Thursday, January 8, 2015

Regional School Report Ready (Almost)

Regional Agreement Working Group 7:05 PM

After three l-o-n-g years of mostly under-the-radar meetings, the Regional Agreement Working Group voted unanimously last night (11-0 with 1 absent) to support the draft report to the Regional School Committee outlining the purported benefits of e-x-p-a-n-d-i-n-g the current four town Region (grades 7-12) all the way down to Pre-K through 6.

The 12-page sales pitch extols standardization of curriculum, time savings for the Superintendent who will no longer have to deal with three separate budgets & School Committees, and better efficiency in assigning students to schools without regard to town boundaries.

But cost savings is pretty far down on their list of reasons, citing only a 2% overall savings for the Region as a whole (And that is probably based on everything going perfectly, which things never do).

A few minor tweaks were voted to this draft

The final report will be discussed at the upcoming January 13 Regional School Committee meeting as RAWG member Trevor Baptiste, who is also Chair of the RSC, said he has set aside 30 minutes on the RSC agenda for the presentation.

School Superintendent Maria Geryk handed out a draft "timeline" that shows the Regional School Committee voting on the matter at their March 10th meeting where it will require a two-thirds vote to pass.

Then it will be up to the four member towns -- Amherst, Pelham, Leverett, and Shutesbury -- to pass at their annual spring Town Meetings two questions:  Should the Regional Agreement be amended to allow for this new expanded Regional entity?  And if this new entity is allowed to form do we wish to join?

Interestingly enough, Amherst, who makes up the vast majority of the Region, will only vote the first question because in the body of the amendment it states that the new Region can only be formed if Amherst and one other town decide in favor.

But if even one of the other three towns votes No to the first question the issue is dead, because to amend the current 50+ year old Regional Agreement all four towns have to vote yes.

The only two Amherst residents in attendence last night both spoke about the lack of transparancy and outreach to the citizens of Amherst over the past three years, and another spectator, Dan Hayes from Shutesbury, complained, "I've had no information or input over the years, even though I requested it -- and I'm a school committee member!"

It is odd of course that this process has dragged on for over three years with little to no public relations efforts and yet now they want it voted up-or-down within the next four months.  

Regional Agreement Working Group 9:45 PM


Anonymous said...

remind me why the RAWG thinks we should all vote for this again. It don't seem like a good deal for any of the four towns, especially Amherst. The information that has been released shows that regionalization will cost Amherst money, not save any.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, there were some scary projections (at least for Amherst) earlier this summer about the first year or two.

Somewhere in the Agreement there's a cap on savings so that money can be redistributed to the town that gets hit the hardest.

To be honest at this point I think it's like the gambler who sunk a lot of time into one particular slot machine and doesn't want that investment to go to waste.

In other words, throwing good money after bad.

Anonymous said...

We should start lobbying our Town Meeting members to vote this down.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as one of the Amherst residents who, over and over again, have asked the RAWG to get information out to Amherst residents and hold the often promised town forums. I simply can't understand why no meeting was held for Amherst residents in the past two years. All the representatives on RAWG/RSDPB are elected or appointed town officials. They know how to schedule a meeting and get information out to the public.

Now the superintendent is scheduling a single meeting for Amherst residents-weeks before the Regional School Committee will vote on it. Why only now? Why so late in the process when there is not time no meaningful feedback by Amherst residents?

Amherst residents were promised that decision about regionalization would be made with their input -- and that this input would be considered by the entire RAWG/RSDPB committee. It was supposed to be a back and forth process in all the towns -- with two all-town meetings so the issues and proposals could be discussed by residents of all the towns together.

What happened to all that? Information could have gone out electronically to town residents and parents. A method devised to solicit views of people electronically. Why has none of this been done for 2 years?

A full public process was promised. This issue has been raised over and over again to RAWG/RSDPB and before the Regional School Committee. These are our elected officials. They are accountable to deliver on their promises.

If the Regional School Committee wants to add 1,000 Amherst elementary students to the regional school district -- and our $22 million in tax dollars, it needs to talk to Amehrst residents and parents first.

Janet McGowan

Anonymous said...

Look at that, a room full of people who couldn't decide what to eat in a restaurant if the menu had more then two choices. It's a room of misfits.

Anonymous said...

Housing priced where down in 5 towns in the valley last year. Can you guess what 4 out of the 5 are. Yes they are all the towns in the ARPS. I am sure the values are down for lots of reasons including college student issues, racial issues, and it is also clear that parents of school age children are steering clear of the Amherst region. School aged kids are being pulled out of the ARPS pretty fast.

