Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mega School Or Bust


Unsurprisingly the Amherst School Committee after two hours of public hearing -- more than half of it criticism from the general public -- voted 4-1 in favor of the administration's  preferred "Grade Reconfiguration 2-6" model that will create a 750 student two-wing school and turn Crocker Farm Elementary School into a pre K-1st Grade early childhood education superstore.



Interestingly this 'separate but equal' concept of twin schools under one roof is the result of concerns over equity for students of color, low-income and single-parent families (and combinations thereof) that make up a sizable percentage of the Amherst public school population.

Crowd of 40 attended, many of them critical of mega-school

The only School Committee member who had not telegraphed her vote last week was Kathleen Traphaghan.  In her presentation she extensively cited her 14-year-old son as a main source for information for this epic decision, which is sort of like a smoking enthusiast justifying their bad habit by citing their grandfather who smoked two-packs a day since teen years and lived to be 93.

Traphagen also criticized the local hometown newspaper for pre-coverage of this "agonizing" decision as being "flippant," making it seem that cost was not a factor.  "We live in this town like everybody else", she said with a sigh. 

Costs will come in between $61.2 and $66.3 million depending on Wildwood School Building Committee pick

Black sheep member of the 5-member School Committee Vira Douangmany Cage played her usual watchdog role, questioning the process as a violation of Open Meeting Law, since the agenda posted on the town website did not clearly show a vote would be taken.

 Agenda posted on town website does not clearly indicate a vote would be taken

ASC Chair Katherine Appy responded that the agenda was clear on the school website and this was pretty much the way they always did things.

Last year, after a number of posting snafus that cancelled meetings at the last minute, the Regional School Committee voted to allow posting of meetings and agendas on the ARPS Regional website rather than relying on hard copy postings in all four towns. The state does allow this, but only for regional entities, which the Amherst School Committee is not.

 Former Amherst School Committee member Andy Churchill spoke in favor of reconfiguration
Crocker Farm Principal Derek Shea spoke in favor of making his school preK-1st Grade

The Wildwood School Building Committee will discuss the School Committee decision tomorrow night as they have the final authority with the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a single project that will receive between 50 and 55% reimbursement from the state.

According to Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris (also chair of the Wildwood School Building Committee):

"There will be discussion of the options at the SBC meeting tomorrow and a vote at the 2/2 SBC meeting on the Preferred Schematic Report (a submission to the MSBA that includes this choice).  As mentioned at last Wednesday's meeting and community forum, another design option (W11) that is very similar to W5 but made for the 750 student building will be presented, so there are four potential building designs to consider (W11, W10, W7, FR5)."


 Forever activist Vince O'Connor predicts disaster for the Reconfiguration scenario
O'Connor's preferred choise is twice as expensive

Vince O'Connor, who championed the most expensive concept of using the MSBA to deal with Wildwood only and have the town go it alone renewing Fort River,  exposed a conspiracy theory that town officials wish to close down Fort River so it could be used as the new Department of Public Works building, another mega-building-project on the immediate horizon.

O'Connor also predicted the MSBA will not even approve the Reconfiguration model since it does not have overwhelming public support.  And even if it does make it to the floor of Town Meeting for a debt exclusion Override vote, it will fail like the elementary school Override did back in 1992.

With Amherst property tax rates already in the top ten statewide, the $200+ added to the average tax bill by a debt exclusion Override for another 30 years to finance this mega-school is going to be a very tough sell.  School officials are putting all their eggs in this one expensive basket.

Indeed the die is now cast, the Rubicon has been crossed.  Let's hope School Superintendent Maria Geryk fares a tad better than Julius Caesar.

Mike Morris and Maria Geryk listening to critical public comments


Kathleen Traphagen not happy with most recent Gazette story as well

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

and the winner is...."the most expensive option" possible. Yup, that about sums it up. (also the one those who will be asked to pay for it, didn't want)

Anonymous said...

How could you compare public education, esp in Amherst to a store?

