Monday, August 3, 2015

School Committee Armistice (For Now)

7 of 9 members Regional School Committee (2 absent)

After a two hour meeting replete with charges and counter-charges bordering on sniping the Amherst Regional School Committee voted (4 yes, 2 no, 1 abstained) to send a letter to the Attorney General explaining the violation of member Katherine Appy as not really a violation of the Open Meeting Law.

That only took 40 minutes, although scheduled on the agenda for 30 minutes.

Katherine Appy reads her statement later approved by Committee to send to AG

The only other item on the agenda, a discussion of the mediation with NAACP that stimulated the Open Meeting Law complaint in item #1 went on for 80 minutes, although also scheduled on the agenda for only a half hour.

The NAACP won a "Consent Agreement" in 1993 over the discipline disparity in the schools between students of color and white students.  A Consent Decree is kind of like the Armistice that ended the fighting in Korean in 1953.

A cessation of hostilities, but not an official close-the-book "peace settlement."

The NAACP now thinks the Schools have violated the Consent Agreement.  The Schools attorney thinks not.  When such an impasse exists the Agreement calls for "mediation."

 RSC Chair Trevor Babtiste and Vice Chair Kathleen Traphagen had already met with the NAACP and now wanted permission of the full board to go into "mediation."

 25 people turned out (including 3 former RSC members) to watch the fireworks

The full board was not happy they did not previously know about such a meeting or any previous discussions, with Ms. Appy squarely thinking Chair Baptiste had overstepped his authority.  Hence the email she sent to the entire RSC, which member Vira Douangmany Cage interpreted as a violation of Open Meeting Law.

 Former RSC member Amilcar Shabazz (left) Lawrence O'Brien (top right) Principal Mark Jackson (top left)

After adding a couple of amendments the full Committee voted  5-2 (Trevor Baptiste and Vira Douangmany Cage voting no) to have three members of the Regional School Committee meet informally with the NAACP over the next week and report back to the full RSC at their 8/10 meeting as to whether the impass gets bumped up to an official "mediation."

Which of course beats an all out war.

Vince O'Connor told the board to "check with your attorney" because he's sure the Consent Decree requires "mediation" rather than juat informal talks

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that Ms. Appy and Mr. Fonsch showed a fair amount of courage today, assisted by some probing comments and questions from Mr. Hood. It's a difficult thing to stand up for proper committee process, that respects each member's right to be fully informed, when the subtext is racial insensitivity.

Mr. Baptiste appears to have botched this pretty badly.

At some point, hopefully not too late, there is going to be the recognition that whatever this Committee is going to accomplish is going to be accomplished cooperatively. Ms. Cage, who I've been told is bringing an absolutely unique perspective to School Committee, is forfeiting an opportunity by not being a conciliator.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Its all pointless drama that draws attention away from what is really going on at the schools. Don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain. The slow deterioration of our schools is clear. Students are leaving faster than the population is dropping. The administration is anything but transparent. The admin staff is bloated and highly paid. The system is corrupt. Its a well paid circus. Its never going to change. Stop voting for SC members at all, let this committee die through complete apathy, what's the point anymore. Nothing will ever change.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused, are the SC members going to try to be more collegial with each other, or more congenial with each other?

Anonymous said...

Is Vince the poster child for mental health issues or what? Get a life buddy. I agree with the above poster, this is the Wizard of Oz and instead of the witch getting crushed by a house, the students futures are. What a sad fucking town.

Anonymous said...

Your fucking language diminishes your fucking point. When did this fucking shit become acceptable??

Anonymous said...

Yo Vince. The SC did not say they did not want to mediate. They do however want to first have an informal talk to find out what the NAACP wants to mediate. That was what the face to face meeting was supposed to accomplish but since Trevor and Kathleen Traphagen did that first part without telling anyone they were doing it it now has to be done again.

Anonymous said...

What really got me during the meeting was oh so smug Vira pretending to be above it all with her talk of obeying the law being the greater good over collegiality. If the chair had allowed Kip Fonsh to continue we would have heard some of the emails that Vira had sent to her fellow SC members. Those emails were dripping with opinions and were very clearly in violation of open meeting law. But Trevor saved her ass. I know what these emails said because I did a public documents request and have copies of them.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned two former RSC members. I am assuming you mention Shabazz & O'Brien. Wasn't Kathleen Anderson on the SC & RSC at some point too?

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, I should have said "most recently retired" RSC members.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you expand this blog/resource? Even if the purchase of the local paper, whatever it was called, was a no-go (or an indie no-go), you've built up some momentum around this thing. Expand! Profit! Maybe have guest columnists, or an "Ask Larry" kind of column. The format is a little tired and while readership is probably slowly ever-increasing, it's stagnating, doncha think? Anyway, keep it up, but also start thinking about the next step. If ye don't, what a waste!

Anonymous said...

Will we get to see the minutes of the meeting Traphagen and Baptiste had with the NAACP?

Larry Kelley said...

Probably not.

Since they did not constitute a quorum of the RSC, the Open Meeting Law would not apply.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Morse,
I respectfully suggest you start watching SC meetings yourself instead of relying on what people tell you. You will find that Ms. Cage is not contributing anything useful to the SC. I won't say anymore. I urge you to find out for yourself. You could even start by going back and watching some previous meetings since Ms. Cage joined the committee. Or you could wait and just watch the meetings as they unfold this coming school year.

Anonymous said...

I watched the meeting, and have been watching all along. I respectfully think you have misinterpreted my comment about Ms. Cage. I am concerned that she is making some bad choices. She has two and a half years left, and we have to hope things will get better. We have a number of people in there who really, really don't like each other, and that can't be good for our schools.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

students are leaving. The wealthy for private schools, those without means (many of whom are kids of color) are opting for Vocational and Charter schools. Ms Geryk seems uninterested in why these kids are so unhappy in our schools. Until we figure that out and develop plans that will change our schools in ways that they want to stay, then we will continue this downward spiral. This is the number one issue that the SC ought to be fight for.

Anonymous said...

Here's an interesting enrollment fact for you:

From the DESE website. Compare the populations of Amherst and Northampton school enrollment. I did this with the region for Amherst-Pelham 7 to 12 and Northampton K-12, mostly because I am lazy, as the state gives me one number and I did not want to subtract out the K-6 kids in Northampton. If someone else wants to go for it. From the year 2004 to 2015 the population of kids attending Amherst has dropped 29.4% and Northampton has dropped 9.3%. I know overall population is dropping but If we assume that Northampton is from demographic shift then Amherst has at least 20% voting the lack of quality of the school district with there feet. Go team Geryk!!!

Anonymous said...

the SC members should have an interesting retreat together. I can't imagine that tensions could get much worse.

question: is all/any of the retreat open to the public? I thought I remembered seeing part of it, or maybe it was just a meeting prior to the retreat, on ACTV in year's past.

another question: whatever happened to the SC's annual evaluation of the Superintendent? isn't that usually completed in the spring? will both new (Fonsh) and/or former (Shabazz, O'Brien) be participating in the evaluation, in addition to the current SC memebrs? I think this would affect the results either way.