Monday, August 18, 2014

New Sheriff In Town

Trevor Baptiste (new Regional School Committee Chair), Kathleen Traphagan (new Vice Chair)

After garnering only 3 votes for Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee temporary Chair at the contentious 6/24 meeting, losing out to Lawrence O'Brien who received twice that, Trevor Baptiste bounced back in a BIG way at the follow up (official) meeting last week winning five votes, to O'Brien's three.

Two members who had voted for O'Brien over Baptiste at the 6/24 meeting -- Kathleen Traphagan (Amherst rep) and Steve Sullivan (Shutesbury rep) -- had changed their minds, and this time voted for Baptiste (Pelham rep).

And Sarah Dolven (Leverett rep) also had supported O'Brien for temporary Chair but at the meeting last week nominated and voted for Dan Robb (Pelham rep),  who only received that one vote.

At the the 6/24 meeting Trevor Baptiste was nominated for Chair by Amilcar Shabazz but only after Rick Hood had turned down Mr. Shabazz's attempted nomination, saying two years in that position was more than enough.

In both the 6/24 and most recent 8/14 election Mr. Hood supported Lawrence O'Brien for Chair.

While making the nomination this time around Shabazz pointed out that elevating the only other black member of the Regional School Committee to Chair would send a message to the community about the importance of diversity on such an important committee. 

Fair enough.  Symbols are important things.

After the first few days of escalating civil unrest in the embattled town of Ferguson, Missouri the Governor placed in command Ron Johnson, a black state police captain, and it seemed to calm hostilities ... ever so briefly.

Amherst Regional Public Schools start in two short weeks.  It's going to take a lot more than feel good symbolism to counter the past year of simmering discontent.

As Vice Chair, Trevor Baptiste called the "illegal" 7/15 meeting to countermand a memo sharply critical of Amilcar Shabazz (on far left)


Anonymous said...

What we need is a chance for the people to talk, to say how they really feel, to confront the issues they honestly care about. I think allowing an unlimited public comment period at all school committee meetings would go a long way toward ameliorating the discontent, because last year and through this past summer no one had any opportunities to say how they feel or to protest what they think is wrong. I think Trevor is the man who will give voice to all those who haven't had an opportunity to voice their opinions and feelings over the past year.

Anonymous said...

Affirmative action is alive and well in the Amherst school system. A lot good that will do for a failing administration and puppet SC.

Anonymous said...

Unlimited public comment? You (Anon 1:39) have got to be kidding. Can we really expect our [unpaid] board members to commit unlimited hours listening to the rantings of the usual lunatics? There has to be a limit, and that's the job of the chair. I hope the new chair is up to the job and provides for REASONABLE public comment.

Michael H said...

Congratulations Chair Trevor B. and school committee members! I applaud each and every one of you. For our healthy well-being is absolutely dependant upon our ability to come together as honorable, reasonable and responsible human beings, to provide each and every Amherst Regional child a quality, cost-affordable education in a safe, inclusive school environment.
I pray that I, we, the school committee, Supt. Geryk and staff have the wisdom and the courage to stand up to those who seek to divide us into different and unequal groups.
Should we fail, "Our numbness, our silence, our lack of outrage, could mean we end up the only species to have minutely monitored our own extinction. What a measly epitaph that would make, 'they saw it coming but hadn't the wit to stop it happening.'" (Sara Parkin, 1992)

Anonymous said...

I actually thought Anon 1:39 was kidding, also, until I got to the end of the comment. A small group of people were allowed to monopolize extended open comment periods for most of the year - the same people with exactly the same complaints, meeting after meeting - ie. stop MCAS, no Common Core, Amherst schools are racist, etc., etc. Scroll through the videos via Amherst Media - soon you'll be able to identify the players and predict what they're about to say. The SC should have been enforcing the 15 minute rule all along. Sadly I agree w/ 1:39 that Trevor will likely let comment go on forever, just as he can sometimes do. Please, let some work get done!

Anonymous said...

So all three O'Brien votes are Amherst School Committee votes.

So the fissure between Amherst and the other towns seems to be emerging, yet again.

Anonymous said...

Michael H. said I pray that I ... have the wisdom and the courage to stand up to those who seek to divide us into different and unequal groups.