A store is a peaceful place where people voluntarily come to do business, to trade fairly, without the use of force. At stores, you find merchandise you would have had to work really hard to find otherwise. A value is assured for any thinking customer. Employees are paid the market rate, sometimes more in the case of minimum wage. Products are sold at market rate or they don't sell.

A public school is a place where the government forces kids to go and parents to pay. It is not voluntary, it is not fair, a value is not assured and typically denied. School staff is paid far above market rate, with excessive benefits and low expectations of performance. Products and services are sold above market rate because those financing the place have no choice and little say.

Public schools, as we know even promoted here, are often places of extreme violence, enough so that we are considering local, state and national legislation to deal with this. This local school forced a man out of a job for using a common term, slave unit. Slaves exist, should not be denied, there are more slaves today than in 1864.

Please do not tarnish the name of one of the ultimate in peaceful and voluntary public services, the store, by muddying it with something with such a bad reputation for performance, efficiency and fairness, the public school. Feel free to compare stores to that great immersion school in Hadley, it has most of the attributes of a store...so much so that many responsible parents in Amherst are willing to pay off the government to leave them alone and then still pay for their own kids' education at a quality education "store".

This is a mega money grab for folks on the school system payroll. This is not about kids, education or value. Certainly not about peaceful exchange.

Anonymous said...

I predict it will pass town meeting because it has the highest level of state money.

Anonymous said...

So, when the vote for an override comes due, let's hope all the parents who did not want this "reconfiguration" vote with a resounding NO. (I see increased enrollment in charter schools in our future...)

Anonymous said...

I heard someone say that 8% of parents in this town indicated by survey that they oppose the administration's proposal.

Most (80%?) of the teachers who indicated by survey that they support the administrations proposal also cited "equity" as their number one factor in coming to their decision to support it; most of the teachers who oppose the administration's proposal rank "equity" as 3rd or 4th in importance in coming to their conclusions. The teachers and parents who oppose the administration's proposal are not aligned philosophically with the district's clearly stated goals around equity.


You don't get mega-returns without clear and decisive action intended to bring about change. The administration's proposal is a bold step into the future, opponents want everything to stay just the way it is (I think? Or do they already want to leave in droves because of the way things are? Are we happy now that we have a Town Meeting to crush progress and development?) and they represent the rusty (or should I say loud and moldy since we're talking about Fort River) status quo.

Furthermore, I didn't get a clear idea from anyone who spoke at last night's meeting who opposes the admin's plan why exactly they oppose it. It was pointed out several times last night: the folks who say they want equity should be supporting this proposal. Mr. Hood expressed confusion, it's obvious to me that the people who went last night are simply oppositionists. It's the same old gang up to the same old thing. Ms. Sherlock said "We've been coming here saying these things about problems with equity for years." Exactly, but talk is cheap. Show us some bold, clear decisions you've made to advance your concerns beyond deciding to publicly criticize the people who sacrifice time and face to make the tough decisions. It's always "I've been telling YOU what to do for ME for years!"

It's much better to crash and burn while standing your moral and ethical grounds than rust away as a populist who compromises their true instincts in order to appease a minority opposition.

Anonymous said...


There was a lot of discussion in favor of the mega school and reconfiguration by committee members claiming it provides equity to all. We don't have to be the same or in the same building to have equity. Equity involves quality of teachers, class size, community support, and finally the facility.

Yes, there are problems with Wildwood and Fort River, but the cost to fix these schools has not been communicated clearly. It seems the drive to build the mega school, and reconfiguration is based more on the state funding process than actual costs or equity. At this point, I can't support the decision.

Anonymous said...

I was particularly impressed by administrators and SC members who expressed: Why can't we make anything we want happen in this town in terms of community and sense of place and security for kids? Don't we have one of the best staffs and faculties in western Mass?

I personally am excited for future parents if we can turn Crocker into an early learning center. Can you imagine what our staff and faculty could do for a group of 4-6 y.o.'s in three years with that building as a resource dedicated solely to those kids?

Anonymous said...

So much to say, so little time...

