Sunday, March 2, 2014

Too Many Cooks Spoil The Region?

 RAWG:  Three members per town (Amherst, Leverett, Pelham, Shutesbury)

Although they didn't click their ruby red shoes three times while chanting magic words, the 12 member Regional School District Planning Board magically became the Regional Agreement Working Group on Saturday morning, now an official sub-committee of the 9 member Regional School Committee.

The front line Dirty Dozen has been meeting for two years trying to craft a plan to expand the four town Region from grades 7-12 all the way down to kindergarten.  Both the Regional Middle School and Regional High School are physically located in Amherst, and our town makes up 88% of the region by population.

The other three towns -- Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury -- makes up the remaining 12% of the Region.

Thus Amherst is a very large dog with a very small tail.

Proportional representation on the new Regional School Committee (if the notion of the expanded Region should receive support of three out of four Town Meetings) will be a major issue, as Amherst should have the vast majority of committee make up.

But the three Hilltowns can be a tad ethnocentric, and at least one of them points to the divisive years when Amherst School Committee member Catherine Sanderson tried to bring positive change to the sacred cow education system and was gored in the upheaval. 

Amherst Select Board member (and former long-time School Committee member) Alisa Brewer has agreed to temporarily replace Andy Steinberg as Chair of the committee so he can have more time to campaign for Select Board in the upcoming March 25 election. 

During public comment Amherst Town Meeting member Janet McGowan pointed out none of the current 12 committee members has children in the elementary schools and perhaps the committee should be expanded to include those important stakeholders. 

The group hopes to have a proposal crafted  and sent to the Regional School Committee by the end of May.  Once approved by a two-thirds vote of the Regional School Committee the new entity must then be approved by three out of four Town Meetings, optimistically speaking, in the fall.


Anonymous said...

A few corrections to your post. The previous committee was called the Regional School District Planning board.
Only 3 Town Meetings need to approve of the plan for it to go forward. And Katherine Appy has been on this committee from the beginning and last time I checked she does have kids in the amherst school system. The committee is composed of town officials of equal capacity from each of the 4 towns. That's why the makeup is as it is.

Anonymous said...

I think the regional agreement is bad for everyone. It was said if we regionalize that there would be better alignment of curriculum across the towns and schools. It is clear that Leverett and Shutesbury want to maintain control of how they educate their children. So little chance of good alignment there.

There is mention of some cost savings. Teachers salaries are much higher in Amherst. If the towns join together salaries are going to go up not down. That will cost everyone a lot of money.

They say reporting will be less and that saves money but only if you cut the administrations size. We have seen that Team Geryk only likes to grow in size so no savings there.

How does this agreement help anyone, really, how does it?

If I were one of the small towns I would run and run fast.

Anonymous said...

Every single thing about regionalization is a failure in the end - especially for the students. Makes sense that Amherst would look only at the economic value over anything else. Ginger Geryk is in charge and that means anything she is involved with that requires decisions is going to be a failure and a disaster.

Anonymous said...

A slight correction: I was asking the RSDPB (now called, I think, RAWG) to add more Amherst members to their committee. No one on RAWG/RSDPB has ANY any kids in Amherst elementary schools. (Appy has one kid in the high school.)

So the committee that wants to add the elementary schools into the regional school district-- a move that will affect 1,000+ Amherst elementary students-- and no one on the committee has an Amherst elementary school kid!

Also, while 50% of the Amherst elementary school students are of color, no one on the committee from Amherst is of color. I also pointed out that the committee also needs some diversity in viewpoints, since many people in Amherst want proportional representation on regional school commmittee. (No one on this committee advocates for (or really even mentions) this viewpoint, which I guess is no surprise.)

The voting on RAWG/RSDPB are really skewed. While Amherst makes up 88% of the population, the Amherst members on this committee have only 25% of the vote. The Shutesbury members--who don't even want to join their elementary school into the region--have a 25% vote. The Pelham committee members have a 25% vote--with only 60 Pelham kids in their elementary school. The Shutesbury, Pelham and Leverret committee members are all protect their towns' interests and vote to protect them. Our Amherst committee members…?

People, please ask these Amherst members, Andrew Steinberg, Catherine Appy and Alisa Brewer what they think about proportional representation -- and tell them what you think.

Janet McGowan

Until the very last twitch said...

Cross-eyed Kip, crooked Cap'n Hood et alia:

You've all

~earned~ it.

Anonymous said...

