Thursday, August 14, 2014

Attacking Distrust With A Retreat

Amherst, Pelham, Regional School Committees

About the only thing missing from this afternoon's multi-School Committees "retreat" was a group hug to start off the proceedings.

The Amherst and Pelham School Committees and the members who make up the 4 town Regional School Committee started off by placing dots on a poster board beside statements they deemed the most important.

Click to enlarge/read

"What has gone well and what needs improvement?" was the clear winner.

Most members thought the budget process went well this year but the evaluation of the Superintendent Maria Geryk not so well.  And of course topping the list for outright bad things, all the drama associated with the racial incidents and the factions that were formed within the Committees that carried over to the community.

 Fancy fixings at the meeting which was held in Valentine Hall, Amherst College

Amherst School Committee Chair Katherine Appy admitted, "Trust has been a big problem," adding "factions do drive us apart."  Pelham School Committee Chair Darius Modesto agreed saying, "The School Committee needs to change its tone, it's affecting the students."

Communication was constantly cited, as in, the Committees need to do a better job communicating with each other, School administrators and the general public.

Obviously the public becomes (greatly) concerned because public schools account for the lion's share of annual tax expenditures, and good schools help to maintain high property values.

Also discussed was the role of the School Committee.   Should they act as cheerleaders for administrators, or be more critical and "call them out" in the hopes of micromanaging them into better performing schools?

 Mike Morris Assistant Superintendent, Maria Geryk Superintendent

The former certainly has not worked all that well the past few years ...

A good crowd 2 or 3 times larger than the combined committees attended


Email from one of the "factions" drumming up support

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

But I thought that they had eliminated the trust problem inside the School Committee when they got rid of those contentious Amherst College professors.

You mean to tell me that we still have a trust problem? And it can't be blamed on them?

Isn't it an interesting little bit of burden-shifting when the focus shifts to the internal dynamics of the School Committee and away from actual problems within the schools?

Even your kids've abandoned you. said...

Aw grammy and grampy,

tired'a watching soup boil?


You know what to do.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdqOF10jhyo


-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. May I have some soup? I'm broke.

Anonymous said...

I hereby promise not to vote for any candidate who refers to any current or former School Committee as "dysfunctional", as if he or she is going to change that. It hasn't happened.

A little like Obama claiming that he would bridge the divisions in our country and become a "post-partisan" president.



Anonymous said...

"good schools help to maintain high property values."

But not in Amherst. The only thing that keeps Amherst property value up is the University that employees most of the residents and houses the animals that attend the school. The public school system sucks. If property values were dependent on the school system houses would be in the 200k range.

Anonymous said...

did the School Committee members elect a chair for the Regional SC, since O'Brien was originally selected to serve just until the SC retreat.

Dr. Ed said...


Without comment.

http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/arizona-teacher-accused-of-being-drunk-in-class#tscptmf

Anonymous said...

I don't have much trust at all for the ARHS school system anymore and it has gotten worse. You take and give a staff member who's child was involved in one of the things this past year and give him larger pay and don't disapline that student for doing wrong and then another staff member who could have put a stop to things before they got so bad you do the same with her. I feel they should both be let go and make changes all around cause what you have been doing aren't the best.

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Brien and Dr. Appy both ran on campaign platforms that they were going to improve School Committee governance.

According to all the press coverage, the School Committee spent time yesterday discussing first principles about what a school committee's proper role is vis-a-vis the Superintendent and other administrators, essentially going back to School Committee Functioning 101. In a community obsessed with education, shouldn't we have this worked out by now?

Steve Akalis said...

And what about my son who was bullied by his son and then I get a raise for telling a black receptionist about how the camera system works. Yes a raise for getting fired for telling her how it works. The slave unit will not work if the master unit isn't plugged in You know I was testing your intelligence, like the people who call and say their lights are working but did yesterday. Check the light bulbs

DaveMB said...

Anon 6:05 -- the Gazette reports this morning that Trevor Baptiste was elected chair of the regional committee in a 5-3-1 vote over O'Brien. He was the vice chair who called the meeting of disputed validity in O'Brien's absence, and was supported by Shabazz.

http://www.gazettenet.com/home/13146874-95/divided-amherst-regional-school-committee-elects-trevor-baptiste-new-chairman-amid-concern-about-boa

Anonymous said...