~ As an educator who worked in both WW and FR, the students deserve a school that promotes learning and access. The design of these schools are outdated and open classrooms do not work for many students and teachers; they are too loud, too disruptive and distracting, children from other classrooms walking through one class to get to another. Look to the students when you think about your position on this one. Besides the fact that the buildings have so many issues with being outdated and the facilities including heat, air, etc. are subpar and not conducive to learning at all.

~ Two of the most boisterous and disruptive equity justice attendees last night, both at the mic and in the audience, do not even live in Amherst and do not have students in our elementary schools. I was embarrassed for them when they were making disrespectful sounds and comments during the meeting; especially when Derek Shea was sharing his personal experience. These are not the models for us to follow as we continue our work on equity.

~ One of the school committee members opted to take an oppositional position from the very beginning and attempted to derail the entire discussion. When committee members offered their comprehensive reflections and considerations, she offered absolutely nothing. She even went on to intimate she would be letting her constituents down if the vote went forward; is she a puppet or a capable thinking and speaker to the points. I have yet to see evidence in any meeting from her.

~ Change is hard and everyone in the discussion has their own "stake" and position. When the conversation remains around what would benefit students with evidence to support the position, then we should all be able to come together. It is not about one person, one group, administration, etc. It is about what is in the best interest of kids. I applaud the school committee members who offered their reflections which addressed the kids.

Anonymous said...

If folks are really interested to know why Ms Geryk and Mr. Morris and 80% of the SC and all the principals and the SPED director and the Director of Diversity and the coordinator of the Family Center support grade reconfiguration listen to Mr. Morris' presentation last night. I believe he spoke around 7pm, which was about an hour and 15 minutes into the meeting. The reasons for grade reconfiguration are compelling. And I would hazard a guess that was a huge part of why Kathleen Traphagen voted the way she did. Not because of what her 14 yo son said.

Anonymous said...

I applaud the Superintendent and the administration for their vision. This is visioning work that will outlast many of us and this is not new work in the country. Amherst does have a way of getting in they way of itself and does not know how to come together. The celebration of individual differences has created far too many divides and ill-will versus a sense of community in our Amherst community. Our schools will reflect what our community symbolizes. Of those who are constant nay-sayers (not meaning the critical thinkers), you need to change. As a famous person (M. Gandhi) once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Anonymous said...

The former administrator who keeps being referenced, is a nice man but only advocated for his school. He never saw the big picture and working as part of a school community and district. Please stop referring to him as a valid equity or leadership resource to look toward!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the people who came and spoke so disrespectfully to us and toward our hard-working elected officials, and who don't even live in this town or have kids in our schools, as well as others who do but offer no compelling proposals for real and positive change, should not be our model moving forward with our town's and school's clearly stated equity goals.

Anonymous said...

I think Ms. Traphagen's point was that we can over-think and over-engineer our schools around some kind of idyllic concept of "community" where we walk to a little school in our neighborhood, running a stick on a picket fence, eternal security because you know everyone in your little part of the world... But ask the kids and within the elementary grades there's no question, the kids feel like a part of a community to the degree where a discussion about it is absurd. And it's because of the teachers, not the buildings or their size or where they're located, and we have the staff to create community anywhere. The kids don't know and don't care about a Leave it to Beaver upbringing or outdated 1950's neighborhood design concepts, let's focus on all the kids, including those that were eliminated from consideration when the current buildings and configurations were designed, either because they didn't live here then or because the plan then was to send them elsewhere so as not to interfere with the "normal" kid's educations.

Anonymous said...

Just take a look at the record Fort River has of hiring and retaining teachers of color over the last twenty-five years if you want to know whether he's an equity resource to look toward. Some talk the talk, others walk the walk.

Anonymous said...

I don't see where the cost of renovating CF as a early education center is offered? None of which will be covered by the state. Surely there is great cost associated with that, as well as needing space to put CF students as CF is being renovated (ie swing space costs, presumably we'll need ARMS for that? Not only was the most expensive option chosen, but also the most expensive for running the resultant schools after. There is no effort to control costs, the sky seems the limit.

Anonymous said...

