Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Transparency?

Laura Kent has her hands full as rookie Regional School Committee Chair


Sorry I just don't buy the "poor-little-us-we're-just-volunteers" routine.

If you enter a race up Mt. Washington it doesn't matter if you are in the professional or amateur division, as that mountain is going to do its best to kill you.

So half way up do not lament that you are only a "volunteer".

Deal with it.

100 comments:

Rebecca Casa said...

Larry I definitely agree with you there's a lot of responsibility that comes with being on school committee especially being chair. I agree 100% that the job needs to be done and the volunteer status should not be a cop out.

Rebecca Casa said...

However last post posted too early.. being a volunteer is something that other people in this town should honor and we shouldn't be ripping them apart. However there are a lot of responsibilities and as you said Laura is a Rookie so there needs to be some understanding for the learning curve and hopefully others on the school committee are helping her find her way into her new role. At least she stepped up into the chair position because I really didn't see too many volunteers. Obviously it's probably better to have someone who served longer to be the chair so they understand how everything works but keeping that in mind I think that Laura is doing a pretty good job. I'm sure when she ran for school committee she wasn't planning on immediately become and chair which involves a lot more hours than being a regular school committee member. And with all the drama in the problems this year all the school committee members have done more than double their normal time I would suspect.

Larry Kelley said...

If you can't take the heat, stay away from the pizza ovens.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what it must be like trying to do a job with someone like Larry breathing down your neck like this. Take a chill pill, Larry. Some people have actual JOBS. I think you're out of touch with realistic timelines. Otherwise, nice work.

Anonymous said...

What is Laura trying to hide?

Larry Kelley said...

They probably don't want some toxic blogger to compare the amended minutes to the full draft version already published to see what was "amended" and then to ask why.

Anonymous said...

Try being a teacher!

Rick Hood said...

It’s a side issue but not many people can take more than one term (3 years) on school committee, so you lose people who know how things work. In the old days people would stay on for quite a while, more than 2 terms.

Recent members:
Sanderson 1 term
Rivkin 1 term
Hood 2 terms
Appy 2 terms (so far)
Spence 1 term
Traphagen 1 term
O’Brien 1 term
Shabazz 1 term

Dr. Ed said...

Remember that we've only seen THREE seys of minutes, not those of the first meeting taken by K. Mazur. Note that reference on the top of the first page of the GazzetteDocs.

Don't think for an instant that SC members aren't compensated. We all know that Vera is running for the General Court, that Appy is a psychologist, that Rick is a web designer -- how much would this cost in paid advertising?

Laura Kent is a student -- on the unddergrad level, I'd place the value of her job at $250,000/year for a whole bunch of reasons.

Volunteer my 888 -- I paid a lot of money that I didn't have at the time for a far less valuable internship than hers.

I seem to remember that the election was contested, that there were numerous "volunteers" eager to do the job.

So "things happen" is not an excuse -- file early & often with the AGO.

Anonymous said...

These volunteers are going to cost the people of Amherst a LOT of money for a very long TIME!

Larry Kelley said...

Yep.

Kind of like Amherst Town Meeting: Amateurs at the wheel.

Anonymous said...

Ed, since Vera actually is running for State Representative, it highlights just how inaccurate your bizarre ranting is. You don't live in Massachusetts, so no wonder you have no idea what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

Well, in this case at least Ed is right- the fancypants name for the MA legislature is actually the General Court. Per Wikipedia, "a hold-over from the Colonial Era, when this body also sat in judgement of judicial appeals cases."

Anonymous said...

Ed how is ms Kent getting 250,000 a year from being on the school committee?

Dr. Ed said...

No, 3:54, the "fancypants" name is The Great & General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

1: Massachusetts does NOT have a "legislature."

2: Nor is it a "state."

And Wiki is wrong, the term dates from Colonial days when ALL governmental bodies "courts", memory is that the British still do. There was an adjective in the title indicating the *type* of court it was.

Hence, The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Anonymous said...

Now there is a perfect example of what the good doctor's education is all about. A boat load of facts that aren't worth a dime in daily life! Well done Ed, well done. That will sell a lot of short lobsters, you betcha' ayup.
LOL

Rebecca Casa said...

Exactly why I stay in the dining room lol

Anonymous said...

VOLUNTEER ? They are volunteering to take and expend the vast majority of OUR PROPERTY TAXES-seems pretty obvious this for teacher-clique salary payroll"Self Enrichment" not student academic enrichment-and why-oh why-does Amherst regional not follow the letter of the law and bar active teachers and union bosses from the school committee-which is a flagrant violation of "Conflict of Interest' laws ? Self-enrichment-of money-for teachers-is taxation without representation-for member communities ! Heads Up !!!