Lawrence O'Brien and Katherine Appy know how the SC is supposed to function it's the rest of them who don't. I thought they spent a ridiculous amount of time at the retreat yesterday telling each other what they thought the role of the SC is. Who cares what someone thinks it is. All that matters is what the law says it is. The enlightening part of the discussion is the large number of members of the SC who DO NOT know what their role is.
People should hold on tight. If they thought last year was bad , with Trevor as chair we ain't seen anything yet! It will be an unmitigated disaster. All these new SC members who have not seen Trevor in action have no clue what they have just done. Heaven help us all to get through the next year.

Anonymous said...

The question is: how much of this School Committee's confusion is due to Ms. Geryk? Some, none, most, or all?

Anonymous said...

None due to Maria Geryk. The confusion is in the minds of the SC members. Ms Geryk is very clear about who has what roles.

Anonymous said...

With reference to Mr. Baptiste....

When you allow discussion to go on forever (or for hours), it begins to limit who can serve.

See Town Meeting, for example.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:32-
What's wrong with Baptiste - I don't know what his position/style is. What makes you think the coming year will be a disaster?

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 10:32 am:
Why do you think that many of the SC members don't know what the roles & responsibilities of the SC and SC members are? It seems to me that ALL of them are aware of the limitations of their position, and what they do and do not have a say over.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 11:49 am

Watch one of the School Committee meetings, available on the AmherstMedia website. Then get back to us.

Dr. Ed said...

Steve Akalis --

You want to see this -- and it is far more egregious not only because it was a teacher using the offensive word, but by using it with adjectives such as "dumb", "stupid" & "lazy" there is absolutely no way that she could have meant it in a positive sense.

As a teacher, I can add one other thing -- encouragement or discouragement has a significant impact on learning outcome. Convince a child that he/she/it is stupid and unable to learn something and the child won't learn it -- convince the child that you have the ability to teach it and that the child the ability to learn it -- and the child will.

The "dumb" & "stupid" is worse than the most offensive racial slur because of the expectation of failure, but I digress...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2723112/School-forced-rehire-African-American-math-teacher-Joyce-Quiller-called-risk-high-school-students-n-s.html

http://www.rightwingnews.com/education/high-school-may-be-forced-to-rehire-black-math-teacher-who-called-at-risk-students-lazy-ns/

Dr. Ed said...


The question is: how much of this School Committee's confusion is due to Ms. Geryk?

I'll candidly say that part of this is an unintended consequence of the 1993 Ed Reform Law.

In attempting to free the Superintendents of the large urban school districts (e.g. Springfield) from both political patronage and political micromanagement, they created a situation where superintendents in smaller districts can become "loose cannons" over which the school committee has very little control.

The only real power that a school committee has anymore involves hiring & firing the Superintendent, all of their other powers were taken away from them and this has created a lot of problems in a lot of places far saner than Amherst.

Ed Reform was based on the principle of accountability -- and it was largely based on the problems of the Boston Public Schools, which is what the people who wrote it were most familiar with. A Superintendent administering multiple high schools (and even more elementary schools), each with their own principals and teachers.

This is why principals lost tenure -- and that led to teachers who otherwise would have become a principal not doing that.

The principle was that a building principal should be responsible for his/her/its building, and a superintendent for the entire system -- both to be evaluated on the basis of performance and having short term contracts which are either renewed or not renewed.

The principle was that the Superintendent would be sitting under "the Sword of Damocles" and hence not only hiring the best principles but firing those who weren't good -- not to mention responsible for managing them. To do that, the Supt had to have the ability to do that -- and that's the reference to Mass Law in Maria G's contract.

There is a lot I can't say because it isn't public yet, but this is a statewide problem. Maria G is by no means the only arrogant loose cannon...

Michael H said...