Rude is one thing, but out of towners should have a say in this topic, because they will help pay for it, they are part of it. Amherst schools are not just about Amherst, in fact most that go to the schools move out of town, thus this is the process of educating those that will be part of other communities.

Amherst does not have the financial resources among the citizens to pay its own way, it frequently looks to the fed and state for financial assistance. This blog speaks of this often.

Since they are being forced to pay for the things that happen here, out of towners should have a say. We call that taxation with representation. This was a battle cry of the revolution, but not law. These meetings provide an opportunity to be righteous by letting those being taxes have a say and a venue to speak their mind and influence those that decide.

This is a debate on how to spend someone else's money, everyone's included because everyone's money is fair game to the groups desires. It is also a chance to have a say on the education of folks that may move to their community. There are likely more people from Amherst living in Boston than Amherst...perhaps the people of Boston should have a vote since they will be more effected by the outcome than Amherst.

I will stop, I know logic does not work in the venue of public employee worship.

Anonymous said...

If student enrollment is dropping and predicted to continue to fall, shouldn't it require fewer administrators and teachers? Can't we downsize faculty and staff, and repurpose their salaries to service the debt for the capital improvements?

This is a serious question, the finances of this whole deal just seem like they are from another planet.

Anonymous said...

It's important to remember that we are not losing small schools in Amherst. The motion last night was not to build one "mega" school. The motion was to build one large building holding two small and separate schools that share a gym and parking and one other thing. The two new schools will each be smaller than the current size of Wildwood and Fort River. Amherst will continue to have three small school communities.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why the option of twin k-6 (and keeping CF as is) is less equitable than the proposed model? Seems that is an insult to the faculty and staff at the schools. Since efforts were made to balance demographics with redistricting, what other elements would make the three elementary schools (WW and FR in new twin k-6) inequitable?

Anonymous said...

Glad to see some support for the School Committee's brave action last night on this blog. For me, "the change I wish to see in the world" is the closing of the achievement gap in Amherst that has bedeviled us for as long as I've been living here. I am excited about the Town's future with the reconfiguration that has been recommended here. I appreciate the intensive listening and hard thinking that went on for weeks by SC members. My several conversations with members indicated that they were NOT prejudging anything through the process, and that cost to taxpayers mattered. Listening to, however, can never be the same as agreeing with. I accept the idea that a strong, passionate argument can be listened to carefully and then the decision-makers feel they have to go in a different direction. That's what living in a real community means: you're heard and then sometimes you lose.

I really, really waited to hear a statement from Vira last night in her own words about her own thinking process and how and why she sincerely came out in a different place. It's important, even in defeat. We didn't get it. I am still rooting for her to be the School Committee member she can be, with her own perspective, background, and life experience (very different from mine). How anyone on a board goes about losing arguments, however, matters to her future effectiveness of the board. Vira cannot simply stop and sit for the next two years thinking she's a victim, with an attitude like "this is what happens to people of color on boards like these." She needs to explain what she's thinking about, strongly, respectfully, and in detail, and why. It's not enough to simply square off with other members, and make snide references to "parties you all are having." The one-note Open Meeting Law maneuver she pulled last night does not contribute to that long-term effort. She has two years left to figure out that she can do the persuasion and working with other members if she decides to do it. We residents desperately need her to be a full, articulate partner, even as part of a loyal opposition, on School Committee. We need her full-throated voice as an equal player, which is what what she was elected to be, rather than just petulant "harrumphs" with the arms crossed.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:52 - Ask those employees about that principal - stop making assumptions based upon their skin color and assuming his efficacy around equity. Walking a false walk is not walking the walk...superficial is superficial...

Anon 12:01 - Missed the mark you did on this one. Rude is rude. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

Making before and after school care available, designing a center for families based on full access, hiring a POC into an administrative position with a stated role of recruiting and retaining staff of color, so on and so on, and making those decisions consistently toward a long-ago stated goal of equity, those are real decisive actions that have resulted in positive change and progress; the opposition has no clear vision or stated goals, and spouts bits of cherry-picked blather or attempts to derail by technicality, whenever a challenge scares them, in an attempt to keep everything status quo.

