Friday, September 26, 2014

Shining A Light

Amherst Regional School Committee "retreat" 8/14/14

So yes, I probably should have been a jerk and required the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee to hold a special meeting just for me -- after all, fulfilling your duties to the Open Meeting Law is important no matter how trivial the detail.

Perhaps why a legal friend of mine describes me as a "strict constructionist" (well, at least most of the time).  It would also have drawn more attention to the issue so that maybe even my friends in the diffident mainstream media would cover it.

The Regional School Committee went into Executive Session at their 8/26 meeting to rubber stamp generous raises for School Superintendent Maria Geryk and her new Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris.

It will be interesting to see the "discussion" minutes.  I honestly wonder if any of them considered the not overly melodious message these generous raises send to the rank and file, who grudgingly get sometimes less than the rate of inflation.


Anonymous said...

I would hope the two day latitude is NOT acceptable to you. There are rules. Are we going to let them get their way as they always do?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for staying on top of this, Larry. Talk about "rubber stamping", Town Meetin is the worst offender when it comes to spending. I wish they would read the f****** materials and actually think about the expenditures. The administrators in this town have a sweet deal. Hmm. Any openings you think?

Anonymous said...

Have the SC call a special meeting, then suggest the brass pay for it out of their nice new salaries. I can't sell my house fast enough and get of this money sucking lousy excuse for a progressive town.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the executive session meeting minutes from about 5 years ago, when the school committee that Rivkin and Sanderson were on, rubber stamped a deal that gave a man with no previous experience running a school district a package worth more than the current sc gave to a woman with 4 years experience and 4 years of satisfactory evaluations.

Larry Kelley said...

Feel free to make a request. But you would have to use your name.

Anonymous said...

I would hope that School Committee members would notice that this blog's comments section blows up whenever school salaries are mentioned.

Certainly, it's noticed at the Superintendent's house.

Anonymous said...

I'm fairly sure that Professor Sanderson did not "rubber stamp" anything about that deal.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Dear Anonymous 1:08 pm,

Just to clarify: Steve Rivkin was not on the School Committee at the time of that superintendent's appointment, and you might recall from the highly publicized results that I was the only person on the School Committee to vote in public - don't even need executive session minutes - against that hire. You can refresh your memory by reading this article, which clearly states that 7 people vote for that hire, 1 abstained, and 1 voted against it (I was that one): My reservations are made clear in this article.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Here is the statement I read at the time of that superintendent vote:

This is a critical time in the Amherst Regional Public Schools. We are facing massive budget cuts, an urgent need for redistricting our elementary schools, and continuing challenges with reducing our achievement gap. The selection of an experienced and proven superintendent who can lead our district forward during this trying time is essential, and thus I believe we have only one choice: Dr. David Sklarz. He is the only candidate we saw who has extensive experience as a superintendent, a demonstrated ability to help all children succeed, and clear support from the community.

Dr. Sklarz has served as a superintendent in West Hartford for 14 years. The West Hartford district is very similar to our own in many ways, including the percentage of low income students and children of color as well as the presence of demanding and involved parents. He therefore knows what he is getting into and will arrive on July 1st ready to hit the ground running. This is simply not the time or place for hiring a superintendent who will require extensive on-the-job training.

Dr. Sklarz has demonstrated his ability to help all children succeed. A colleague of mine looked up the performance (% meeting No Child Left Behind proficiency level) for 10th grade students in different sub-groups in West Hartford and Connecticut as a whole for each of the MCAS tests (math, science, reading, writing). These subgroups were low income students, ELL students, and students of color (black, Hispanic). Students in West Hartford public high schools are doing substantially better than those in the state of CT as a whole for every sub-group. In some cases, students in these sub-groups in West Hartford are out-performing stage averages by as much as 20 to 25%. In addition, both high schools in West Hartford appear on the Newsweek list of best high schools in the United States, and both appear on the list of Top 35 public high schools in Connecticut.

These qualities are not just recognized by me: almost all of the numerous parents, teachers, and community members who have contacted me over the last few days (by phone, by email, in person) have expressed their strong view that the Amherst schools are in need of precisely the type of leadership Dr. Sklarz provides and have strongly urged me to vote accordingly. They recognize that this is not a time in which we as a community should take a “leap of faith” and select a candidate based on personal likeability, and were inspired by the ideas and vision offered by Dr. Sklarz during his visit to Amherst.