Image how much more prices will drop is this turd of an agreement is passed by the 4 towns. Every town will lose in this agreement and it is clear that they are going to shut down some non Amherst schools. Amherst hold onto your wallets, other 3 towns hold on to your elementary schools. The SC and administration are coming to take all these things away.

Anonymous said...

housing prices down -- not on my street, & my taxes just go up & up....

I can barely afford it anymore, especially if I start sending my kids to private school b/c of the issues with our public schools & how our schools don't serve my children's education needs very well.

One thing I was struck at last night's MS curriculum meeting is how many parents there were talking about the area charter schools and private schools as alternates. One parent who recently moved to the area said she was surprised how many Amherst families opt out of the public schools (charter school, private schools, or homeschooling). It would be interesting to see those figures, though the district doesn't often release them.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 8:08

The district releases some of those figures at town meeting. They are not always accurate though. In the past they have shown that the decline in enrollment due to people leaving for private, charter, etc. is as high or higher than the decreasing population of school aged children. People are quietly voicing their opinions with their feet.

The school knows and does not care. It has been pointed out in many ways. If you don't like the schools just move on in whatever ways works for your family. Fighting the system is a waste of time, energy and resources. The schools are corrupt (and no I am not going to get into detail, they have been given over and over again on this blog), the administration does not care.

There are many good teachers but for me this does not outweigh the problems in the district.

Anonymous said...

current declines in enrollment in our schools by Amherst residents are masked by the increasing numbers of families who choice into the district.

My child's elementary grade lost close to 6-8+ students from last year to this school year. With more choice students, the numbers stay the same & Amherst tax payers help pay to educate those choice students. Districts receive $5,000 per choice-in student, but in our district where the avg cost per student is $20K+, $5K doesn't seem like much.

Anonymous said...

I think the purpose of regionalization is to bail out Pelham and Leverett elementary schools. They are unaffordable unless Amherst taxpayers start picking up the tab.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:21 am --great last statement! Administration clearly does not care--quite obvious--for if they did the situation wouldn't be what it is--the corrupt leading the corrupt. :(

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Amherst Town Meeting is where the big decision is going to be made.

So what will be the process by which members are informed about what they are voting on?

And will anyone in the electorate be paying any attention? We have a town election on March 31. How many voters will show up? What will they know about the 8+ TM candidates per precinct on their ballots?

Based on past experience,we know the cynical answers to these questions.

Anonymous said...

Hey losers, you want change, then make it. You can't sit back and watch the gears of this town move, not vote, and then complain because the place is run like a shit rag. And if you do vote, you blindly pull a level because you see the blue word Democrat. That's voting for ideology, not for effectiveness. The schools in Amherst suck. If they didn't schools like Chinese Charter wouldn't be building a huge addition to take in all the kids being pulled out of the shit rag schools. Look who runs them, a person with no experience, but you liberals love that. Look at the president you elected. The guy never held a job in his life. You get what you pay for in life and you reap what you sow. Your kids will be far below average in life with the vacant education they get. Batter save your money, they'll be living in your basement for a long time.

Anonymous said...

I would suspect that most parents here support the liberal agenda with which their boys and girls are being indoctrinated. Hell, they Like it this way.

Anonymous said...

The APRS web site & the packet of school committee materials for next week's Regional School Committee meeting gives more detailed information re: regionalization than many may have seen before. It also includes some info on next year's regional school budget. The current projections show close to a $1 million shortfall.

Among other costs growing more than revenues: charter school tuition. The district's costs for charter school & vocational school tuition & students choicing out of the district is expected to increase more than $500K for next year. The proposed MS schedule (& the loss of in-depth language study until 8th grade, the fact that students can't both study language and take art/drama) will not help this trend.

Because of the widening gap between "total expenditures and total revenues even under the best of conditions, .... the District will begin exploring cost saving measures that include:
o Expanding vocational opportunities within the District to reduce the number of students leaving
for other programs.
o Relocating middle school students to the high school to create a grades 7-12 school building and
repurposing the middle school.
o Modifying the daily schedules at the middle and high schools to increase instructional time and
reduce costs."

Anonymous said...

saw in today's Gazette that Deerfield is considering accepting school choice students because it is becoming too expensive, and now 1/4 of Deerfield Elementary students are choice students. Maybe the Amherst schools, especially the elementary schools, should be rethinking accepting choice students as well. If adding choice students to our schools means added classes that we wouldn't need otherwise, it's not a good deal. This is what Deerfield is realizing.

Anonymous said...

If anything comes up concerning the regional agreement it is best to remember that any and all commentary will always come back to SNAFU

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to hearing what the RSC has to say about this.