And speaking of the matter, why would anyone want to be on a committee with fellow members and a working model that they obviously have nothing but contempt for?

Anonymous said...

anon 12:15, as Rick Hood stated last night, the benefits are self-evident if you know anything about issues surrounding children impacted by physical disabilities, children who live in apartment complexes, children who need to access to particular resources for their special needs (including regular education high-achievers! ask me for examples...), and many other children who have been historically neglected in public education in Amherst and across the country. And if you don't see that the benefits are self-evident, and you say you're someone whose focus is on equity, many of us are at a loss. But I understand that did not say that your focus is at all on equity, as many teachers have also clearly stated via survey.

Anonymous said...

You need to listen to what Mike Morris said at the meeting last night. Watch it online or find it on channel 15. You can find the tv schedule online.

Anonymous said...

jeez anon@12:42, you were not very specific. So you are saying that schools that are preK-6 are, by definition, inequitable. Sorry but that makes no sense to me. You are saying that in a preK-6 school it is impossible to offer appropriate resources for "children impacted by physical disabilities, children who live in apartment complexes, children who need to access to particular resources for their special needs (including regular education high-achievers! ask me for examples...), and many other children who have been historically neglected in public education". Sorry, I don't buy it. But we can agree to disagree, respectfully. The decision has been made, next we see whether Amherst voters are willing to pay the high cost for it. I suspect funding this would put us at the top of property taxes in the state.

Anonymous said...

The headline could read: White people tell people of color what's best for them. Or: Board of non-teachers tells teachers what is best for their students. Or: Majority of parents ignored by school committee as usual. Or: Middle class board tells low-income people their kids are a problem and how they can be fixed. Or: Board deals with problem of busing low income kids by busing all students out of their neighborhoods. Or: School board decides $33 million new school needed to make sure 40 low income kids get a preschool education. Or: Board forced to do survey surprisingly ignores results. Or: Blog surprisingly filled with compliments of administrators day after unpopular decision.

I can see how easy it must be to write headlines for The Onion.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to disablities - mental or physical....it is my understanding that a significant amount of the financial resources go to these kids. This comes from folks who work in schools who I know. It also would make a lot of sense given it is hard to imagine spending $20k per kid, year after year.

Kind of like it costs $5-10k to teach a normal or advanced kid and $30k to do so to facilitate one who is learning or physically disabled, thus our average is $20k.

I think this is actually a big issue, one larger than this local debate. We trade off either/both significant learning by folks that will likely achieve so much for society (the average and advanced kids) for bringing those that are handicapped up to a basic standard so they can feel ok about themselves their entire lives, but likely, on average, contribute less to society.

Is the school there for the individual or the community? I think it is clear that once you take care of the school's primary mission, high paying jobs for teachers and admins, that the schools is there for the individual in so many ways. We are willing to invest most heavily in those that will likely contribute the least, so the investment is primarily theirs....and we invest in kids most of which move out of the community. That being said, those who are disabled are more likely to stay in the community, they are our townies. School is about the kids as individuals and we sacrifice the best investment for society pr even the local community to give more to individuals. On a local note, this is so not Amherst, to allow for individuals to shine and get focus vs. the collective and of all places, it comes out of one of the biggest collectivist wealth reassignment processes we manage, the schools.

Really, no matter what is decided, jokes on the taxpayer. The disabled kids and school employees win as the wealth of others is reallocated.

Anonymous said...

I am on the fence. No future homeowner will ever say, "I want to move to Amherst because their elementary school has 750 students and nearly all of them take the bus to get there." It seems like an awful selling point, regardless of how good the school is (sorry, schools, since we are going to split hairs and say it's two schools in one building). We will almost certainly lose more kids to choice/charter schools as a result. Just look at the number of Amherst kids who choice into Belchertown (one big school) vs. Shutesbury/Leverett/Pelham (one tiny school each). At the same time, I like the idea of increased resources for early education. It's been presented to us as one or the other, but no one has convincingly explained why it is impossible to have three neighborhood schools and, at the same time, better early education.