In sum, although I liked and admired aspects of both the other candidates, Dr. Sklarz is the only candidate we saw who has demonstrated through his 18 years as a superintendent that he can create top-notch public schools we’d like to have for all students and is prepared to meet each and every one of the challenges we currently face. Although choosing a strong leader, who may by necessity ruffle some feathers in order to make some much-needed changes in our schools, is scary to some, at this critical time we desperately need a decisive, experienced, and proven superintendent who can provide vision, create curriculum alignment, and demand excellence from students, teachers, and administrators. I therefore urge my fellow School Committee members to join me in voting unanimously for Dr. David Sklarz.

Anonymous said...

That was the fork in the road.

And we can't seem to find our way back there.

Anonymous said...

Whenever Professor Sanderson posts a comment here, there's usually then a chorus of dissenting "Harrumphs!" from the peanut gallery, like the sound of tree frogs on a summer's night.

Wait for it.

Larry Kelley said...

My sitemeter is starting to tremble.

Anonymous said...

No one (was) talking about who voted to hire whom, the discussion (was) about what the school committee, as a group, decided to pay the guy who was hired.

Ms. Sanderson, will you please post the text of your later reversal of your statement above, wherein you stated you were wrong about your initial assessment of Rodriguez, and which expressed strong support for Rodriguez' time as superintendent?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 2:50 pm, given that I voted not to hire him (and that Steve Rivkin wasn't on the SC at the time), I think it was inappropriate for the anonymous commenter (probably you) to state that surely we were behind this very high salary. After all, only these two names were mentioned in that post - so I imagine you want to now call out by name the other 8 members of the SC for their vote (both to hire and for the salary)? Feel free to request the public records for that meeting to find out how all 9 people voted - I can't reveal my vote since it occurred in executive session (unlike the public vote).

I've made many statements about superintendents (current and past) in the press and on my blog. Feel free to google my name and "superintendent" and you can find any number of such statements. I always use my name when I spoke about the SC, so it is easy to find such statements (that would be in contrast to any statements you've made since you choose not to have the courage to use your actual identity in making comments).

Anonymous said...

Ms. Sanderson,

No one said you were behind anything. The (mistaken) reference was simply an efficient way to remind readers which school committee era we are talking about.

Ms. Sanderson, did you vote to offer A-Rod what the school committee did end up offering him? Did you argue during executive session to make a lower offer?

Anonymous said...

(that would be in contrast to any statements you've made since you choose not to have the courage to use your actual identity in making comments).

here we go again. criticize the style and manner in which someone says something, ignore the content of what they're saying.

i thought she said last time that we weren't going to be hearing from her again on the blogs for a long time. feels like not long enough. blech!

Anonymous said...

Catherine, do you believe that the current superintendent, who has four years of experience and four satisfactory evaluations, deserves to be making less right now than the man who five years ago when he was hired had zero years of experience as a school district leader?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Assorted (or likely just one) Anonymous Commenter,

I wanted to correct the record regarding the clear implication that Steve and I were behind a previous superintendent's selection and salary - the record is now set (a clearer and more accurate reference would be to the Elaine Brighty/Andy Churchill era, since they were both supporters of that superintendent and actually on the SC, unlike Steve Rivkin).

Those who don't want to hear from me should make an attempt not to give misinformation on this blog. Feel free to request the executive session meeting minutes regarding my vote on that salary - it is a violation of state law for me to discuss what occurred in any executive session.

And fortunately I'm not on the SC right now, so my thoughts re. the current superintendent's salary/performance aren't relevant. As the clear public record states, I didn't vote to hire either the current or the former superintendent, and believed the Amherst schools would be better served with more experienced leadership.

Oh, and Anonymous 3:15 pm, THANK YOU for the very good laugh about your EXCELLENT point: "criticize the style and manner in which someone says something, ignore the content of what they're saying." I agree whole-heartedly with the importance of paying attention to content over tone/style. We very much agree!

Anonymous said...