In support of the new Chair Trevor Babtiste, Katherine Appy, Larry O'Brien, the other school committee members, Supt. Geryk, all our dedicated administrators, teachers, and parents, I'm going to kindly, considerately and respectfully work my ass off to help achieve the victory of a truly just and civil Amherst Regional School community where all our schoolchildren and families are valued and included members of the school community. Unfortunately, we have failed too many of our non-white students and marginalized white students like Steve Akalis' son.

Anonymous said...

discussion+disagreement+dissent does not = dysfunction. there seems to be a pattern in amherst where people on public boards who ask questions or don't with the group are pilloried.

so people on the school committee disagree with others on the committee. is this a faction? and if so, who cares? what are their views? why? what are the other views? why? isn't this what we want our children to learn to do in the classroom?

so a school committee vote is not unanimous. good. people are talking, thinking, arguing and voting. welcome to democracy.

are we so weak as a school community that disagreement is so frightening that the dissentors must be quickly shut down simply because they hold a different view?

people are organizing a meeting becuase there is disagreement on the school committee? please tell us when this meeting will be held so people can come and talk openly together about what they think. that's healthy.

The game show where you always lose said...

"I'm going to kindly, considerately and respectfully work my ass off to help achieve the victory of a truly just and civil Amherst Regional School community where all our schoolchildren and families are valued and included members of the school community."



Aw.


And I'll be there to pick up the pieces.



Yours in sickness and in health,

-Squeaky Squeaks


p.s. You know where to find my shoulder...

Michael H said...

Squeaky,
It's good to know you'll be there to pick up the pieces. But, not to worry: "Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose!"

Anonymous said...

Larry,

I think you should send a thank you note to the 5 members who voted for Trevor. This is bound to be year full of stories. To my fellow members of the peanut gallery strap in, get some popcorn, and enjoy the show.

Anonymous said...

Did Ed just mention Ed Reform?

Let's see.....where do I start?

Anonymous said...

I guarantee you. Nothing of substance will be done by the SC this year. I agree with the commenter above - it will be a very entertaining show, which you can watch live on ACTV. Amherst ' s very own reality TV show. I don't know what those 5 were thinking of but I agree we owe them a great big thank you for the entertainment that lies ahead.

Anonymous said...

The Regional SC has turned into a circus and it's 2 clowns are from Pelham. What's in the water up there in Pelham?

Anonymous said...

To Anons 10:32 and 11:57

If you asked them the members of the current school committee would likely tell you they are fulfilling their obligation according to the law.

But like so many other things in Amherst, they interpret the law for themselves when it comes to the definition of oversight.

This bunch seems to have used 'find and replace' and substituted 'overlook' for oversight.

Deep Throat said...

Sources tell me school spies sow seeds of discontent on this blog... follow the money!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Appy ran campaigns that made the Perfect the enemy of the Good.

Now, she will be struggling to make the Good the enemy of Downright Awful.

There is going to be reminiscing about Sanderson and Rivkin before you know it, as the entire room goes into oxygen debt while Baptiste et al and the Public Comment Period That Never Ends sucks up all the available air.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:08,

If school spies sow discontent on this blog is that so we the peanut gallery don't notice what is really going on or are you trying to make some other point?

If you are trying to make another point please elaborate.

Anonymous said...

Amherst should not worry. Trevor knows what is best for Amherst. He told me so personally.

Anonymous said...

The Talk/Action Ratio is going to approach infinity.

Anonymous said...

When will you baby boomers learn what is really important? All you ever talk about is money, money, money. I was shown this site by my mother-in-law who said it was great to know what was really happening in town. I haven't read a single blog with any type of issue that is actually important. It is all just baby boomer crap. Why don't you talk about lawn care (another useless baby boomers issue)? I think the parents of the baby boomer generation is kicking themselves for not teaching you what value there is in doing things the right way. OK go back to debating allocation of taxes and town budgets.

Anonymous said...

Boy it's a good thing that Mr. Morris and his six figure salary are on the case with Ms. Geryk. That will certainly help establish trust.

Anonymous said...

"A little like Obama claiming that he would bridge the divisions in our country and become a "post-partisan" president."

Then Mr. President realized that going to political fundraisers was a lot less stressful than presidential duties he could have been performing over these past few years.