Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Regionalization Train Wreck

Amherst Regional School Committee all 9 members (including one by remote participation)

Even before the Amherst Regional School Committee could get to the official agenda item scheduled for 6:20 to discuss the 3.5 years in the making Regional Agreement Working Group report, RAWG member Michael DeChiara dropped a bombshell during "public comment", telling the committee he would not support the proposal and would be telling his Shutesbury constituents to vote it down.

Michael DeChiara, Maria Geryk (Amilcar Shabazz above her), Michael Morris

All four towns in the Region -- Amherst, Pelham, Leverett and Shutesbury -- must vote yes in order to change the 50+ year old Regional Agreement, to allow for the region to extend from the current 7-12 all the way down to include elementary level pre-K through 6th grades.

When the Regional Committee then started discussing the RAWG proposal Shutesbury representative Stephen Sullivan echoed DeChiara's concerns and clearly said he would vote no.

Parent and Town Meeting member Janet McGowan told the committee the public outreach on Regionalization has been nonexistent

Amherst representatives were also less than impressed:  Lawrence O'Brien said he "had concerns", Rick Hood said it was "not ready", Kathleen Traphagen did not see any "compelling educational case" and the disembodied voice of Amilcar Shabazz (using remote participation) could not have been any more clear:  "Put a stop on the school attorney from doing any more work on this matter.  Moving in this direction now should be Dead On Arrival."

Kathleen Traphagen

Katherine Appy was the lone member of the entire 9 member Regional School Committee to speak in favor of the idea.  The RSC is scheduled to vote on this Regionalization proposal at their next  meeting, March 10.

Since it involves amending the Regional Agreement it will require a supermajority two-thirds vote.  Had the vote been taken at this meeting it certainly looked like it would be 8-1 against. 

Rick Hood said they should continue to move forward with the public forums (March 3 for Amherst ) but the timeline for all four towns to vote an the agreement should be pushed back until spring, 2016.

It has already been 3.5 years for this particular regionalization agreement and some members mentioned previous attempts date back 40 years or more, so what's another year.  

Not overly crowded audience in attendance


Anonymous said...

Common sense has finally prevailed. Why on earth would any school system want to hook up with Amherst?

Anonymous said...

As was mentioned during public comment this evening, & as has been mentioned before, it would really help with the buy-in for this process if the RAWG & the district had made more information readily available to the public about the proposal. The RAWG web pages on the ARPS.org site are both 1) difficult to find (why is there not a link on the main ARPS.org page), and 2) woefully out of date and incomplete. As mentioned tonight, next week's upcoming forum on the regionalization isn't even listed all on the online school calendars on the ARPS.org site. The schools,even the elementary schools which would be the most impacted by regionalization, have sent little information home to families. More outreach is badly needed.

Anonymous said...

How many committees have we formed in this town in which the finished product of the group effort then went into the dustbin?

There's a lot.

Anonymous said...

What a fucking debacle.

Anonymous said...

You don't recommend someone who has a bad reputation and is not known to come through.

Seems like this guy cares about his reputation as there does not seem to be any good press about Amherst Schools.

Perhaps Amherst could solve this by reducing costs and increasing quality.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to hear the reasons why Ms Appy continues to support regionalization while everyone else recognizes that it lacks any merit. DOA

Anonymous said...

The real government waste in Amherst is in volunteer time, the public-spirited time of people sincerely donated that leads absolutely nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately (I suppose), outreach won't help when the Amherst school district is such an unbelievable mess. The idea of Leverett and Shutesbury giving up their autonomy to go with Amherst is ridiculous. We all know that those two schools would be at the mercy of Amherst's really poor decision-making. Next fall will be interesting - perhaps the ever-increasing number of students leaving Amherst schools for other options will tell the story more plainly.

Anonymous said...

Ironic that Shbzzz is represented at the meeting by a tiny icon, like the insignificant person he is in real life.

Larry Kelley said...

If your going to use the cowardly cloak of anonymity to snark on someone, you could at least spell their name correctly.

Anonymous said...

Let's stay on topic, folks. This isn't about Shabazz, it's about the pros (if there are any) and cons (yes, there are many) of regionalization.

Larry Kelley said...

I love my sagacious Anons.

Anonymous said...

The Amherst school system is managed by a person who is not qualified for the position and can't even balance it's own educational goals, but it somehow now wants to suck other school systems into the mix? Laughable and anyone that is for that train wreck is as nuts as the loons that run the town.

Anonymous said...

Actually the use of missing letter effect in the post about Shbzzz was deliberate.

I cloud hvae werittn it lkie tihs - Sbhazaz, and you'd stlil get it.

That is because the mind is a smart thing, the Amherst school system, not so smart.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:39 AM

Vowels in words....

Signatures on nomination papers.....

Who needs them?

Anonymous said...

This process was started over 4 years ago by the towns of Leverett and Shutesbury. Specifically by Michael DeChiara and Farshid Hajir.

Both of these individuals worked hard to get Maria Geryk a full time position as the Superintendent of the Amherst and Regional School district. Lets not forget how Farshid Hajir, the chair of the SC put Maria in that position as interim without any public comment or time for discussion. He knew full well once in, and given enough time, the jobs was hers for life.

