Wednesday, October 1, 2014

RAWG Rambles On

 Regional Agreement Working Group last night

After three years of meetings you would think the 12-member Regional Agreement Working Group, made up of three representatives from all four towns in the current Middle and High School Region (Amherst, Pelham, Leverett, and Shutesbury) could figure out a workable plan to simply extend what we already have now in grades 7-12, down to kindergarten level.

You would think.  But nooooooo.

The Regional Agreement Working Group wants to present a plan to the Regional School Committee sometime soon (actually more like a year ago).  Last night's meeting, however, was still not to be the last.

Next meeting, and hopefully last, is scheduled for October 15.

The current 9 member Regional School Committee (5 Amherst, 2 Pelham, one each from Leverett and Shutesbury) will have to support the proposed educational expansion by a two-thirds vote (not hard to get) and then all four towns will need a majority vote of their Town Meeting's in order to amend the Regional Agreement (very hard to get).

Tricky part is Shutesbury has already opted out of the expansion but wants to have the option to come in somewhere in the future.  And since their Town Meeting yes vote is mandatory for the entire project to go forward, the other three towns are trying to keep them somewhat happy. 

Last night the group voted to allow a town already in the 7-12 Region (say, Shutesbury for instance) to join somewhere in the future as long as any "negative impacts" are mitigated.  The words "by right" were stricken and replaced with "welcomed," but only if the negatives are overcome.

Thus the other three towns still have the option to say "no" if the negatives are not dealt with to their satisfaction.

1st Resolution passed unanimously previously, 2nd passed last night 8-0-1 (abstention)

By having this "on ramp" built in to the Regional Agreement now it simplifies the process in the future when only a two-thirds vote of the (new) Regional School Committee will be required to allow the town entry.

RAWG also approved other procedural concepts:   Elementary school closings (for the economic good of the Region) would require a "supermajority" of 8 votes, thus Amherst with its proposed 7 committee members cannot invoke their tyranny on a smaller town all by themselves.  Hiring a Superintendent to lead the district would also require 8 vote supermajority.

They unanimously supported the current status quo for amending the Regional Agreement:  two thirds vote of the Regional School Committee and then a positive vote in all four Town Meetings.

Since Amherst makes up 88% of the current Region the forced rational for "fair" representation with only a little over 50% of the slotted positions on the Committee reserved for Amherst, is the concept of "District Wide Election."

Voters in all four towns would vote for all members (even candidates from the other towns) of the new Regional School Committee.   Thus, theoretically, elected members will think more as a regional representatives rather than putting their town first.

Which of course flies in the face of human nature.

Amherst voters are already unhappy with the way the our expensive schools are running, so they are not going to be enthused about expanding the operation, especially when there seems to be no discernible cost benefit.

In fact it will probably increase the cost for Amherst, which already has a cost per student 30% over state average. 

The initial vote to make this happen could also prove problematic in a Keystone Cops sort of way.  Theoretically only two towns, say Amherst and Pelham, could vote to join the new Region.

But the other two (Leverett and Shutesbury) who don't join now (but still have the on-ramp option down the road) would still have elected members on the new Regional School Committee who could block any major decision requiring a supermajority.

Can you say "confusing"?


Anonymous said...

And why would you think so based on the history of this town. Problem with this town is everything is by committee. No one is in charge and no one makes decisions. Nothing gets done that way and the result is always consistently proven to be stagnation and little accomplishment with the government of Amherst.

Anonymous said...

What are the positives of having Pelhm and Leverett with their expensive, financially unsustainable schools join Amherst's elementary schools? The only reason Leverett and Pelham want to join with Amherst is to get more money for their schools. Amherst taxpayers will then have to pay for the tab for these towns' students. What will Amherst have to cut out of it's budget? More police?

Anonymous said...


The existing regional committee is comprise of 5 Amherst members who sit on the Amherst K-6 committee and the regional committee. The other 3 towns appoint 1 or 2 people from their larger committees to sit on the regional committee.

If this was passed and only Amherst and Pelham join would the existing regional agreement for 7-12 be changed to determine who sits on the 7-12 region from the newly formed K-6 region along with the one member each from Leverett and Shutebury?

This whole thing sounds like a disaster pushed by key players in leverett and Shutebury when they did not like their superintendent and wanted Maria. Now they ran their old superintendent out of town and they are getting cold feet. This new and poorly laid out agreement, once again sticks it to the Amherst tax payer. If anyone does not believe that to be true, start reading and don't listen to the propaganda spread by the committee.

Larry Kelley said...

The other weird confusing thing is you will not know who is in and who is out until after all four Town Meetings make their decision (and it very well could end up only Amherst and Pelham), but the other two still have to say "yes" to forming the new Region.

So the configuration of the Regional School Committee (slotted spaces) is somewhat, err, fluid.

Anonymous said...

it seems the best way to shut down this insanity is to contact your reps on RAWG and tell them you think its stupid for Amherst, if enough folks do this then maybe they will vote not to support it. Doesn't it need 2/3 YES by RAWG vote to move forward to the Town Meetings? I'm not sure why any Amherst reps would vote yes.

Anonymous said...

The Shutesbury rep no longer serves on the Shutesbury or Regional School Committee. This guy has been yanking (or rather linking together) Amherst's chains for years now. Amherst... just say no!

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:14,

Would that be the rep with the dark beard, lets call him tail, forcing his opinions on all the others, lets call them dog. Just add some wag.

Anonymous said...

I've heard Andrew Steinberg really wants this to go forward. I'm not sure he is listening to anyone at this point. I think he just keeps giving in to every demand to keep it alive. I just wish I knew why.

Larry Kelley said...

What do they call that syndrome where a gambler keeps feeding a slot machine because he's invested so much time and money that it's got to pay off soon.

Just one more ... just one more.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone even talk about benefits to Amherst students?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:13

What benefits? I don't think there really are any significant tangible benefits.

The only possible benefit would be a more standardized curriculum coming into the MS. The agreement allows schools to have flexibility so that benefit won't happen.

We could save money by streamlining administrative cost. Seeing how Team Maria spends money now and keeps adding staff that will never materialize either.

I think the only benefit is to Maria who can asked for more money claiming more schools to look over and to the teachers of Leveret and Shutesbury who are going to get a raise with the new union. Oh, that will cost all of us more money too.

So in the end, no real educational benefit. All smoke and mirrors.

Everyone should vote NO for this.