Mentioning "the school committee Sanderson and Rivkin were on" was simply a means to refer to a specific era of school committee. The only piece of misinformation was that Steve was on the committee when A-Rod and his salary were decided upon. That's a small error, everything else Catherine is defending herself against, no one said anything about. It is true that the committee that Sanderson was on rubber stamped the salary he was offered, and it is true that Sanderson wildly defended and supported A-Rod's performance by the time everyone else had had enough of him, and it is true that the committee she was a member of, and made decisions together with, offered a male superintendent with no experience more than the current superintendent with four satisfactory years of experience is making.

Anonymous said...


You could request the minutes of the arod pay session and maybe the session where Farshid parking lot issue happened. Maybe then we could get the real story.

Larry Kelley said...

Old news.

Anonymous said...

Is "satisfactory performance" like getting a C? If Amherst is paying top prices our schools should get excellence.

Anonymous said...

I guess some people like to blame Sanderson for everything. She was and still is one of the best things that every happened to the Amherst SC. She was opened and honest about what was going on. Her honesty and opinion scared the establishment and they fought back hard to discredit her. The only real attack they could make year after year was about her tone.

Compare her tone to what has been happening on the SC for the past few years and you start to realize there was nothing wrong with her tone and everything right about her substance.

Amherst aught to wake up and realize that the fork in the road was the A-Rod hire. A-rod knew what was wrong and was going to start letting people go. People who now hold leadership positions in the school system. They scared A-rod away with baseless accusations.

They pushed for A-rod because they thought he would fall in line. They knew Sklarz would not and they would loose their jobs. Over 65% of the parents wanted Sklarz but the teachers wanted A-rod.

When A-rod left, the machine worked to discredit the other two candidates and put in one of their own. Again they knew that any outside leadership would eventually fire them all. They are insular and protect their own. Maybe that is why Detwillier is gone, who knows.

Most of the administration is mediocre at best and highly over payed. They know it, but know they are in control. Nothing will every change.

Go blame yourselves Amherst, Sanderson was your last best hope for reform and you blew it.

Enjoy the taxes and inequality of education in your public schools.

Anonymous said...

The Twin Towers of public criticism ironically when it comes to schools in Amherst:

Catherine Sanderson and Maria Geryk

Both women.


Anonymous said...

Anon 5:21

That is a very interesting observation. Care to add more thoughts?

Mommy, are blood suckers bad? said...

Lest ANYONE forget:

"As I said earlier, it will come down to Mr. Hood and if I had to guess he's going to put Maria Geryk over the top.
3:00 PM Yeah, Irv does talk a lot but he supports Bayless. Now it's up to Mr. Hood...

3:02 PM Dismisses Dr. Kohn instantly. Starts talking about Dr. Bayless second so that tells you where this is going. Describes some of Maria Geryk's weaknesses (math and special ed problems.) Cites her creation of an ombudsman for the schools. She has strong qualities. Do I want to work with her to address her weaknesses or just hire somebody else? I support Maria Geryk."

Jesus fking Christ Hood.

Look-at-what ~you've~ done.


-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. Thank god Ted's not around to see this shit. You'd be working for a living, pal. Like the rest of us.

Nina Koch said...


What is your problem? Why do you keep making references to someone's dead father?

Is your father still alive? If so, be grateful. If not, you know how it feels to lose him. Either way, you should just drop it. It serves no purpose.

If you were this obnoxious when you were an ARPS employee, I can see why people wanted you gone. You of course can't take any ownership of your dismissal.

Anonymous said...

The $100K plus salaries could provide several (well qualified) paraprofessional positions and make a positive impact on the education of ARPS students.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:21 said:
"The Twin Towers of public criticism ironically when it comes to schools in Amherst: Catherine Sanderson and Maria Geryk"

..and Shabazz, Baptiste, A-Rod, Hood, Hochman, Mr. Geryk...

Anonymous said...

No, none of those other folks have drawn the kind of intense, vicious, reflexive criticism that the two women have.

Nice try.

Anonymous said...

Sanderson Derangement Syndrome.

Liberals voted for Obama, had their hearts broken and their pretenses exposed, and must cover for the humiliation with splutterings of "But, Bush!"