They hated the Superintendent in their Union and wanted to get out. To do that they were willing to start this regional debacle in Amherst. Folks in Amherst for their own hubris went along with it thinking that getting a regional agreement (as likely as Israel and Palestine having lasting peace) would show just how amazing they are as leaders.

They were willing to throw Wendell and New Salem under the bus to get out. Basically no regard for anyone else but their own agenda.

After the superintendent stepped down in Leverett and Shutebury, those towns became less warm to the regional idea and Michael DeChiara tried to control most of the RAWG meetings to his agenda. People like Michael DeChiara make terrible public servants only serving their own needs regardless of the consequences to others. He should be ashamed.

This whole process is a sham that will strip voting rights away from Amherst, ruin small town schools, ultimately cost everyone more money, and give power to a person who is unqualified, incompetent, and spending Amherst into the insolvency, yes that is superintendent Geryk.

Disband RAWG and let another generation take up this waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Joan Wickman was the superintendent we desperately wanted to get away from, and frankly, if it took starting this regionalization debacle, that's what we needed to do. Sorry, but that's how bad things were. Hopefully we'll never see the likes of her again running our schools.

Anonymous said...

Any and all of the three towns that are unhappy being in the Region with Amherst, as some Anons have indicated here?

Feel free to attach yourself to some other town or region. Take all the time you want looking into that. See if Belchertown will have you. No more Regional School Committee involving Amherst? As an Amherst resident, I'm good with that.

A one-municipality school system like Northampton would simplify things immensely for us in Amherst. We could finally get ourselves a Mayor and have her chair the SC meetings.

Anonymous said...

Michael DeChiara has a bit of an ego, which is showing here.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. Don't like being part the Amherst schools? Ok. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Guy from the little town with a big ego isn't much of a concern. Yawn.

Anonymous said...

Amherst defensiveness showing here? Just a little? Ya think? Comparing our "little town" schools with Amherst's? No contest. We'll keep 'em, thank you very much, and we'll leave you to the mercy of the overloaded, inefficient, nepotism-filled, undeservedly highly-paid Amherst administration.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:08,

The irony is that it was people from the small towns that pushed to get the current administration in power. Those towns may be small but carry heavy influence over Amherst. Not enough to feel safe in one big happy region though.

So thanks for sticking us with Maria (the unqualified) Geryk, wasting our time for years with RAWG, and then crying all the way home because you could not get the outrageous concessions in the New regional agreement. Bunch of spoiled, entitled, brats.

I would be happy to see Leverett, Shutesbury, and Pelham just go away from K-12. Let Amherst deal with its own problems.

That mayor idea, like Northampton sounds like a great first step in cleaning up the mess that is Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good to me.

Anonymous said...

Regionalization? Why now again? Poorly run Amherst schools under Maria Geryk continue to drive Amherst families away from its own school system. Regional middle school reduce its 3 teams each grade into 2 teams this year due to family defection and shrinking enrollment. "Middle school schedule change" and high school abandon of some elective course are all part of cost cutting measures. At the same time, the per student cost in Amherst school reaches 20k/student, equivalent of a private school education, but without the quality of private school education. Boat load of highly paid school administrators can only work out "district improvement plan", and other paperwork to let school committee to rubber stamp and approve it and keep their jobs. But the quality of Amherst school erodes year after year. The students feel it and the families vote with their legs.

Amherst school needs major restructuring, and a new leadership team to get back on its own footing, and restore its quality of education as we remember them.

Clean your house before inviting guests over.

Regional middle school and high school is enough of a mess under Maria Geryk. Neighboring towns are not going to give their elementary school away without a fight.

Nina Koch said...

to 8:53 AM,

How did you conclude that the high school is a "mess"? That's not what I see when I walk down the hall. I see the Survival Living kids packing up supplies for a winter hike. I see kids staying after school for extra help with teachers who stay late to give them individual attention. I see kids staying after school in the art room totally absorbed in their creative endeavors. I see kids outside the hall by the auditorium teaching each other choreography for the musical. And our musicals are not just run of the mill high school musicals-- they're cutting edge. Over a hundred students get involved in the musical and they love working together to make it really, really good. And all of this is just as I walk from my office to the front door.

There are many schools in our immediate area where you will not see these things happening.

It's true that we have had to make some very unfortunate cutbacks and it is really a shame to lose outstanding programs like Clothing or Russian. That doesn't make the school a "mess."

But we still have an unusually good array of elective offerings. I would challenge you to point me to a local school where you can take four years of computer programming and learn both Python and Java. Most schools don't have programming at all. Some schools have just introductory electives, but if you find something you love at ARHS, you can study that field for multiple years. Kids tell us all the time how much they appreciate that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

I am still waiting for the ARPS administrators to write one of their PR pieces such as the ones MassLive and now the Amherst Bulletin is running, in favor of regionalization. The ARPS administration sure is getting a lot of newspaper space without having to pay for it - such is the sad state of many newspapers today that they will accept some pre-fab "articles" complete with videos because they don't have the resources they used to.

Although it has some merits, there are too many unanswered questions & concerns. Can Appy and the administration convince us otherwise. Hopefully not.

Anonymous said...

Anon Feb. 25, 11:33 am--The new superintendent for Union #28 is much, much worse than Ms. Wickman. I am afraid you've gone from an interim sexist, clown--to a nightmare. Wickman--if she hadn't been chased out, will seem an angel compared to what is coming up.