Friday, September 12, 2014

Back On Top Again

 ARPS School Superintendent Maria Geryk

Amherst School Superintendent Maria Geryk has regained the coveted #1 position as highest paid town employee (technically the "schools" are a legally separate entity) at $158,000 up from $147,000 and now eclipsing Town Manager John Musante who briefly leapfrogged her last week with his Select Board approved 2% raise bringing him to $150,628.

But you have to wonder what the impact -- using the school's favorite buzzword these days, equity --  would be if all school employees received a 7.5% raise?

Between the Regional and Elementary schools total salary costs in FY15 is $32.5 million, so that generous raise would have cost taxpayers an additional $2,437,500 -- to a school system already sky high in average cost per child to educate:  $18,388 per elementary student and $18,026 for Regional student vs state average of $13,636.

Although her current $158,000 salary after 4 years now at the helm only matches exactly the incoming salary for Alberto Rodriguez back in 2009.  After an annoying blogger made public a document showing Rodriguez was taking a total of 40 days off in his first year as Superintendent, combined with internal criticism about his management style, Rodriguez parted ways with Amherst after only 8 months. 

Geryk is now closing in on the last Superintendent with any longevity, Jere Hochman, hired in 2003 (at just over $130,000).  Hochman lasted five years, voluntarily leaving for his old stomping ground Bedford Central School District (N.Y.) with a slight pay increase to $262,000.

When Hochman was first hired his $130,000+ salary raised eyebrows, nowhere more so than the Town Manager at the time Barry Del Castilho.  The Select Board suddenly gave Del Castilho a mid-contract raise of $10,000 to sooth his ego.

 Town Meeting Annual Warrant 2004

Hwei-Ling Greeney brought an advisory petition to Town Meeting demanding the Select Board roll back the raise.  Article #38 passed 81-71, but the Select Board simply ignored the will of Town Meeting.

Of course in 2007 when Town Meeting voted to oppose flying the commemorative flags on 9/11, the Select Board routinely cites that shameful vote for an excuse to keep the flags down 4 out of 5 years.

This past year the Amherst Regional Public Schools have been in disarray over racial incidents, one particularly mishandled event which led to the High School closing down for a day.

And according to the Mass Dept of Elementary & Secondary Education neither the Regional Schools or Elementary Schools are making much progress toward their target goals.

Regional Schools 1-10

Elementary Schools 2-10

After a year like last year, what kind of a message does it send to reward leadership with a whopping 7.5% raise?


Anonymous said...

In private sector, she would be making $250K

Larry Kelley said...

I didn't know she was that good a singer.

Anonymous said...

point of clarification/information: I thought that Hochman left ARPS to become superintendent for the Bedford Central School District in Bedford, NY. He is still there now.

Anonymous said...

Her position and salary does not really bother me as much as the money wasted on the layers upon layers of redundant and useless administrative positions they claim are important.

Anonymous said...

"one particularly mishandled event which led to the High School closing down for a day."

Really? Ask a parent at a school that has had a shooting whether they support that level of caution. It's always alarmist and and over cautious until tragedy strikes. Sorry, but I think she did the right thing.

Anonymous said...

When you read this news, check out that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach.

You know, that feeling you get in other areas of your life, when you have no idea whether you are getting what you paid for? But you feel you have to pay anyway?

Anonymous said...

And Geryk has no Ph.D. even though she's getting paid more than any former superintendent, most of whom, certainly recently, had their Ph.D.

Walter Graff said...

Enrollments are down, moral amongst the teachers is low, scores are no better, and spending on everything but what's important is at an all time high. One of the new principals has already been read the riot act to stay in line. The only thing worth anything in Amherst are the teachers who are the real heroes and who are never appreciated for how much they mean to the system. There is a complete disconnect from the rank and file and the administration, and administrative moles in every school who report any activity to the KGB office administrator with hopes of rewards down the line. Let the princess get her raise. Her salary doesn't fool anyone when it comes to her ability and her dismal track record. Only two groups suffer, Amherst tax payers and the children.

Anonymous said...

Ed's got a Ph.D. 'Nuff said.

We'll, actually he's got an Ed.D. But he pretends he's got a Ph. D.

Walter Graff said...

I don't disagree with lock-downs for big or small reasons. Many parents fail to realize that lock-downs come in many forms and that the panic button is not always hit because of a large-scale catastrophe. The simplest form of lock-down involves incidents of health and safety of just one child. No kids aren't told to hide under their desks and all shades drawn, rather children are removed from situations where a child may have a health issue that could put that student in danger or could adversely affect other children physically or emotionally. Sounds extreme but I think it's a good thing to stop and deal with an issue, especially when that issue could put a child in a bad light to the rest of his or her peers. Lock-downs are a great way to get everyone on the same page whether there is a child who is injured or a visitor is seen walking in the halls without a pass and suddenly can't be found.

