Friday, February 28, 2014

Amherst Fireground: Merrick Circle

A box alarm call at 8:05 PM brought a swift response from an armada of public safety vehicles to a structure fire at Merrick Circle in South Amherst in sub-freezing temperatures.

A half dozen AFD engines and almost as many police cars with mutual aid from Northampton, Hadley, South Hadley, Pelham and Belchertown combined to put down the fire in about 45 minutes.

Fortunately no one was home at the time of the blaze, although the initial report describing a kitchen fire did indicate one person may have been in the house. 

"Consistent With The Definition"

Amherst School Superintendent Maria Geryk, Thursday morning

So the long awaited official report from the Amherst Schools on the incident that closed the High School last month because of a "threat" posted to Facebook was just released, on a blog of all places.

Interestingly the report does admit "there were separate behaviors during the series of events that are consistent with the definition of both bullying and racial harassment."

And since it was the white student's family who complained repeatedly to school authorities about three black students bullying their son, it seems fair to say their charges have been confirmed.

No word on whether the father of the white student, who works in the schools, and was suspended for three days without pay for trying to stop the bullying, will be reimbursed for those days and the stain on his employment record removed.

And no mention of any discipline for school officials who failed to act on the white parents plea to help their son.

Public Safety Crackdown

11 Phillips Street

The Amherst Fire Department is getting serious about public safety.  Well actually, they've always been serious -- but now they are getting deadly serious about public safety in a pro active way.

Or as my Irish mother used to say, "A stitch in time saves nine."  And in this case it's lives that are saved.

On Monday in Eastern Hampshire District Court before Clerk Magistrate Bill Nagle,  fire safety officer Mike Roy won a $1,040 judgement against a leaseholder at 11 Phillips Street, perhaps the most notorious Party House in all of Amherst.  Owned, naturally, by the King of the Decadent Street, Stephan Gharabegian.

The house was being used as a "rooming house" with W-A-Y more than four unrelated tenants packed into the 10-bedroom abode.  Once that was exposed, resulting in a town crackdown, the landlord -- Stephan Gharabegian -- padlocked six of the rooms.

But the occupants of the four remaining rooms have removed all the furniture and use the open space as a giant party room.

11 Phillips Street, interior view

And the kids engaged in Russian roulette by covering  the windows with black plastic (which in a fire instantly gives off deadly fumes) and covering the smoke detectors with bags as well, probably so the cigarette or  pot smoke does not set them off.

The most recent major structure fire that resulted in a death  at Rolling Green Apartments last year could have been far, far worse if the smoke detectors had not done their job.

In fact, AFD responded a few days after the deadly fire for reports of an alarm sounding.   Turns out smoke detectors from the damaged building had been thrown in a dumpster and some of them were still sounding the alarm.

Previously AFD would issue a $100 civil ticket and if you ignored it, they would have to take you to Land Court in Northampton.  Now they will be issuing criminal complaints which could result in six months in jail.

Or most likely, as with this plea bargain case, the court converts it to a civil infraction with the $1,000 fine. 

Complying with these common sense safety regulations is far less a hastle than dealing with District Court ... or planning a funeral. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"That Really Stinks"

Budget Coordinating Group this morning

Good thing about being a fly on the wall at public meetings not usually attended by reporters is town officials are a tad more forthright with their comments.

Take this morning's Budget Coordinating Group meeting for instance.  During his update on the Echo Village negotiation with mega-property owner Jamie Cherewatti, after lamenting the deal falling through at the last minute, Town Manger Musante closed with, "That really stinks".

The town had put all their eggs in one basket with a proposed Community Development Block Grant request of $800,000 because $600,000 of that would have gone towards purchasing from Cherewatti the 24 unit Echo Village Apartment complex.

James Cherewatti on left

The deadline for the grant application was February 14 (how romantic) and Cherewatti's last second rejection (by ignoring it) of a "fair market" purchase offer means the grant application is now dead.  The price offered is exempt from Open Meeting Law public disclosure, although the principal party who made the offer could probably release it.  