So we have in this town the progressive armada who worked so hard to push Catherine and Steve out of SC, got their guy (Maria) into the seat of power, and now after four years of public failure their only hope to avoid accountability for the failure is to blurt "But, Sanderson!"

Obama and Geryk administrations: mediocrity, dissembling, stonewalling, racialization, and the dismantling of institutions entrusted to their stewardship.

Progressives get their wish, and the outcome demonstrates the stupidity of the progressives. Meanwhile, the rest of the world thinks more and more of the Sanderson era as the good old days, when performance, results and positive change were at least on the table.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:21pm, 8:25am:

So criticism of Geryk or Sanderson is to be discounted, because they're both women, and thus the criticism isn't legitimate or is based on sexism?

I feel sorry for you.

Walter Graff said...

Thank you Catherine A Sanderson for caring for our children and doing all you can for them. If this town had more people like you in it the Amherst school system would be the best in the state and not in the bottom third.

Mommy, are chimps stupid? said...

" in the state and not in the bottom third."

I could not agree more.

Who the fck

blows an opportunity like that?!

Christ almighty Ponziville,





-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. What a disgrace!

Anonymous said...

The recent 'raise' to the administrators is so disgustingly shameful I cannot even think of a word to describe it--but how about corrupt? How about self-serving? how about sick greed? and a joke! No really~the school has to go out and hire 'experts' to train their staff on openness and fair mindedness, and how not to act racist and classist, and abuse the children who do not meet the status quo--this being from rich white upper class families. It is a ridiculous waste of money--and it is wrong to suck this resource into the pockets of these people instead of into services for our children. Think about it--the schools run out of paper--yes paper--and pencils--some teachers buy supplies all the time from their own pockets for their students--and yet there was a budget crunch so as to cause the closing of MM?? Or more like it--so as to raise these people's
salaries? I have never witnessed such corruptness in my life--since learning of how it all operates--it is a pitiful shame that anyone would back this school system and allow this administration to prosper while our children fall deeper into this thing they like to call the 'achievement gap.' :(

Anonymous said...

I disagree, 1:17 pm, I think people should be paid the going rate for the jobs they are in. Geryk has been working for less than many of her male peers in Massachusetts who have less experience for several years for us now. Her rates of increase in pay have not equaled the rates of increase in pay for other sups in many other nearby towns. The teachers and paras in Amherst are doing much better in terms of rate of pay than most of their peers in Massachusetts, despite having much smaller class sizes within which to do the work.

Anonymous said...

But Maria Geryk is less experienced, less qualified, less effective and less honest than those peer superintendents you want to compare her too. Why should she be given an unmerited raise?

Anonymous said...

Catherine has her supporters and they're courageous ones too: Walter and Ed for example.

Anonymous said...

2:58 pm: could you provide some data to back up your assertions, please?

Anonymous said...

Didn't bunch of people at town hall get some equally big raises this year.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:07:
you wrote "The teachers and paras in Amherst are doing much better in terms of rate of pay than most of their peers in Massachusetts, despite having much smaller class sizes within which to do the work."

Smaller class sizes? In which schools? That has not my children's experience.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Geryk pass on raises for the last two years while everyone else in the schools took theirs?

Anonymous said...

Why should she be given an unmerited raise?

You really should refer that question to the SC members who the voting town residents (don't know if you're one for those or not) elected to decide on the superintendent's salary. You can contact them here (but you'll have to use your name):

Anonymous said...

5:00 PM, which other schools in the area are you comparing your kid's class sizes to?

Anonymous said...

Smaller class sizes? In which schools? That has not [been] my children's experience.

Huh. Which schools do your kids go to, 5:00 PM?

Anonymous said...

It is a lie to say or even think the paras do well here. It is not true--the paras do much much better in say Erving-a neighboring town--and this salary increase is wrong--it doesn't matter how much her male counterparts make--this isn't a gender issue--it's an honesty issue and this superintendent is not!
Our black and brown children are still being tracked--they are still being disciplined at a disproportionate rate of their
white peers. If it were my choice--I would get rid of the incompetency in administration--not raise their salaries. Simple logic. But then again if you're from an upper class family none of this really effects you--and so grows the Maria team fan base.

