair to them.

Probably better that Amherst can't make decisions without anyone else.

Actually no. Schools in Amherst would be a lot better if the Hilltowns had no input into them -- and I really doubt that Maria G would be Superintendent either.

What's happened is that the rich White liberals (who don't live in North Amherst -- i.e. the "Stop the Gateway" crowd who demanded their own extra-expensive Mark's Meadow be kept open at the expense of the other three elementary schools in town) have all moved up into the Hilltowns. Over the past 40 years they have built lovely homes up there, where land was cheaper and hence they could have more of it.

And now they are telling the people living in apartments in South Amherst how their schools should be. THAT is why I say we'd be better of with a mandated "minority majority" district or two and a district-based school committee.

Never believe that the Never Educate Anyone is serious about improving education -- it's all about them getting more money for less work.

Anonymous said...

In the proposed regional agreement, with Leverett and Pelham getting 4 committee votes (2 each) and Amherst getting 5 votes, what happens if Shutesbury does eventually decide to join? If Shutesbury gets 2 votes as well, then Amherst could have fewer votes than the 3 other towns combined.... unless the agreement would then be revised to continue to give Amherst a slim majority.

Anonymous said...


You've got too much time on your hands.

Dr. Ed said...

You've got too much time on your hands.

And Idle Hands are the Devil's Plaything - or something like that.

And we will leave it at that.....

Anonymous said...

Mumia ABU Jamaal

Anonymous said...

Leverett should think this through carefully. There's not a small amount of buzz out there about the Leverett Elementary School's decreasing enrollment which, if regionalization happens, could lead to this gem of a school being closed down at the hands of The Region. And once you're part of a region it's difficult if not impossible to get out if you don't like what's happening. The loss of control could be a very bitter pill to swallow.

Anonymous said...

Pelham, Leverett, and Shutesbury should run like hell. The cost of their elementary schools is much lower than in Amherst. Except for Pelham as they fall under the overpriced umbrella that is Amherst. It is clear that Amherst wants all those affluent middle class kids from those town. Those towns don't have the problems we have as a percent of the population. Those three towns help are numbers look better.

Imagine if they pulled out leaving Amherst with it's diverse population. All our scores would go down.

Everyone's cost will go up when the schools are combined. They will tell you there is savings but it is a best guess and likely never to happen.

If you live in any of those three towns take a close look at what Amherst did to Marks Meadow. Those where Amherst residence. Image how fast we close an expensive school when its not in Amherst.

It can and has happened. Frontier has a pretty good math program. Maybe that would be a better options for those towns.

Walter Graff said...

Ed, I couldn't agree with you more. My comment needed a smiley because I was being facetious more than anything.

Public schools are turning terribly corporate. Everything from how we value test scores to "Teach for America Teachers", "No child left behind", to the "Race to the Top" initiative to this Common Core crap that is part of schools these days yet none of it has validity, is not based on any research, and is the worst things for our children and college kids.

What Amherst and others are now subscribing to and planning is ABSOLUTELY WRONG FOR OUR CHILDREN. We are doing many things that are against educational advancement such as trying to pick up the rear for the poor by adjusting the system to include them and these kids are taking down the rest of the system and preventing the kids who excel from being allowed to do just that. For what... a test score. Test scores have become punishment, not advancement.

I'm not alone in saying that Maria Geryk was the worst choice for Amherst. I don't know her and have nothing against her personally. Professionally she is a under qualified insider's insider and a LAYGO administrator (Learn as you go). I was one of the few who were vocal enough to say what many here feel but are too afraid to say, yet they'll tell you in private - she is failing our children. Her husband can print all sorts of malarkey that George Washington said about respect and decorum but all he's trying to do is save the golden egg. I don't care about anything but my children having the best that they DESERVE. I don't care about a persons job or who's ass he/she can kiss, or how many Facebook friends they have. I care about my children's lives and their future first and foremost - at all costs. Call it being selfish, I really don't care. I've given my life, my livelihood and my career to be there for my children and you can bet I'll do what I have to to help them get ahead in a system that wants to hand everyone awards regardless of their accomplishments or lack of them.

If that means challenging an administration, or a principle or a teacher who doesn't live up to high standards, or it means pissing off a coterie, I along with others will do so in heart beat. When you judge a person by how many credits they fulfilled to meet a goal and not their accomplishments, then you are only setting yourself up for failure.

Tonight I heard education historian and commentator Diane Ravitch rail against the ills that are starting to plague our schools at a packed standing room only lecture in Bedford NY. Amherst could have learned a lot from her tonight. A LOT!!! GET HER LATEST BOOK MS. GERYK.

If you are a parent with children in the Amherst school system it behooves you to do more with your child than they are doing now in the classroom as what our kids are getting will do less for them in the future than it should because of the corporate driven atmosphere of the school system that wants them all to be robots, learn the same thing, and not excel as individuals, while making sure teachers follow rules and don't do what teachers should be allowed to do.

And no, charter schools are not a better option. They are as corporate as public schools just appear different because of how they present. I don't want my kids going to schools taught by college grads with a 50% turnover rate, just as I don't want teachers to have online degrees or administrators who never spent an hour teaching a class.

A good school system is a community working together with strong administrators and strong teachers allowing programs to be tailored for individuals, not masses. Amherst does NOT have a good school system as it lacks some key requirements. For a town filled with so many educational degrees one would expect the best. Just shows you what all the paper and ink are really worth.

Please sit back now, relax, and enjoy the music as the minions come out of the shadows to defend the golden calf.

Anonymous said...

There's not a small amount of buzz out there about the Leverett Elementary School's decreasing enrollment which, if regionalization happens, could lead to this gem of a school being closed down at the hands of The Region

Or as the result of a segregation complaint brought by someone who is now really pissed off enough to do something like that -- and yes, having actually earned his Doctorate in Education, actually knows things like Ed Law.

Although the Federal bureaucracy does not move quickly....

Anonymous said...

Tonight I heard education historian and commentator Diane Ravitch rail against the ills that are starting to plague our schools at a packed standing room only lecture in Bedford NY. Amherst could have learned a lot from her tonight

That I would have actually gone to NYC for -- although she is all over the map now and if what you seem to say about what she said leads me to think that she has swung back to where she once was and not where she was a year ago.

I do know that some folk whom I respect have been very much upset with her, how she is alleged to have essentially gone over to the dark side and away from reform.

This is logically inconsistent with that...he

I gotta get that book...

Anonymous said...

Amherst brings $22 million to the table and gives up 100 percent control of it and its 3 elementary schools for what benefit? Someone, please tell me, since we have no idea of what this committee is thinking or doing. Good luck finding their website.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:58, some of your questions might be answered here:

Anonymous said...

that web site hasn't been updated in months. Among the "upcoming" meetings listed is a meeting that was held last April 24th.

Anonymous said...

What is "community outreach" for this committee? Is someone supposed to hunt around for a google group and then read materials that are 8 months old. Is this the only way to reach citizens in 4 towns? What the heck?