The Town Manager pointed out to the BCG, "That has a domino effect on three other programs:  Homeless Shelter, Food Pantry Program at the Survival Center, and $20,000 in emergency funds for the needy."

His proposal, which seemed to garner the support of the group, is to now take a $125,000 recommendation to Town Meeting using Free Cash.

He specifically wants it to be a stand alone item separate from the overall budget to telegraph that it's a "transitional" emergency appropriation, and not a return to the old days of annual town funding of Social Service programs. 

Finance Director Sandy Pooler floated the idea of having the money come out of Stabilization Fund which requires a two thirds vote to reinforce that this is a one time thing, and that Town Meeting "would really have to think about it."

BCG Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe cautioned it could send the message that town officials were setting too high a hurdle and it could be "off putting" to Town Meeting members.

Pooler responded that many things -- including bridge replacement or DPW snow and ice budget increases -- requires a  two-thirds vote, so this is not "singling out" social services.

Finance Chair and Select Board candidate Andy Steinberg thought perhaps the $125,000 should simply be in the routine general fund budget.   Stephanie O'Keeffe quickly responded the Select Board voted Monday unanimously that it be a stand alone article.  This reinforces the notion that we are simply "bridging the gap."

Select Board member Alisa Brewer (always a tad more forthright) added, "I will say it more aggressively:  NO!"

In Their Own Words

Amherst School Committee 2/25: Nothing to say on this sorry incident

A month after a racial/bullying incident escalated out of control leading to the closing of Amherst Regional High School originally ascribed to "unforeseen circumstance", ARPS School Superintendent Maria Geryk will issue a "conclusive statement to the community on Friday".  

Let's hope it is as transparent as it is fair.

Mother/son's letter to Faye Brady, ARPS Director of Student Services 2/3/14

Tweets from black youth threatening white student: 

 "Extendooo" could refer to high capacity ammunition clip commonly used with assault rifles or a police baton

Even now 2 of the black youths still use "the word"

Amherst School Superintendent Maria Geryk

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

DUI Honor Roll

Yeah, you read that headline correctly. I created a new category of award for Taylor S Aldrich, age 29, as I have a feeling he will learn from his mistake.  And I only wish I could say that more often.

On his initial appearance before Judge Payne on Monday he asked for a continuance of his DUI case and requested the court appoint an attorney. But his "liquid assets" were a tad too high (note he was driving an Audi) and the cost conscious judge denied him a public defender.

About an hour later Mr. Aldrich, having gone out of the courtroom into the hallway to confer with an Assistant DA, came back before Judge Payne and accepted a "Standard 24D disposition," available only to first time offenders: Immediate 45 day loss of license, one year probation, take an alcohol training program, pay $500 in court costs. and monthly probation fees.

The prosecution still went through the motion of presenting evidence from the APD investigation: Mr. Aldrich was all over the road before being pulled over, reeked of alcohol, failed the agility portion of the Field Sobriety Tests and even back at APD station had to use a wall for balance.

Although he was rational enough to refuse to take the Breathalyzer test back at the station

Judge Payne looked directly at him and asked, "Are the facts just presented true?" "Yes your honor," he replied. As the Judge read him the standard disclosures asking if he were now under the influence of drugs or alcohol or had anyone pressured him into making this plea deal he responded "No, I prefer to take my punishment."

Yes, a good lawyer could -- for a price -- probably could have gotten him a better deal. I've seen attorneys use police witnesses in these type cases for target practice.

But instead he stood up and accepted his punishment.  Making the road to recovery just a tad smoother.

3 of the 4 charges were dismissed

Public Safety Crossover

Usually it's Amherst Police Department assisting AFD --shutting down traffic so firefighters can lay out lines of hose, or calming an unstable scene so EMTs can get a patient safely out of a rambunctious crowd. 

But on Friday night, with hazardous road conditions due to a a sudden freeze over, Amherst Fire Department Chief Tim Nelson returned the favor.  He noticed a vehicle operating erratically about a mile from Amherst town center.

Chief Nelson (now off duty) not only called 911, but continued to follow and then stopped when the truck pulled into the Hess Station in South Amherst.  He then pointed out the driver to the responding officer.