Then you should stop getting online to defend Shabazz against the opinions of several attorneys, several ETF members who were present when he made the heinous remarks and who complained to authorities, and several of our sc members who say he did violate the rights of four young students in our community. You should also stop calling people who disagree with your opinion names like "Ms. Pinocchio". When you take sides, Michael, and then get online and call people on the "other" side names, YOU are one of "those who seek to divide us". So stop with your "I just want peace and love and togetherness" bit if you're not willing to do what it takes yourself.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like great news: those of us who are white, want excellence for all students, and want to see standards raised and flunky administrators thrown out - that is, those of us whose voices have not been heard by the SC in the past year - will finally have a champion. Is this what you mean, Anon 1:39 ?

Anonymous said...

I guarantee you NO work will be done on the SC this coming year. I also thought Anon 139 must be kidding. That person has obviously not been paying any attention ALL year.
The SC is in for a rough patch this year. 9 months of dysfunction ahead and then hopefully we can go back to normal. Grab the popcorn folks! Lots of entertainment (but no work) ahead!

Anonymous said...

Now those white kids will learn not to get uppity.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:38,

So I've got my popcorn and am awaiting a good show. I do think things will get done during the new chair's tenure. I just don't think it will be of significant value or benefit to the greater student body. Here is hoping I'm wrong.

Base in your face! said...

Just another discombobulated


throwing seeds

in their fields of corruption.

Can't trust it!

-Squeaky Squeaky

Anonymous said...

Shabazz and Baptiste have accomplished more positive work and have helped the schools progress farther during their tenure on school committee than any ten other sc members in the last ten years.

Anonymous said...

I thought Mr. O'Brien did a fine job and should be commended for his steady hand in this interim period. I wish him the best in advocating for positive change in these challenging times.


Anonymous said...

The town should hold a "public comment" night once a month, to go on as long as speakers wish. They could comment on any area of concern: schools, LSSE, APD, town-gown relations, whatever. Town/school/public safety officials etc. don't have to be there, they can watch or listen to comments related to their roles later, and incorporate ideas appropriately. Anyone who can't attend can write emails to the leaders, write on a blog, send a letter to the paper about their thoughts, so on. That way we won't waste anyone's time.

Also this would eliminate what appears to be some folks agenda, which is not getting their message or ideas heard so much as getting up in the face of our leaders, calling them names, creating a scene generally, casting blame, being disrespectful and creating division. This idea would not disallow anyone from making public comments and could possibly increase it.

In this day and age if you can't figure out how to get your message across without wasting town and school officials (and other parents' and the students') time you are doing something wrong clearly anyway.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. What's the main complaint with how obrien handled this committee the past couple months? will the new guy stick to the 5 mins comment period? god, i am so sick of this racially-driven decision making process. make decisions based on the f-in curriculum, not some goddamn political agenda. it's the adults who need education not the kids.

Michael H said...

I very much agree with and appreciate the tone of Anons 6:40's and 7:00's comments. In response to Anon 4:16, I apologize for once referring to you as "Ms. Pinocchio". But, I don't apologize for defending Shabazz, new Chair Trevor B, Larry O, Kathryn A, Rick H, all the other school committee members, Supt. Geryk, her staff and the teachers. And, I don't apologize because, in your words, "I just want peace and love and togetherness."

Anonymous said...

Anon: 6:40

Lets see if you can do better than all the Maria supports who can not give specifics. What have Shabazz and Baptiste done, specifically, that is so much better than so many who have come before them.


Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 6:40 pm

Please state your case.

I promise to read it with an open mind.

Anonymous said...

Shabazz and Baptiste have accomplished more positive work and have helped the schools progress farther during their tenure on school committee than any ten other sc members in the last ten years.


Seems you've been smoking the same shit that kid in Ferguson did before he bum rushed the cops.

Anonymous said...

Shabazz and Baptist have done literally NOTHING! Sheesh are you kidding me? I hope that comment about how much they have done was meant to have the sarcasm font. I am so worried about our schools now that the inmates have named Baptist that I am looking for new options for schooling my son.

Anonymous said...

So now that a person of color is chair of the Regional School Committee, isn't it time to look at Town Meeting?

There will be 80+ open seats for Town Meeting next spring. Will we see 15-25 people of color running for those seats? They will get elected IF they do the bare minimum required of candidates, i.e. submit a short statement to the LWV Bulletin supplement.