Anonymous said...

She may be someone who couldn't get a school superintendent job anywhere else, but she's OUR someone who couldn't get a school superintendent job anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

I propose a new deal for her:

She gets a raise every year she keeps per pupil cost at or below the rate of inflation.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but she hasn't done that once so far.

Anonymous said...

PhD's are wort $2.500.00/year in this district.

Finally they are paying the female sup with 5 years experience only a little less than they paid the male sup (Rodriguez) who had 0 years experience five years ago

Anonymous said...

anon 2:08: except that she regularly receives offers to be superintendent from places all over for more than we pay her.

Anonymous said...

If you're unhappy about this, then use your votes to get rid of Shabazz and Baptiste, the people who gave her the raise.

Anonymous said...

She gets a raise every year she keeps per pupil cost at or below the rate of inflation.

Well, OK anon, but then you can't complain about class sizes going up to the max either. Deal?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:47 PM , you wrote:
"If you're unhappy about this, then use your votes to get rid of Shabazz and Baptiste, the people who gave her the raise."

Really, you are going to blame Shabazz and Baptiste for this (like they get blamed for some much else? What about the other school committee (SC) members? If there were only two votes in favor of the raise, it wouldn't have happened.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 2:32

Show us the offers. I don't believe it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:52

You'll have to explain how "class sizes going up to the max" follows from keeping per pupil costs at inflation in a school system that has substantially reduced school populations.

I've got another deal for you. How about you begin to make actual proposals to expand the tax base (and elect TM members who want to support that), instead of fighting every one that comes along (giving us the phony "right idea in the wrong place" rationale each time)? Then perhaps the per pupil costs might be a moot point.

We're already seeing that the buy-in to Maria Geryk's Amherst is too much for many people, especially young families.
Good-bye, socioeconomic diversity.

Anonymous said...

Is there an online access to see how much each town employee salary is?

Anonymous said...

Finally an example of equal pay for equal work.

If we were talking about a male superintendent Walter wouldn't have used the term "prince" when referring to him, like he refers to Geryk as "princess". But we've all known him to be a bitter chauvinist for years.

The SC who has evaluated her for the last 4 years and has given her positive evals have to back up any criticism with data, Graff never includes data to back up his claims of a "dismal track record", because he can't. I'll bet he doesn't even know what she is evaluated on each year., because he has to makes up his own evaluation criteria.

I'll wager that he also can't back up his claim that a new principal "has been read the riot act to stay in line". ("Someone told me...")

Graff is a sad, bitter man-clown.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:31,
Go to the towns web site and click on open government the the MAX. Then look for employee salaries. BUT, not surprisingly, it does not list school department employees. Go figure!

Anonymous said...

Where's KURT ???

Your trust or bust! said...

"Finally an example of equal pay for equal work."

The thrill

of the shill.

Lay it on us baby.

Lay it on us.

-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. Dyed hair and all.

kurt geryk said...

Here I am, 6:55. Sorry, I was out shopping for new shoes.

Now, go die, CAN, I've got some banking to do.

Nina Koch said...

seriously, Squeaky? We're judging people for coloring their hair?

Since Jere was the super when you lost your job at ARPS, why don't you spend your time making cracks about him?

Your trust or bust said...

"Here I am, 6:55. Sorry, I was out shopping for new shoes."

How's it feel Kurt, hmm?

Not good, eh?

Not good at all.

Tell your wife to clean house.

When "they" go,

I go.

I promise you.

-Squeaky Squeaks

Anonymous said...

Squeaky's threatening to live on Larry's blog, maybe even for the rest of his life, until he gets what he wants from officials in Amherst?

Wow, now there's some leverage for you.

Anonymous said...

In what other community in America could you lure the school superintendent's husband into verbal combat on a blog?

Maybe Walter is right.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Anon 4:47,

Show us the offers, oh you can't because they don't exist. typical BS trying to show how valuable Maria Geryk is.

Populations of students enrolled is going down faster than the student population, per pupil cost are almost 3 times higher than inflation, racial issues (which Maria did not cause) but she can not make them go away. So what good has her tenure brought us.

For every 1 child leaving the schools for something else, there are likely 10 families who wish they could get out.

Oh and please don't say be patient her programs take time. Times up it has been 5 years, no more dancing around the issue.

Sleepless in the Valley said...

The best part about the Amherst Regional School System and it's mind blowing management, is it is paying for my kids to go to a private school two towns over. Thank you ARPS my kids now love school and are excelling in all studies!

Anonymous said...

Did Tara Luce, Amherst school employee & Pelham School Committee member, vote for her boss' raise? or does she recuse herself on such matters?

Will she be participating in the School Committees' evaluation of the superintendent?