Deoclecio Artur, age 38, was arrested for DUI after he failed every aspect of the Field Sobriety Test.

In court on Monday morning his case was continued to next month as his lawyer wishes to review the Hess Station security video, which probably will not help his case.

These days everyone has a phone on them almost all of the time.  Like Chief Nelson, if you see a car on the road and you even remotely suspect the driver is impaired, do the right thing:  Call 911.

Amherst police vehicles are rolling 24/7, so it's not a big deal for them to be vectored to a suspected drunk driver to check it out.

The life you save could be a friend or loved one.

AFD Chief Tim Nelson

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Mother Laments

ARHS: Our All American High School

In a letter to Faye Brady, Director of Student Services at ARPS, dated Febuary 3rd, exactly one week after Amherst Regional High School was closed because of a Facebook "threat", the mother of the white student accused of using a racial slur corroborates everything her husband outlined in his 4 page letter used to defend himself against job termination for trying to get the schools to stop three black youths from bullying his son.

After the Wednesday, January 22nd impromptu meeting where the father first informed Mary Custard of the bullying his son was enduring, the mother also spoke with Ms. Custard later that afternoon.  She wanted to know why the parents of the three black students had been contacted the day before but not her family?  Ms. Custard did not give her an answer.

She closed the conversation with, "My son is afraid to go to school and this is not acceptable -- as the School should be a safe place to be."

On Friday, January 24 after three confrontations in the High School the mother met in person with Ms. Custard where the joint meeting with all the parents was concieved and scheduled for Monday, January 27.  That meeting was cancelled due to the sudden closing of the school.

The mother continues, "I again told her (Ms. Custard) that my son was afraid to go to school and did not feel safe, and I felt that not enough had been done in regards to the situation."

In her poignent closing the mother directly addresses her son being branded a racist for using the "N-word" (five letter version ending in a), to congratulate a black friend (who took no offense).

"What started out as an argument between teenagers, all of whom use 'the word', somehow turned into a 'racially motivated' hate crime."

She emphatically continues:  "This is NOT true as the original statement that my son made was NOT racial, but a pat on the back.  My son is NOT a racist as he has been portrayed.  Having been brought up in Holyoke he was brought up NOT seeing color.  He has many friends of all different colors -- black, Puerto Rican, Indian, Pakistani, Moldovan as well as white.

We have many races within our own family.  The accusation that my son is a racist is the most hurtful thing that has come out of this entire incident. "

Her final sentence says it all:  "It was not handled expediently and was allowed to go on for four days -- far too long.  Only then (after the Facebook "threat" discovered)  was anything done -- obviously too little too late."

The letter was signed by the mother, father and son.

Party House of the Weekend

7 Willow Lane, Amherst

Very early Sunday morning (1:56 AM) Amherst police broke up a large party at 7 Willow Lane and arrested the party host Dery Jesus Aldeano, age 22, a UMass student. 

As the officer noted, Willow Lane is a densely populated neighborhood not  known (yet anyway) for being predominantly a student zone.

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday he took the deal suggested by the DA, known as "conversion".  The criminal charges (Noise and Nuisance House) are converted to civil charges and he pays $300 out of the $600 in tickets issued by APD.

The other $300 ticked is "filed" for a year, so he probably does not want to repeat this behavior.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

BS Blarney Blowout

A logo for trouble in the making

While Ancient Order of Hibernians, the largest fraternal order of Irish in America, calls for a boycott of retail giant Spenser Gifts over insensitive stereotypical merchandise the local Party Boys have come up with a t-shirt to immortalize the ignoble all-day debauchery known as "The Blarney Blowout 2014".  

The drinking marathon commences apparently at whatever time college age youth roll out of bed these days, and traditionally falls (if you can call four years a "tradition") on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day, this year March 8.  

Because St. Patrick's Day always falls during Spring Break why waste an excuse to get drunk, rowdy and obnoxious in Amherst, your adopted hometown of four years (or five or six)?

Last year the "official" event in town center went well enough, only to successfully lull town officials and local media into a false sense of security.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Break Page 3/11/13

It was then the north end of town exploded in violence. Thousands of students, fueled by alcohol, took to the quad area around Townhouse Apartments, set fires, threw bottles and vandalized property.