Anonymous said...

Well both Crocker Farm, Wildwood and the high school have preschools already so how hard is it be to add more seats? Maybe Fort River reconfigered could add some classrooms.

That meeting last night crushed many spirits.

Anonymous said...

The ES will NOT have 750 students. There will be TWO elementary schools with 375 kids each.

Anonymous said...

This decision is about way more than just the added preschool seats.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you and I watched the same meeting, Larry. Kathleen Traphagen was thoughtful and eloquent and incredibly principled in her manner of coming to and explaining her position. Unlike Vira, who you will champion for her ridiculous challenging of an open meeting law technicality, but had nothing of substance to say on the actual educational implications of the matter. Kathleen mentioned her query of her son as purely anecdotal information, not data that she based her decision on. Either be a journalist or a critic. Your efforts to walk the line between the two are really quite pitiful.

Larry Kelley said...

Glad you liked it.

At least I got the part about twin schools under one roof right.

Anonymous said...

But the preschool seats could be gotten without closing down a school and completely changing the Crocker Farm and Wildwood school communities. Geryk is now all about equity because it's a winning argument to get what she wants. It's all for the poor kids now, even if their parents and teachers don't agree. She knows this because... she's never been able to close the achievement gap? The all schools shuffle from K-12 on covers the facts that many launched initiatives aren't working and the "structural" deficit is parents pulling their kids out of the district for charter and Smith Voke.

Anonymous said...

Really 6:48 PM? Because I remember Geryk stating goals related to equity during her interview for the job of superintendent, some of which have been either partially or fully implemented. And I could point to clear, decisive actions she has taken each year of her tenure so far, toward initially stated and regularly updated goals related to equity.

Dr. Ed said...

It is said that those who fail to learn from history get to relive the mistakes of the past.

The UMass Southwest Towers were not going to be 550 students supervised by just one person. No, they were three separate 6-story dorms that were "stacked on top of each other."

Prediction: If the 750 student school is built, within a decade, it will be one school with one principal. To think otherwise is asinine.

Likewise, the concept of "open classrooms" thrived for a few years in the early 1970's -- it was a national mistake that folks have lived with for 40 years. I think Maria G is making a mistake here, if she's allowed to make it, folks will be living with it for the next 40 years...

And what happens when enrollment continues to decline?

Anonymous said...

at least after the Town rejects the proposal we'll get another chance in a few years when FR rises to the top of the State list. Next time though, Ms Gerky won't be the SI.

Anonymous said...

And Geryk will get to say she tried but they were too scared.

Anonymous said...

List the actions on equity and the concrete results.

Anonymous said...

No one is going to say "I want to move to Amherst because their elementary school has 750 students and nearly all of them take the bus to get there."

I imagine a large, heavily resourced, dedicated pre-school through 1st grade center, focused on preparing every kid in the community to learn, which might level the playing field, will attract a few. And of course the parents of the kids who can't walk to school because they live in a complex or in Amherst Woods, or who can't walk period because their legs don't function, might be OK with the configuration, and be attracted to our progressive and caring community.

And it's two schools each of which are smaller in population than the present elementary schools they will replace.

Anonymous said...

"Ms Gerky won't be SI."

Probably retired by then, this her 30th year in public education.

Anonymous said...

anon@820: yes, I also imagine a large heavily resourced (ie. extremely expensive) preSchool-1st, that spends a huge amount of resources on a small population of kids. Who will this attract? Like you said- those that require those services (increased low-income families and SPED families). The whole "equity" card means that no ONE is willing to say no and that's exactly how/why Ms Geryk framed the issue. Saying NO implies you are a racist and against special ed accommodations. No one wants to be painted with that brush. The problem comes to resources and Ms Geryk thinks that Amherst can (and wants to) pay an unlimited amount of $$ to support it. That is the big gamble on her part. I, for one, have reached the 'no' point- the cost is too high, and I think those costs, if accepted, will accelerate the trend we already are seeing- higher income and middle income folks are leaving or not moving here. Instead they move to neighboring communities where taxes are lower and everything isn't about "EQUITY", they actually talk about "EDUCATION", something hardly discussed in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

2 schools: Wildwoodee & Wildwoodum?