Anonymous said...

That makes so much sense--base the superintendents salary on how "honest" one angry CAN thinks she is.

Dr. Ed said...

The woman STILL hasn't obtained her doctorate, has she?

I've got one...

And she can't even get a Doctorate from her Fan Club in Furculo? Come now...

Anonymous said...

7:33 -- You have many allies among white families with means, more than you think. Many have struggled with the schools for their own kids with not much effect. Then we turn to their checkbooks and take care of the kids' educational problems, be it a tutor, other enrichment, private schools, a charter school or home school. Or just move out No one in the administration is asking us what we think or what our kids needs are. We are just able to go outside the system and get our kids help. Many of us know how unfair this is and how there is no real help for kids with few or no resources. It's sad that many of us turn inward and focus on our own families, but don't we all know there is no help coming from the administrators? I wonder how we can come together and help all our kids, instead of watching the divide increasing.

Anonymous said...

why would she want to go to the trouble of getting a PhD when they are only worth $2,500.00 a year in the amherst school district? not worth it and the tax-payers would not end up with a better product.

Anonymous said...

7:33 and 9:28 are the same CAN.

Anonymous said...

Ed, where has your doctorate gotten you except behind your computer all day telling us all how awful the program you got your doctorate degree from is?

Not worth it, better to just get to work and do the job, she's got 28 years in already to your zero.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:28 :

You have adequately summarized my family's situation. We've tried to get attention within the system, and been unsuccessful, ultimately opting out to arrange different solutions for our children. I don't feel guilty about it though, for two reasons: my responsibility is first to my children, and after taking care of them I'm still paying my taxes so everyone else's kids in the Amherst school system can keep "hoping".

Anonymous said...

10:04 is the same CAN that wrote at 7:33 and 9:28.

Anonymous said...

10:15--You are wrong about your assumptions.
The divide between the rich and the poor is ever growing--this I do not believe some of the upper class really get a full picture of. Families right here in this 'happy' valley are struggling to feed their families on a daily basis--working two jobs--raising latch-key children-- but I ask what choice do we have? It is a sham--that a raise can be dished out here--nothing more than a disgusting, corrupt, sham. If the town has aall this money--than why do the schools run out of supplies? why are the paras fighting for a livable wage? Not to mention--the tracking that is alive and going strong in the schools--Doesn't anybody care to address this? Shouldn't the sc have taken this into account when they evaluate this person in charge? In charge of what? Furthering the advantaged--the privileged among us?

We owe it to them said...

Let's face it,

they are the masters

and you are the slaves.

At least they don't whip you.


-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. I mean, somebody ~has~ to be at the bottom. Why the heck not you?

Anonymous said...

I work in social service- My salary (and minimal increases requiring approval by the state) can not support the never ending financial decisions made by the Superintendent,school committee and town meeting.

I'm sure others are in the same boat (including our ARPS para professionals)

Anonymous said...

"The administrators in this town have a sweet deal. Hmm. Any openings you think?"

New positions are being created and financed all the time!

Anonymous said...

My salary (and minimal increases requiring approval by the state) can not support the never ending financial decisions made by the Superintendent, school committee and town meeting.

Did you know how much you stood to make once you graduated and entered the field of your choice? Did you know that Amherst is an expensive town to live in when you decided to make this your home?

I'm tired of people who decided to get paid by the state, with all the perks that has over private sector employees, complaining about the life path they chose.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:58 pm:
In the 13 years, I have lived in Amherst, my property taxes have increased 53% even as the assessed value of my house has remained flat.

A big part of the town budget and property tax increase are the costs of our schools.

Amherst is becoming a more and more expensive place to live, more so than many neighboring towns, & not everyone who moved here in the past and could afford it then can afford it any longer. I think about moving often these days.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how this post inspired a spate of commentary with sentiments unheard of since Sanderson (sort of) bowed out. All with very similar forms of articulation, too. Coincidence?

Nah, my assumptions are wrong, 7:33 AM told me so.

Anonymous said...

"I'm tired of people who decided to get paid by the state, with all the perks that has over private sector employees, complaining about the life path they chose."

Not a state employee- No state perks (why would I be posting if I was?)