State Police, APD and UMPD had to break out the riot gear to disperse the unruly crowd.

Amherst officials were unhappy to say the least (more like "pissed off") with UMass officials for not putting out advance communications with students and parents about maintaining decorum.  UMass officials responded they didn't want to give the "event" any advance free PR with the email blast notifications.

The fiasco and resulting friction between the two superpowers did directly lead to formation of the Town Gown Steering Committee, "to jointly develop a plan to address shared areas of interest including housing and economic development issues." 

It took years for authorities to retire the "Hobart Hoedown."  Now it's time once-and-for-all to shut off "The Blarney Blowout."

Call in the Marines!

Gazette eventually figured it out:   front page (above the fold) 3/12/13

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Equipment, Old Home

AFD Chief Nelson, Assistant Chiefs McKay and Stromgren at JCPC meeting 2/20

Amherst Fire Department capital requests for FY15 (starts July1st) has a h-u-g-e bottom line number, $8,555,000 -- or almost twice their $4,358,412 operation budget for the upcoming year.

But you can, unfortunately, immediately scratch $8,000,000.   Because that is the first year installment ($4 million in year #2) on a new $12 million South Amherst Fire Station -- a Holy Grail talked about since the 1950s.

For the last couple years it shows up in the capital request line item as a placeholder, or what Finance Director Sandy Pooler described as an "Important reminder ... here to keep it on the radar screen." 

But the problem with keeping it on the radar screen so very long is, it starts to get tuned out.

About half the remaining ($555,000) budget request will go towards a new ambulance ($255,000) a standard workhorse machine on a ten year replacement cycle.  Although they do not yet make reliable enough hybrid vehicles for emergency first responders, the new ambulance will have a touch of green: a high efficiency air conditioning unit powered by a solar panel embedded in the roof. 

The new ambulance will also come with a power loader and power stretcher which significantly reduces the physical stress on EMS personnel loading and unloading patients into the back of the ambulance.
 Power loader demonstration

In addition AFD is requesting $91,600 for three more power loaders to retrofit the current fleet of ambulances.  Last year they were given approval to purchase five power stretchers.

Two new UHF/VHF portable radios at $7,000 each will allow command personnel to communicate with other agencies (Amherst police or any police and fire in Franklin County when assisting via mutual aid) at the scene of an incident.  The old radios are beyond their rated lifespans and are starting to break down.

The vital protective gear that separates bare skin from sizzling temperatures also needs to be replaced on a rotating basis, and this coming year that installment (20 sets of gear) will cost $40,000. 

A Federal mandate requires all single-walled underground storage tanks be removed by 2017.  The 8,000 gallon tank at North Station, used by AFD as well as other town departments -- Schools, Recreation, Library and Conservation -- needs to come out of the ground.

And that will cost $80,000.

Since the two pumps that dispense gas and diesel are also over 20 years old they will be replaced at the same time, for a cost of $20,000.

While not nearly as expensive as an ambulance or fire engine a 4WD pickup is still pretty costly at $35,000.  The utility vehicle will be used to plow North Station in winter and even to accompany  emergency vehicles during a major winter storm.  The old unit was a 1993 hand me down from the DPW that has now failed to pass inspection.  

When asked by JCPC Chair Kay Moran what he would do if her committee decided to cut funding for the vehicle Chief Nelson responded, only half-kidding, "punt."

Rounding out the requests is $20,000 in extra equipment for the new pumper arriving in August that allows it to act as a "Emergency First Responder."  Sort of turns a fire engine into a temporary ambulance, except it cannot transport the patient to the hospital.

But when things get busy and you need to get to a patient ASAP a Fire Engine can travel just as fast as an ambulance to at least deliver highly trained help who can stabilize the patient until an ambulance can arrive to transport to a hospital.

The Joint Capital Planning Committee seemed to look favorably at the AFD requests, but they do need to cut some items from department requests before sending their recommendations to Town Meeting.

Even then, Town Meeting can still fail to fund a single line item, although it doesn't happen often.