Anonymous said...

anon@706: how's it that ARPS is paying tuition for your kids at private school? Interested minds want to know!

Anonymous said...

School choice

Anonymous said...


Enjoy the banking, but save some for your buddy Phil. I’m sure he can calm your nerves better than posting here.

Anonymous said...

I heard that 18 kids left amherst public schools to attend Williston in 7th grade and skip ARMS altogether. And there are others going to other local private schools. That is not saying much for our schools?
Did anyone give them exit interviews, as promised?

Anonymous said...

Next $100,000 job will be a student retention specialist.

Nina Koch said...

Williston has a large day student population. Clearly, those students come from somewhere. There are probably quite a few from Northampton, too. Does that mean that something is wrong with Northampton schools?

People make choices. Some people choice out of Amherst, while others choice in. Different people want different things.

Statements that Amherst schools are "horrible" or a "laughing stock" are not defensible. Headlines in the newspaper do not reflect the everyday experience of the general population in our school. Are some people unhappy? I'm sure. Do some things need to be changed? Yes. I disagree with some of the decisions that have been made. But does that mean that the schools are "horrible"? No.

If you talked to a wide spectrum of kids, you would have a different picture. And a lot of our kids are really fed up with media/social media critiques of the school.

Anonymous said...

Sure Nina,
I talk to my kids ever night, they are the ones telling me the schools tanking. I also ask their teammates what they think about whats going on and they tell me that that there is not a lot of real solid teachers left.The math teacher I'm told was not very good at all.

Anonymous said...

7.5% raise handed over on a silver platter when all of the other town employees haggle past contract deadlines for their 1, 2, or maybe, just maybe a 3%.

Anonymous said...


While it is true that some people are satisfied and other not, what is really important is that people are leaving the Amherst system at a greater rate each year.

While I am sure Amherst is not alone in this I am sure that Amherst spends a lot of money to be one of the best schools in the state but clearly is falling short. How short is debatable. What is not debatable is how much money and how many overpaid administrators are employed at the schools. And the cost keep growing as the consumers (students) keep walking out the front door.

Anonymous said...

The administration likes to talk about how the size of the central office is just now getting back to the size it was 10 years ago. But how much has enrollment declined in that same time - quite a bit, especially if you don't include all students choicing in.

and how many $100K administrators does the district have compared to 10 years ago?

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem still facing ARPS is the MS. We have a revolving door of principals, extremely high student discontent (students have to just suck it up until the utopia of HS). Some things are extremely hard to change, but I think they have a dedicated faculty and staff. An easy start would be to throw out the rediculously confusing and convoluted schedule and create something simple that makes sense. It only adds unnecessarily to student stress levels. Not to mention the failed experiment called "core skills" that Ms. Dinger stated last year was a failure and was going to be terminated.

The problems in the HS surrounding race and hostility starts in MS. Exactly what is the new "climate control coordinator" going to do? Is it all reactive? Or are there activities and outreach efforts to educate our worse behaved? Our schools/studentsl will continue to fall way short of their potential until the MS experience is improved. Still completely sucks after more than 5 years of Ms Geryk at the helm.

Nina Koch said...

I was simply responding to the statement that the schools are "horrible." They aren't. I think it's perfectly reasonable to critique some of the administrative costs. But that doesn't make the schools "horrible."

If you bring home a bag of groceries and your teen is upset that you didn't buy Cool Ranch Doritos, she might say "You never buy any food that I like." Now there may be 17 other things that she likes in the bag, but she is focused on that one thing and makes the sweeping statement. Does this mean that your family is "tanking"? No. It means your child has a complaint.

7:44 pm, when you go to Open House this year to meet your child's teachers, see if you think every single one of them is something less than "real solid." Is that what you thought last year? Nobody was solid? I doubt it. When you email your child's teachers, do you get a response that seems perfunctory or do you get evidence that the teacher really cares about your concern? There may some of the former, but I believe much more of the latter.

I am trying to counter this notion that everything is bad. It's just not true.

Anonymous said...

My kids are in their 30 and suffered through the Burruto regime. The MS is a paradise compared to what my kids and hundreds others had to endure. The kids in the MS now don't know how good they have it. There may still be some problems. What school doesn't have problems? But the MS is thousands of times better than it was when my kids went there. In those days you told your kids " it's 2 years. You'll get through it. If you can get through two years of Jr High you can't get through anything." I'd give them pep talks frequently. My child used to say to me " how do they expect us to respect them when they don't respect us?"
So don't talk to me about how bad the MS is. You folks have it good.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Nina

It's just not there. 5 or 6 days to get an e-mail answer? Child #1 asked the teacher for help after school, but was told she was too BUSY, try next week?
But, the test is this week.
Child #2 questioned why their home work answer was marked incorrect, But the classmate who answered it the same exact way was correct?
Come on who are you trying to kid.
That was just last week.