The claim that our lily-white Town Meeting is an indication of racism in town is really unfair. We can have diversity in Town Meeting, but candidates who provide diversity have to step up.

Don't tell us you don't have time.

Anonymous said...

This is 6:40 PM responding to your requests for specifics:

I believe that Baptiste and Shaba

Anonymous said...

Interesting stat: Amherst is third in the state in hiring people of color, after Cambridge and Boston, in terms of percentage of staff that identify as non-white. No, that still does not mirror the percentage of students of color in our schools. But what have Shabazz, Baptiste, Anderson, Vernon-Jones, et al done to make black teachers want to come live and work here?

Dr. Ed said...

What part of judging someone on the color of his skin rather than the content of his character do people not understand?

And it goes both ways -- I don't give a damn what color someone's skin is (unless it indicates that he/she/it needs my immediate assistance in a desperate lifesaving attempt) -- I care about content of character and as Dr. King suggested, we should make judgments based on that.

Anonymous said...

Amherst is 77% white but you'd think from some attitudes here that this was Detroit and there wasn't a black person in any role, anywhere, and there was some kind of imbalance to everything and anything. There is not. When people stop pushing this diversity crap down other peoples throats and start facing reality, and taking people for who they are and not what color they are, we'll be able to have realistic attitudes. We treat racial needs like balancing the colors of balls on a Christmas tree instead of the reality that blacks simply don't account for a large percentage of the population yet some have a need to give blacks special treatment because it's the cool thing to do. Blacks represent a small number of educators nationwide. That is not because they are discriminated against. It's because they don't go into the field. Last I looked Amherst had a small population of black students and yet you'd think they had a racial mix like Jackson Mississippi and not a minority represented anywhere. Get over it people. Putting a black person in a role because they are black and not for their qualifications doesn't worked or has no one ever going to be honest about the latest president.

Anonymous said...

Anyone care to comment on the content of Shabazz's character?

Larry Kelley said...

And it would be far more effective if you showed some character and attached your name.

Anonymous said...

The content of character....

Kind of makes me think of that ol' MLK trope, "do not judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character."

I think the OPPOSITE is becoming status quo around here - in trying to not be racist, that's all we're doing. I don't believe in affirmative action and making assumptions about one's abilities based on race.

Larry Kelley said...

Kind of interesting that the Town Manager, who is white, caught hell (bureaucratically speaking) last night from the Select Board, who are all white, for entering into the "Amherst Together" racial calming initiative with school Superintendent Maria Geryk, who is white, without consulting them first.

Anonymous said...

So I guess once again we have someone telling us what a great job Shabazz and Baptiste are doing for our schools, but can not give credible examples. So should we just chalk that up to more hot air?

Anonymous said...

Maybe it should be called "Most of Amherst Together" or "Amherst Together Except the Select Board."

Anonymous said...

Mr. Baptiste talks a lot.

I have noticed that.

Anonymous said...

Tokenism is the policy or practice of making a perfunctory gesture toward the inclusion of members of minority groups. This token effort is usually intended to create an appearance of inclusiveness and deflect accusations of discrimination. Typical examples include purposely hiring a non-white person in a mainly white occupation or a woman in a traditionally male occupation. Classically, token characters have some reduced capacity compared to the other characters and may have bland or inoffensive personalities so as to not be accused of stereotyping negative traits. Alternatively, their differences may be overemphasized or made exotic and glamorous.

In America, the practice and concept became part of the popular culture in the late 1950s. Martin Luther King discussed the subject in 1963 in his book Why We Can't Wait; in the same year, Malcolm X told an interviewer "What gains? All you have gotten is tokenism–one or two Negroes in a job or at a lunch counter so the rest of you will be quiet." In 1964, Woody Allen's debut album included a routine about his being hired by an advertising agency:

"[They] wanted a man to come in, and they pay ninety-five dollars a week, to sit in their office, and to look Jewish. They wanted to prove to the outside world that they would hire minority groups, y'know? So I was the one they hired. I was the show Jew at the agency. I tried to look Jewish desperately. I used to read my memos from right to left all the time. They fired me finally, because I took off too many Jewish holidays."

Anonymous said...