The hard part somewhere down the road, assuming town officials radar still works, will be the $12 million debt exclusion for the new South Amherst Fire Station. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

DUI Dishonor Roll

Probably not a bad idea to pull over and try to sleep it off when you've had too much to drink, but you probably should turn off your engine; and it would also help is you were not blocking in a resident. 

Last Saturday around 6:00 PM Amherst police arrested Abdul Calderon, 23,  for Driving Under the Influence even though, technically, he was not in a moving vehicle. 

In His Own Words

 ARHS currently closed.  What happens on Monday?

So for those of you just joining me on this sad -- but all too typical -- Amherst story of hypocrisy, this is the four-page response penned by the father of the white student who posted a "threat" on a Facebook confessions site hoping it would bring relief from the relentless bullying by three black students who did not like his use of the "N-word", the (supposedly) hip 5-letter version ending in "a".

As the narrative clearly shows numerous school employees either witnessed the physical altercation that occurred at the end of the week or were made aware of the situation by the father prior to the physical confrontation.

The schools punished both the father and son via suspensions but thus far none of the bullies have received a suspension. 

The schools also violated the state anti-bullying law (enacted in the aftermath of Phoebe Prince being bullied to death) by not contacting the Amherst Police Department after the father first voiced his concerns.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

When Heads Collide

The brain is a terrible thing to waste

For those of you who think sports writers are more cheerleaders than journalists, you may want to head to UMass tonight (6:00 to 8:00 PM) to check out  "League of Denial:  A Conversation with the Authors" at the Campus Center Auditorium put on by The McCormack Department of Sport Management and the digitally savvy UMass Journo Department.

A compelling case of journalism done right.  Shining a light on the dark side of an untouchable American icon of entertainment, professional football.  And the collateral, sometimes deadly, damage done to the athletes who make it their profession.

At least the Romans were honest about the outcomes of the Gladiatorial games.

Of course if you are a BIG football fan, a spoiler alert:  you may never again look at the game quite so comfortably, or allow your kids to take it up.

 Campus Center Auditorium 7:00 PM

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Anyone Out There?

This month is shaping up to be the busiest February ever for the Amherst Fire Department with "station coverage" calls issued by Dispatch seven times this past weekend.  At one point a little over a half hour expired before station coverage was attained.

Fortunately fire did not come calling during that exposed time period because The Beast, once unleashed, grows exponentially.

And exceedingly fast.

Note one-third of the medical calls to UMass were substance abuse calls (one of them a passed out 16 year old boy) as were one-out-of-two to Amherst College.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Downtown Development Battle

 Coming soon to downtown Amherst?

I was one of 106 recipients -- a virtual who's who of Amherst committee members, town and state officials, journalists, developers, landlords and business owners -- to receive this email from David Willliams on Sunday.

It has come to our attention that Landmark Properties has represented to property owners near our Kendrick Place project in Downtown that they have purchased the land/project from us. 

 This email is to confirm that this is completely false It is dishonest and it completely conflicts with our long term commitment to our hometown Amherst. 

To the contrary, for our Kendrick Place project we are proceeding with selection of a contractor, we have secured LOCAL equity, and we are finalizing terms with a LOCAL bank. 

I've lived in Amherst for 44 years. I am not interested in flipping any of my projects to outside developers. 

On the contrary, Kyle and I are working very hard to deliver projects of the absolute highest quality, projects that further the objectives of the town and our higher education institutions, projects we will own for the long term, projects that you have given us the approvals to build. 

I in no way will breach your trust. 
David Williams

My initial reaction?  Yikes!

Because if Landmark Properties, an out-of-town developer, had indeed lied in an attempt to gain a negotiation advantage it would certainly cast a pall on their other controversial proposed development, The Retreat (170 units) in Northeast Amherst.

And since there are a boatload of NIMBYs hoping for them to fail at that proposed development this act of treachery would be well received -- and instantly promoted.

One of the major properties sought after by Landmark Properties

Landmark is actively pursuing a five-story, 100-150 unit major development in town center (a little smaller than "The Standard at Athens") and indeed has signed a Letter Of Intent with a large commercial property owner at the north end of town center.