The RSDPB was formed two years ago to investigate regionalizing the elementary schools of Amherst, Pelham, Leverett and Shutesbury. It was made up of one rep each from the Select Board, School Committee and Finance Committee of each now. Back in the fall, I believe, they finally came up with a framework for regionalizing to present to the Town Meetings of each town. Three towns must commit to regionalizing and one of those 3 must be Amherst in order for the regionalizing to move forward.
This group has morphed into the RAWG, a sub-committee of the Regional School Committee. It has the same make-up as the RSDPB, three members from each of the 4 towns, one each from the Select Board, Finance Committee and School Committee. It is tasked with drafting an agreement that the Town Meetings of each town will vote on. That is it's only task. To write an agreement to be voted on. There will be no voting - so no need for any concern about whether Amherst has 25% of the vote or 90% of the vote. The town meetings of each town will be the voting bodies. And all it will take is for 2 out of the 4 towns to vote it down to kill the idea of regionalization. Shutesbury is a shoo-in for voting it down, so if Pelham or Leverett or Amherst also vote to torpedo it, it will be gone.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not. Property tax payers still give too much money to team maria to run our schools. $18,000 per students, almost double that of Hadley's per student budget. With that much money, Maria can bloat her admin staff inside and outside central office. The funny thing is that if staff get a promotion, he/she goes to central office. If a person screwed up and on his/her way out, he/she will goes to central office, before disappeared before the public eyes. If the property tax payers tighten the budget knob on team Maria and ask her to to a school lean and mean. You don't have to ask her, she will volunteer to get out of here.

When there is no blood, blood sucking bug will disappear.

Anonymous said...

This committee (RSDPB/RAWD) votes all the time. Saturday they voted to not to add any new members. They voted that their subcommittees could add members -- but not necessarily voting members. They voted a new chair and acting chair. They decided to get their recommendations to the Regional School Committee in by June 1. They voted not to disband RSDPB and not just to become a subcommittee of the Regional School Committee.

RSDPB/RAWD's recommendations to the Regional School Committee will involve: 1) the makeup and voting of the new hybrid regional school committee, 2) how each town will pay their share of the costs of each elementary school (including capital costs), 3) how the decision to close schools will be made, etc.

On Saturday RSDPB/RAWG also decided that they no longer had to do public outreach and education and get public feedback.

This was supposed to be their task for the past 2 1/2 years. They have held 2 sparsely attended public hearings, collected no email list of people who have attended meetings, stoppped meeting for months and months, held most of their meetings with no time for public comments and their website is sporadically maintained.

What is up with this?

Amherst spends $20 million on it's elementary schools. We have 1,000 children in these schools. None of our elementary schools meets the No Child Left Behind standards. Many of our elementary students are not at grade level and the administration is doing major revisions to the math, language, history and science curriculum.

Yet no one on this committee (RSDP/RAWG) has a single child in Amherst elementary schools.

How about putting some Amherst people on this critical committee that have kids in Amherst elementary schools. Wouldn't that be something the commitee would want?

The Regional School Committee still can decide to add new members. Will this committee act? Recall that almost 50% of this committee is made up from the 3 towns that only have 12% of the population. Whose interest will they protect? This is why proportional representation is so important.

Janet McGowan

Anonymous said...

March 2, 12:22: It helps Ms. Geryk. At least it will in the beginning. Eventually the fat cat who swallowed everything in sight will be so bloated she'll burst at the seams. Why in god's name would anyone want to hook up with Amherst I'll never understand.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! This all sounds like another Amherst debacle.

Anonymous said...

Is it the fault of the RSDPB that the public hearings were sparsely attended? If the towns don't like what the committee comes up with they can vote it down. I am not concerned with anything Janet is concerned with.
I might add that the Amherst Town Meeting has very little minority representation. Does that make their votes and/or work less than legitimate? I think Janet McGowan's concerns are trying to stir up a tempest in a tea pot.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ms McGowan, this committee has done very little to garner public input. The reason there was little attendance was (a) almost no advertisement and (b) the advertisement was unclear what the intent of the 'forum' was. It very much seemed like all these mtgs were simply 'informational' and not for public input and feedback.
In the end, these committee members will have wasted vast amounts of their own time because this will easily go down in flames at Amherst TM. I fear that the time these members have spent is directly proportional to their support. Frankly, Amherst should have pulled out long ago (like Shutesbury) since it is clearly not in Amherst town interests to join in an elementary regional district- nothing to gain and a whole lot to lose.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:27,

If you don't think Janet's points are valid then you would not have a problem if states like Texas get twice as many electoral votes as they get now. I mean we are all Americans so what does it matter if the people of Texas get to have more influence on the next commander and chief and subsequently the next supreme court justices, right?

Anonymous said...

AVERAGE Amherst spending per elementary school student is just north of $20k per year. Spending per SPED student vs non-SPED would yield different numbers.