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:09 you clearly have no understanding of the code of ethics the administrators committed themselves to years and years ago. Perhaps your definition of what education includes and becoming an educator entails is limited.

Top of the page, Code of Ethics for Educators:

OVERVIEW
The professional educator strives to create a learning environment that nurtures to fulfillment the potential of all students.

The professional educator acts with conscientious effort to exemplify the highest ethical standards.


Next section:

PRINCIPLE I: Ethical Conduct toward Students

The professional educator accepts personal responsibility for teaching students character qualities that will help them evaluate the consequences of and accept the responsibility for their actions and choices. ...we believe all educators are obligated to help foster civic virtues such as integrity, diligence, responsibility, cooperation, loyalty, fidelity, and respect-for the law, for human life, for others, and for self.


So in response to your question about who will be attracted by an early education center, I imagine it will attract young families who recognize the amazing possibility and high energy teachers there will have to fulfill their responsibilities. What an amazing way to start an educational journey. Next paragraph...

The professional educator, in accepting his or her position of public trust, measures success not only by the progress of each student toward realization of his or her personal potential, but also as a citizen of the greater community of the republic.



A lot goes into a kid's full education, and into becoming a complete educator, beyond "talking about education" (which goes on plenty as well if I understand what you're talking about.)

Anonymous said...

can I remind folks of some "leadership" of Ms Geryk and her team. For the last five years or so, changes/adoption in the common core and forthcoming (some day in the future) associated assessments have been used as rationale for all kinds of curricular changes. Guess what? Not gonna happen, there will be no grand common core assessment test. So instead of waiting until the assessment was released for guidance, our leadership took it upon themselves to alter our curriculum anticipating changes that will not happen (or at least used it as an excuse...)... Remember all the yearly goal plans based on it...

Dr. Ed said...

Hate to burst anyone's bubble but the national research indicates little lasting benefit from Pre-K - that children benefit more from interacting with mothers.

Anonymous said...

Re. the comment that students who "can't walk period because their legs don't function" will be OK with the plan: If I understand correctly, I think this argument is that because some students have disabilities that prevent them from walking, it's OK that most students in town will have to take a bus to school. I can't say I buy that logic.

Anonymous said...

That's bullshit, Ed.

Anonymous said...

Ed, Bullshit? Really?????

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rich Morse's points. Well said! I would love to see Vira do more in her School Committee (SC) role... more positively & proactively about what the district & community should have and what the district should do, not just what they shouldn't.

Vira's timing on bringing up the Open Meeting Law (OML) issues was unfortunate and came across as a gotcha to the administration and a ploy to disrupt the vote.

At the same time though, Vira did, in fact, raise some good, important points, including the fact that the SC agendas can be very vague and give the public little information about items to be discussed and voted on. I remember last spring (April 14th) one of the items on the regional SC meeting agenda was listed as "memo for discussion" and the memo was not released to the public in advance of the meeting. The memo in question was discussing the possible merger of the MS and HS into one building (which is a big, big deal!) but how would the public know that in advance of the meeting. I wouldn't think that such a vague agenda item would comply with the OML. and it is not the first time that the posted agendas have included vague listings.

Plus as I was listening to Katherine Appy say that as per past practice, the agenda for the SC meeting two days ago was posted on the arps.org web site, and that was sufficient, I kept thinking to myself that the agenda still needs to be properly posted with the town as well not just on the ARPS web site.... exactly as you stated (only the regional SC adopted the change to allow official postings of their meetings on the ARPS web site, instead of at town halls). I wish one of Katherine's fellow school committee members had called her on this point.

and it does make sense, a lot of sense, for the posted agenda items on the amherstma.gov web site to note whether an agenda item involves a vote, discussion, presentation, etc.

I hope that the SC and the administration will make some changes to how agendas items are listed and what the agenda postings on the amherstma.gov web site include, based on the very valid points on this raised by Vira at the meeting.

Anonymous said...