And they did indeed contact Archipelago Investments LLC about adding the proposed Kendrick Place site to the mix.

 Another major property sought by Landmark Properties

But they sternly deny ever misrepresenting ownership of any property in Amherst.  Obviously if Landmark follows through with this project it will be a major competitor to not only the proposed Kendrick Place (26 units) but Archipelago's other proposed development, Olympia Place (200 beds).

Kendrick Place proposed site abutting the rear of Bertucci's

At the very least, having housing developers fighting with each other to develope projects means the #1 problem in our little "college town" -- the housing shortage -- is, finally,  being addressed.

Adjacent Carriage Shops possibly up for grabs

Monday, February 17, 2014

Racism (?), Bullying & Secrecy @ ARHS

Amherst Regional High School on a cold Monday

The following documents were, technically, not public documents since they involve employee performance.  But the privacy exemption in Public Documents law was enacted to protect the employee -- not the governmental institution.

In his four page response to the written charges used at the "hearing" 2/4/14 the school employee (who works with his hands) took issue with a number of key points.  First and foremost he did not use the N-word, the one that ends in "r" and has six letters.

He used the 5 letter version that ends in "a", just to illustrate the version of the word his son used with a black friend as a term of endearment. 

And -- even more important -- he asked permission before using the word within earshot of Dean of Students Mary Custard, "an African American woman".  

School officials, however, seems to have no trouble using both versions of the N-word in their 2 page indictment.

The father, who I will call George (but that is not his name) reports his son did use the term "fucking bullshit" because by that point, after a week of bullying, he was extremely frustrated by the lack of response school officials had brought to bear.

To recap:  George went to Dean of Students Mary Custard on Wednesday January 22 after his son had a "confrontation" with three black students the previous day.

Being a polite ex-Marine George did not just barge into the office and grab a seat. He asked Ms. Custard's secretary if it was okay to speak to her and after she checked with Ms. Custard the answer was "yes". 

He remained standing the whole time because Ms. Custard never invited him to sit down.

That day was the only time the N-word (short version) was ever mentioned.  George was justifiably disconcerted when he learned Ms. Custard had contacted all the other parents (one of whom works in the schools, but not so much with his hands) to get their side of the story.

That same day during an "evacuation" George (who is after all a school employee) did end up in the Middle School auditorium where he spotted his son, who was now hanging out with the same black friend he posted the congratulatory note to on Facebook using the short version of the N-word.

His son did point out the three kids who were bullying him, but at no time did George make an attempt to interact with them.

On Thursday January 23 George once again very briefly discussed his son's precarious situation with Ms. Custard and once again asked the secretary who asked Ms. Custard if it was okay for him to speak with her.

At no point was he told to "make an appointment."

Friday January 24 was the day the verbal abuse escalated to the physical.  One of the kids laid a hand on George's son.  Again he went back to see Ms. Custard, again he asked her secretary first for the okay.  Only this time he brought his union rep as a witness.

And that witness will verify that George did not point his finger at Ms. Custard or act in a threatening or discourteous manner.  Yes, while leaving her office his irate son did say "fucking bullshit," but George did reprimand him, telling him to "calm down" and "watch your language."

George, his son and union rep then went to Principal Mark Jackson's office but ended up talking with Assistant Principal Michael Thompson who promised to set up a meeting for Monday January 27 (the day the school closed because of the "threat" posted to Facebook Confessions site).

George never said Ms. Custard was "biased" but his son certainly thought that was the case.  Mr. Thompson told George's son to go to an early lunch and if there are further problems with the three belligerent students he should seek out an authority figure.

Well that did not work, as the pre-lunchtime encounter was the worst yet.

The kid who got physical with George's son stormed out of the school that morning.  George's son went from the High School to the Middle School and then drove over to Northampton to pick up his mother from her place of employment.

The mother returned to the High School and was seen by Ms. Custard (amazingly, without an appointment).

In fact it was the mother who suggested the three kids antagonizing her son and school officials all sit down together on Monday January 27 to try to make peace.

