Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Regionalization Lurches Forward

 Amherst Regional High Schoool

After four years of work by their sub-committee the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee gave majority support to the concept of expanding the current grades 7-12 Region (Middle & High School) all the way down to Kindergarten - 6th grade.

The RSC voted 5-4 at their June 23rd meeting to forward the Regional Agreement Working Group final report to attorney Giny Tate (again) with one slight amendment -- changing the term of School Committee members from four years to a mix of two and four year terms.

Newly reelected RSC Chair Trevor Baptiste will work this summer with attorney Tate and Superintendent Maria Geryk to ensure the draft agreement is back by September 1st.

But in order for the proposal to really move forward so it can be voted on by all four towns it requires a two-thirds affirmative vote of the Regional School Committee.  That all-important vote is expected to come before March 1st so all four towns can vote on it in the  Spring of 2016. 

The governance of the new Region would be an unwieldy 13 member Regional School Committee with 7 members from Amherst and two each from the Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury.  Currently the Regional School Committee is a total of 9 members, 5 from Amherst, 2 from Pelham and one each from Shutesbury and Leverett.

Why Pelham currently gets two committee members is anybody's guess, considering both Leverett and Shutesbury's population are considerable larger than Pelham.

And with Amherst providing 88% of the population (and funding) is it really fair for the new governance scheme to reduce the power of Amherst to only a 54% majority?

The Committee kept the provision requiring 8 votes to close a school, even though member Dan Robb suggested two-thirds (9 votes) provided a "higher bar."   Even at 8 that means the seven Amherst members must still win over at least one other member from the other three towns.

 Financial analysis:  $600,000 savings is a tad disingenuous

Interestingly the concept of closing the Regional Middle School, located in Amherst,  and combining the students into the Regional High School, also located in Amherst, is currently on the radar.

The smaller hilltowns are of course concerned that the new Region would close their elementary school for the good of the Region.  Both Pelham and Leverett have declining school populations with status quo budgets getting harder and harder to maintain.

Some Amherst officials fear those two financially strapped towns could someday vote down the Regional budget if economic relief is not found.  The current Regional Agreement requires 3 out of 4 towns vote yes for the overall budget to pass.  

So can those two desperate towns drive the entire expanded Regionalization movement?  The new  Region cannot form without the unanimous support of all four towns.

Shutesbury is certainly not having any part of it.  At the February 24 Regional School Committee meeting RAWG member Michael DeChiara flat out announced he was voting No to the new Region and would be recommending voters at Shutesbury Town Meeting follow his lead.

DeChiara, a former School Committee member, has since gone on to be elected to the Shutesbury Select Board -- the highest political office in town -- so his influence alone could be a deal killer.


Anonymous said...

>>And with Amherst providing 88% of the population (and funding) is it really fair for the new governance scheme to reduce the power of Amherst to only a 54% majority?

Currently on the RSC, Amherst provides 5 of the 9 members, which is 55.6%, not a big change from 53.8% under the proposed restructuring.

Still, I wouldn't be surprised if non of the 4 towns vote for the regionalization. The hilltowns have a lot to lose either way. Plus, it is still totally unclear to me how it's beneficial to Amherst, since Amherst will be paying even more for the schools under regionalization that it currently does.

Anonymous said...

so, are you saying that if Shutesbury votes no to the regionalization (even though they have already said that they won't be participating for K-6 for the time being), then the whole regionalization proposal is DOA?

Larry Kelley said...


Larry Kelley said...

Anon 7:47 AM

Yes, I kind of knew that -- but I think the current make up of the Regional School Committee is unfair and Pelham should lose one and Amherst should increase by one.

Rick Hood made a motion that the new RSC would be smaller at only seven with four from Amherst and one each from Pelham, Leverett and Shutesbury but that was rejected.

Anonymous said...

It's all peace, love and tie dye when it comes to sharing the money (amherst's), but not so peaceful and loving when the hilltowns make a move to make sure amherst doesn't have its full voting strength when deciding budget, school closings and hiring superintendent.

What's up with this?

Why should amherst give up its total control over its elementary schools and our $20 million or so in tax money?

Anonymous said...


The reason Pehlam has two members and the other towns have one is this: When the first regional committee was created it was just Amherst and Pelham with 5 and 2. Some years later Leverett and Shutebury joined in by adding one member each. The 5 to 2 ratio was more balanced than the ratio today of 5 to 4. Amherst made a huge mistake years ago by playing nice and adding the two other towns without requesting additional representation to balance the size of the towns. The least they could have done was strip Pelham of one and made it a 5 and 3 committee. Clearly Amherst does not learn from its mistakes.

Dr. Ed said...

In addition to the above, doesn't the Amherst/Pelham agreement predate the Quabbin?

If so, then Pelham was a town more than twice the size it is now, one where the most populated areas were flooded.

Of course this whole thing is moot -- just one Black Amherst voter filing a complaint with the US DoJ and the whole thing is tossed under the Voting Rights Act.

For all the complaints about racism, why is no one complaining how this dilutes Black votes, which it does....

Anonymous said...

If you are a parent and want to have a 100% say in what happens to your does not seem like any of the discussed boards or ratios give the parent any more or less of of a voice or say.

I guess the joke is on any parent that thinks this makes a difference in a predictable way.

The folks that get overpaid to educate your kid are just reorganizing for their benefit. You really don't need to pay attention because there is nothing for you to do different.

Lots of good details in the post though, keeps up the myth of importance.

Dr. Ed said...

Sorry Larry, but I've come to realize that the above poster is right.

The myth that this is a free country, or that any of that stuff about equality, due process or justice has any meaning beyond "opiate of the masses." And all we can aspire to be are deckhands on the Titanic, re-arranging the furniture with the utmost of diligence and care while the deck slips below the waves.

The only thing we can do is protest voting -- to make it as unpleasant as possible for anyone to vote, thus reducing voter turnout to the point where elections loose all legitimacy -- to hold registered voters in contempt similar to racists.

Anonymous said...

is there any real data on the impacts of regionalization or lack of it? Any numbers to support the claims, needs, educational benefit, time saved or spent, current financial problems of each town, the savings, etc?