Shabazz is 5/6 of the way through his 3 year term on the school committee and he has really nothing to point to in terms of accomplishments. Even in terms of the most basic role a school committee member has, he failed: he failed to evaluate the superintendent, and like a student who can't manage their time properly, asked for an extension the day before the individual members evals were due, and even though he knew for the entire semester that his major project would be due on a specific date, he said the process felt "rushed". Denied an extension, (because this is the real world,) like an insolent child he simply submitted an eval that said the supt failed to make any progress or meet any goals in the last year, and included zero backup data or evidence, and so per state regulations his eval could not be accepted or included.

In his third year serving on sc he finally took on subcommittee work, chairing the Equity Task Force. Does anyone know when we will see the recommendations to increase equity in our schools that is supposed to come out of this sub-committee? I hope they can make some recommendations that are not what we've already been hearing, and are something more than the many concepts and recommendations the schools have implemented either partially or fully already.

WE ARE GETTING IMPATIENT, Amilcar, when will we see some real input and evidence of real progress resulting from your tenure?

Anonymous said...

WE ARE GETTING IMPATIENT, Amilcar, when will we see some real input and evidence of real progress resulting from your tenure?


Guess you don't know how this guy operates. This is not a put-down of this man, as I do not know him, but I have seen him in action and he certainly isn't leading any charge over the hill any time soon, unless it involves some racial "injustice".

I have to ask, if one could judge a person by how he performs in the real world, what do the reviews of his work tell you of the man related to the SC?

"He's entertaining and seems like a cool guy but an awful professor."

"He's a very scattered man. He also makes it quite clear that he walks to the beat of his own drum."

"his lectures can stray from topic"

"the class had no structure, he talked about whatever he felt. Even danced to James Brown for us."

"His methods of loose lectures and constant straying from the point makes it hard to learn."

"Don't expect to learn anything..."

"there is no set curriculum and no syllabus so students are left with the responsibility of asking for work. All assignments are given at the very last moment"

"worst teacher I have had at umass. DO not take classes with him. Disorganized, stupid assignments, boring, and he is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is."

"This is the worst Professor I have ever had!"

"In short, he hasn't taught a thing. He's a disgrace to his profession."

"I am currently in this professor's class and it is the WORST class I have taken in my college career (I am a senior). "

"Eh ! All over the place ! "

Anonymous said...

He won't run again, he'll say he worked his butt off to make things better but that the community and school department is too resistant change. And not because she- I mean, he is too afraid to allow the next election to be a referendum on her- I mean, HIS term on the SC.

Larry Kelley said...

Are you trying to say he's a Catherine Sanderson in dreadlocks?

Anonymous said...

If the SC is looking for tokens, and for diversity, I volunteer to be the token white, traditionalist, raise-standards, excellence-for-all SC member. Now that would shake things up! Oh, wait... We tried that a few years ago and it made many of us uncomfortable!

Anonymous said...

Lawrence O fits the bill Anon 404 and look what happened to him. The recent SC chair election was a disgrace and one of the worst actions I've ever seen them take. And we elected these fools?

Anonymous said...

DON'T SAY HER NAME or she will be forced to get online and defend herself, which she doesn't want to have to do!

Larry Kelley said...

Oh, I think she learned to stop caring about what a serial Cowardly Anon Nitwit thinks.

Anonymous said...

These kids evaluating the Professor are all suffering from a Western bias.

Anonymous said...

And we elected these fools?

Imagine if Vira had won.

Anonymous said...

I can't figure out what Kathleen T was thinking. She seems really smart and rational and yet she voted for Baptiste. She'll need to explain that ridiculous decision if she decides to run again one day. I know that one vote will prevent me from ever voting for her again.

Anonymous said...

Traphagen was trapped, if she voted for O'Brien she would have been accused of voting for a white guy, and of not wanting fair representation of people with brown skin on the sc. That's part of the divide they have created in our schools/town. They've damned the possibility of a positive, harmonious, productive school year once again

Irv was able to discuss and represent and work for positive change for kids of color in the ARPS's without turning it all into an "us vs. you" situation. It was with Shabazz's arrival that we saw the circus-like, non-productive, "you're all racists and white supremacists" faction that started showing up to meetings, and having protests on school grounds, and holding public campaign rallies in our schools in support of Vira where they told flagrant lies about white school personnel and administrators. That was not a coincidence.