That of course never happened because the "threat" posted to Facebook the week before finally appeared on Saturday night, January 25 and was spotted by School Superintendent Maria Geryk the following night.

She called the Chief of Police and Amherst Town Manger and with the help of I.T. Director Kris Pacunas George's son was identified around 3:00 AM, Monday morning.

In a panic Amherst Regional High School was closed, and state and federal authorities swept the school building for bombs and/or guns, neither of which were found.  Police now agree George's guns were never out of his elaborate lock up and so were never smuggled into the school.

George's son received a 12 day suspension for the Facebook "threat," use of the "N-word"  and making a scene in the school hallways.   But George managed to keep his job, although he was suspended without pay for three days for those three visits to Ms. Custard, totaling less than 15 minutes.

And he now has a a blemish in his personnel file, which had been spotless.

The Schools never reported the bullying incidents to the police, and the three students who directed their ire at George's son received no suspensions.

Perhaps it's time for the Regional School Committee to provide additional oversight on this sorry affair. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Church Of PC

"Vagina Monologues" performed in a Church. 

About the only thing I can think more inappropriate than "Vagina Monologues" being performed in a church, is for it to be performed in a high school.

In 2004 Amherst Regional High School was the ONLY high school in the nation to allow such adult oriented material to be performed by teenagers under the age of 18.

Yet now they wonder why kids think it's okay to use the "N-word."

I wonder if the church allowed "The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could" vignette to be performed?  You know, the one where an adult female plies a 16-year-old girl with alcohol and then takes sexual advantage of her. 

Gotta be some sort of Commandment against that.

Interestingly when Ensler originally wrote her "groundbreaking" work, the girl was only 13.   But in response to all the evil conservative criticism she changed her to 16 -- still illegal in most states.

And she also edited out the final line, "If it was rape, it was a good rape." 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Racism By Any Other Name

ARHS closed January 27 due to "unforeseen circumstances"

Are the Amherst Regional Public Schools guilty of a coverup in the Facebook Confessions threat incident that closed the High School on January 27?

At the Community Meeting held later that night to (sort of) explain the "unforeseen circumstances" that suddenly shut down the school, why did school officials not mention the racial component and bullying that led to the fear fueled "threat" being posted on Facebook out of self defense?

And exactly how did the mother (Jamie Sadiq) who blew the whistle on the racial backstory (but not the bullying) leading up to the Facebook incident know the white student involved?  Police and School officials had only learned his name at 3:30 AM that very morning and were refusing to divulge it to the media.  

And why didn't the schools contact the Amherst Police Department after a white father first complained to Dean of Students Mary Custard about the bullying his son was receiving, which later escalated to (criminal) assault by one of the students, who is black?

Why was the white youth suspended for 12 days and his father who works for the schools suspended without pay for 3 days, while the three black youths who bullied him -- including the one who laid hands on him -- received no suspensions?

As part of "Warrior Week" at ARHS, the schools published and promoted two compelling incidents of racial bigotry aimed at a new teacher of color that occurred last October.  But why are we only now hearing this sad story?

Those back-to-back incidents clearly crossed the line into criminal activity via Civil Rights infractions.  Again, why was the Amherst Police Department not immediately notified last October?

Anyone see a pattern here?

Anyone remember 12 years ago when Superintendent Gus Sayer failed to file a 51A report when a mother complained her 15-year-old son was propositioned by the new Principal (Steven Myers) who turned out to have a pedophile background?

And yes that's the same Gus Sayer who retired from Amherst within a year of that ignoble incident, but then came out of retirement to become Superintendent of South Hadley High School where he failed to protect Phoebe Prince from bullying -- and dying.  

In response to that tragic incident the state passed an anti-bullying law requiring all schools to report incidents exactly like the ones that have occurred at ARHS since October.

Amherst needs to start prioritizing the health and welfare of all students (whatever race, creed or color) over their public image.

Amherst Regional High School kids stomp out racism/sexism/homophobia last year.  Well, almost

Open For Business

It's 10:05 AM, do you know where your town workers are?  Working

The Amherst Regional Public Schools on the other hand ...