Anonymous said...

anon@955pm: your reply was insulting and ignorant. Unless you work in the MS (and thus have a vested interest in promoting it) I can't see how you'd have any idea what it might be like. In the 15-20 years since your kids attended the MS, the demographics of our student population has changed dramatically (good things come from this change but lots of serious challenges). I can continue to "talk to you about how bad the MS is" (don't read it if you don't want to)!

My child used to say to me " how do they expect us to respect them when they don't respect us?" Honestly, that sounds pretty tame. Did your kids fear for their safety from physical harassment, for example? I still hear those comments from today's students on top of the other many big issues.

Anonymous said...

If you have never met John Burruto or had no experience with the boot camp atmosphere of the middle school then you have no idea how bad it was. Not only were the kids afraid of Mr. Burruto. The parents were too. I'm not talking about demographics. I'm talking about the atmosphere of fear and intimidation in that school.

Anonymous said...

Amherst school enrollment is down year by year, not only by the demographic shift, but also unsatisfied parents moving their children to other schools. School teaches to the minimum standard, not challenging students to achieve higher. After paying so much property tax to stay in the area, parents scramble to find more money to challenge their kids after school, by hiring tutors, or going to kumons. I am not convinced that the current school administrator is able to efficiently utilize the high per student cost funding to individualize the teaching. Why not tailor the funding to schools ability to perform. Let the school do its minimum academic standard it is able to provide our district, and match the funding level to state average. Keep the money in taxpayer's pocket. Family with children will be able to find this extra money to find after school academic improvement that tailor to their children's individual needs. The young family, retiree, and everybody else also have less concerns of the sky high property tax. The recent defeat of the retreat project could be an indicator that it is not easy to get much more tax income for the town without inflicting more pain on existing taxpayers. Amherst's over-expensive school is not sustainable. It is a sink hole. No matter how much money you throw in it, you will never see your money back, you may not even hear a sound. It may be time to start a debate of pay for performance of Amherst school system.

Anonymous said...

what % raises did other ARPS staff receive this year?

did anyone else (without a promotion) get a raise of 7.5%+?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Nina,

I too am with Anon 12:33. The teachers are ok but the responses to emails are at 5 to 7 days, execpt for one teacher who was 24 hours. He quit a few years back, though. Each email would even start with sorry it too so long to get back to you.

My kids test scores where all over the map but with the grade inflation they got 95% A,s. This led them to believe they were doing well, which they found out upon entering H.S. they were not. Ultimately we had to take corrective action to ensure our kids would be ready for college as the quality of the H.S. was spotty.

The real problem is that Amherst schools don't live up to the hype. I'm not saying they are worse then the schools in many of the surrounding towns but the tax rate in those towns is much lower. We don't get what we pay for in Amherst, but the hype still goes on.

Paying any superintendent from Hochman to Geryk just seems like a waste of money.

Nina Koch said...

to 12:33 pm, I am sorry to hear that. That doesn't sound typical to me and it also doesn't sound acceptable.

By contract, we are required to stay for extra help until 3pm, although sometimes there might be a meeting. But generally on M, Tu and Th, (the late bus days), you can walk up and down the halls and see kids in classrooms getting extra help. If that's not happening, I suggest you contact the department head.

As for responding to email or voice mail, we are expected to reply within 48 hours. If there is a pattern of delayed response, then again, I would start by contacting the department head.

I think that contacting someone at the school would help you get more results. I don't think you need to accept what's happening and just chalk it up to the schools being horrible. Your situation is changeable.

Tom McBride said...

Just give her and the town manager an even $200,000 and call it even. And town cars, cell phones, wardrobes, housing allowance, etc.

Anonymous said...

What a twat.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to post back on this matter.I told my husband and kids that i was going to do just that.

My kids started begging and pleading with me not to, I guess they have their reasons.

I just hope it gets better for them.

Nina Koch said...

Hi again,

It might be worth your while to contact the department head, despite the begging and pleading you are hearing. It's possible that you have not gotten a full report from your kids and the adults at the school could give you some additional information. I have frequently found in my contact with parents that a key piece of information has been omitted when the story goes home. It doesn't mean they're bad kids; just that they're kids! They tend to have very effective strategies to minimize communication among adults.

It's possible that something unusual is going on in the teacher's life right now (like an illness in the family, that type of thing). It's also possible that the teacher is overwhelmed by work, or maybe just not electing not to hold up their end. In any of those cases, I would say that the department head should know about it.

I do really believe that increased communication will help your situation. It almost always does.

Dr. Ed said...

"My kids started begging and pleading with me not to, I guess they have their reasons."

What Nina isn't saying is that the kids know they will be retaliated against by the teachers.