The voting mistake we all made was the mistake so many have made up until now: we voted for Shabazz over Irv because he seemed cool and smart, but instead we got a do-nothing, finger-pointing divider, who calls it in in every aspect of his life except where there's a photo op.

Every three years is too long to have to wait to maybe get to evaluate the people we voted onto sc through our votes! We evaluate the town manager and supt and all of their staff gets comprehensively evaluated yearly, but our SC members receive no evaluations, and if they know the next sc election will be an evaluation of their tenure, they just don't run and evaluate themselves as having done wonders.

Someone should start a "School Committee Report Card" website, where we can evaluate sc members on a weekly basis and give them a report card timed to coincide with the report cards our kids get a few times a year

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when we will see the recommendations to increase equity in our schools that is supposed to come out of this sub-committee? I hope they can make some recommendations that are not what we've already been hearing ...?

Well, Shabazz's stated first order of business and explicitly stated intent of the formation of the Equity Task Force was to brainstorm ways to support Carolyn Gardner, who must have obviously (her well-being being the first order of business) had to endure harder times than any kid in school (even the ones who got the hell beaten out of them for being white.) Recommendations that address student's needs, and that would increase equity in the schools for kids, comes second.

Wonder if they've gotten past the brain-boggling problem of "How the heck do we support Carolyn Gardner, beyond an enormous outpouring of personal support from staff and administration and student body, and breaking from subject study time to have assemblies, and community rallies, and listening to stories during SC public comment of the hardship she's endured, and weeks of paid time off, and a personal body guard, and colleagues rearranging their busy schedules to accommodate her needs, and always have one of them sitting in her room while she's working?"

Such a vexing question, that requires a sub-committee's recommendations: "How can we support Carolyn Gardner?"

Anonymous said...

The clear route to effective governance is the one that the O'Keeffe Select Board and later on the Sarat Library Trustees have come to embrace:

Make your meetings as boring and low-key as possible.

If you bore people to tears, you can develop the space to make tough decisions, without having to look over your shoulder. If residents are watching each week with popcorn in hand on Amherst Media, you are doing something wrong.

Good governance in Amherst is terrible TV.

Anonymous said...

Make your meetings as boring and low-key as possible

But how can the SC do that when Shabazz's friends show up every week to turn it into a demonstration of people crying and yelling and and wringing their hands over the inequities they have to endure? And now there will be all the time they need to put on their show.

Shabazz's fellow demonstrators, picketers, ralliers, sign-holders have been allowed to hijack the intent behind having school committee meetings at all, and they promised at the last meeting to return.

Shabazz: “I think that our superintendent and our administrative team have been working diligently to put some changes in place at both our high school and middle school that will serve to give us early warning signs of problems as well as to prevent some of the things from happening as they did last year,” he said. If they work, “I’ll be one of the happiest members of our district.” (Gazette)

Then why did you try to undermine the superintendents and the administrative teams hard work by lying at the very first ETF meeting you held, saying that the supt continually refused to provide you with documents you needed to address issues of inequity, when she in fact DID provide you and the entire SC with the documents well before you held the ETF meeting?

Shabazz has been attempting to undermine the administrations efforts for over two years now, and I have ample examples of that.

Anonymous said...

anon 4:11 pm:
I wouldn't be so sure that all those demonstrators are Shabazz's friends. He doesn't like the meeting disruptions (such as at the end of the last SC meeting in June) anymore than the other SC members do.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so sure that all those demonstrators are Shabazz's friends


Well the disruptions at SC meetings all come from the people he demonstrates and protests with:

Sonji-Johnson (Shabazz has demonstrated with her many times "in support of Carolyn Gardner");

Vira Doungmany(Shabazz VERY actively campaigned for her during her SC run, he protested with her to bring "Justice with Ayyub", etc);

Vira's husband (Shabazz is shown standing with Vira's husband at the "Hand's Up Don't Shoot" rally he organized on the common this past weekend);

Camila Carpio (Shabazz protested with Camila during their "Justice with Ayyub" campaign, he had her standing beside him during demonstrations outside the H.S., he gave a speech recognizing her commitment to "human rights" and then awarded her a Sojourner Truth" award, etc);

Kathleen Anderson (too many protests and rallies attended together to list);

and so on. These people aren't his friends? Then why doesn't he ask them to stop disrupting the meetings? He seems to have SOME sort of a rapport with them.

I guess it's time to do some back-peddling, huh?