You don't understand correctly 2:36 PM. Besides , you're probably from Springfield.

Anonymous said...

Anon, 1/20, 2:42 pm
you wrote: ". Just look at the number of Amherst kids who choice into Belchertown (one big school) vs. Shutesbury/Leverett/Pelham (one tiny school each)".
ummm..... Shutesbury does not accept school choice students, never has, & I suspect it never will.

of the 21 students who live in Amherst this year & choice out of the district (just over 1% of the elementary school Amherst school enrollment), yes, 16 decide to go to Pelham or Leverett.

At the same time though, there are Pelham & Leverett families who school choice to Amherst and are attracted by larger schools and a more diverse student population. Pelham & Leverett have just one class per grade, so the same kids are with each other year after year.... for better or, as is sometimes the case, for worse. Is that what you are proposing for Amherst? That does not sound good to me & it doesn't work for all kids.

Dr. Ed said...

See http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/08/the-head-start-cares-demonstration-another-failed-federal-early-childhood-education-program


http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/11/20-evidence-raises-doubts-about-obamas-preschool-for-all-whitehurst

Anonymous said...

Dr Ed: "Hate to burst anyone's bubble but the national research indicates little lasting benefit from Pre-K - that children benefit more from interacting with mothers."
Old study?
These days, the family smart phone gets a lot more attention than the children!

Anonymous said...

If OML was indeed violated in the manner in which Appy posted only on the ARPS website and not on the town website~which I believe it was, then SC nomination paper signatures was also violated in the case of Phoebe Hazzard. But the town clerk allowed her vote to go forward--and Appy threatened that all votes in prior meetings were invalid if what Vira claimed is true. Appy threatened her colleagues into not believing Vira's claim. Rick was heading toward the belief and almost hesitated--it sounded like he spoke his decision not to vote that night--but was overruled by Appy--What a show of complete and utter dominance. Appy and Geryk are best friends--and Morris--well--the puppet strings may not be visible at every meeting--but we all know they are there (hidden well under the table.) I see no equity in this decision--matter of fact if they cannot handle the social, racial and economic inequities that exist and are practiced on a day to day basis in the schools as they exist now (small) then how on earth can anyone expect them to be addressed and handled on a mega scale? ex: A child asks for a bottle of water (prepared to pay) and was denied because s/he had a 'tab' with the cafeteria. smh Since when can a child run a tab? Who can deny anyone a basic human need and to hell with the water fountains--you drink fluoridated, chlorine, and other toxicities, every day of your young life and live to tell about it. ex: A child is over and over again scolded and written up by the same teacher again and again-Meetings are requested by the parent/guardian to no avail. The child becomes sick with headaches/stomach aches and misses school (all symptoms of being bullied.) The result? The student is put on a behavioral intervention plan--Not the teacher mind you, but the child. ex: A child is accosted, physically and verbally by a school staff--the principal is notified--the child is the focus of the situation--the adult remains in the building not only to continue his/her employment--but to later accost another student!! Both children of color mind you--victimized by the same adult. And I can list many more situations of inequities suffered by children without the realization of the lasting harm this has left on them, by the adults inflicting the pain and the administration who allow this. Implicit or explicit ~ we need to keep the conversation going--we have as many different lifestyles as there are families in town--but the one thing that holds true today as well as yesterday--some adults (whether or not they know it) treat some children differently--(I see it--I know this to be true) based on their skin-color and economic status of their family. This mega-school, okay Ms. T., this 375 student two schools which will be co-located in the same building--is only going to further push the issues of inequity right off the stove! If we ever thought for a moment they were on the back burner--we can forget about that. :(

Anonymous said...

What I found most interesting about the meeting the other night is that "justice" people were there, but they were arguing for a model and approach to school configuration that comes out of conservative think-tanks. If the administration supported Che Guevera, they would support Trump.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of which...TRUMP 2016 !

Anonymous said...

Can't wait until the Dems are out of office. Trump Landslide 2016. Predictions show even NY going Trump. That is er..."yuge..." Other sources show a 46- state win for him.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, Larry for Mayor!