Rebecca Casa said...

I feel for teachers hardest job I have ever done

Dr. Ed said...

I'm not the person who started it.

A schmuck who didn't know what he/she/it was talking about maliciously attacked me without being bright enough to know that I actually was using the correct term.

Ralph Reed said...

"That will sell a lot of short lobsters, you betcha' ayup."

Caricaturing a regional dialect while they are collectively disappearing indicates some defensiveness on the substance of your argument which seems illogical on it's face. Book learnin' won't make you clever enough to connive?

Anonymous said...

Ralph seriously, don't you understand humor or are you just trying to impress someone too.
Chill boy, chill!

Dr. Ed said...

Regardless of the validity of the allegations against Scott Brown, does anyone honestly believe he'd even be on FOX News if he hadn't been a US senator? I'd never even heard of him before that election, and I was a Republican at the time.

Ed how is ms Kent getting 250,000 a year from being on the school committee?

It is my estimate of what she would have to pay to purchase the benefits she currently enjoys AND higher salaries she will be paid in the future.

Addressing the latter, salary offers are based on your salary history, what people have paid you in the past. Chair of a 4-town school committee with a multi-million-dollar annual budget will be viewed as (at least) a $40K job which will not only bump up her first professional salary offer but also get her considered for a job at a level higher than a new professional otherwise would be.

Then there is the ability to (legitimately) list all she's seen, done, & learned as SC chair on her CV (resume) and/or grad school application.

But most significant are the numerous intangible benefits she's enjoying right now.

First, one needs to remember that UMass students are fungible. She is one of some 22,748 faceless undergraduates in a "Lord of the Flies" environment fat more "cutthroat" than many comprehend. Her field is "Public Health", merely being SC Chair will give her credibility with professors, she'll inherently get better grades than members of the face-less horde.

(An aside to parents: Always attend "'Back to School' Nights" and/or otherwise meet your child's teacher[s]. Unless you come in drunk and attempt to swing at the teacher (true story..) the teacher is going to have a higher opinion of your child than he/she/it otherwise would. And as you see what you expect to see, the teacher will see additional merit in the child's work.

Then there's the access to scarce resources. Say a class assignment involves interviewing a municipal health officer and Julie Fedderman gets 20-30 phone messages -- which call do you think she will return first?

In her own notes she has the school's budget, reports on demographics, school health issues, and stuff many of her fellow students don't even know exists.

Etc, Etc, Etc......

Anonymous said...

Wow Dr ed has really shown himself to be a complete idiot. 40k a year...wow...is that above every the poverty line?...what the hell is the doctor talking about?

Anonymous said...

Ed, if you think Massachusetts isn't a state you are an even bigger idiot than I thought. There are 50 states, remember? There are two senators per state and we've got two. Duh!

Anonymous said...

Massachusetts has a legislature, obviously. It has both a House and Senate. Just because it's referred to as the General Court doesn't mean it's not the state's legislature. And yes we are a state. Just because we call ourselves a Commonwealth doesn't mean we aren't a state.

Dr. Ed said...

There are 46 States, 4 Commonwealths, and 1 Federal District.

Last I checked, the median household income in Western Mass was $50-$55K.

Anonymous said...

No Ed. There are 50 States. Four of which are also Commonwealths.

Anonymous said...

are there minutes missing from a first executive session written by Ms Mazur, as it appears in the posted documents by the Gazette? If so, does that mean Ms Mazur was present at that executive session? If so, why was she there? In what capacity?

Larry Kelley said...

I believe she was thrown out early on so she did not record much in the way of minutes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Larry, Why the hell can't you get those executive session minutes? What's wrong with your cubbie reporting skills? Come on big guy. Can't you break a puny little story like this in super small town America? Geez, I thought for a minute there that you could actually do the freelance investigative journalist thing, but obviously I was wrong. I guess you're best at waiting by the police scanner to hear about the next fender bender, or maybe a group of cub scouts getting nervous up on Skinner Mountain. Or perhaps a college student who has had too much to drink. Now there's big news in a college town. Stick to those stories you can handle.

Why don't you let the real journalists handle the bigger stories, you know, those people who have connections and can get the information the public wants to read about, like those reporters at the Gazzette.

"Deal with it." Good boy.

Anonymous said...

They have 10 business days to respond to your request. Too bad if you don't like it. Has nothing to do with your petty attacks on volunteers.

Larry Kelley said...

Whatever you say Kurt.

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, the issue isn't that K. Mazur "was thrown out early on" but (a) that she was there at all, AND (b)was the recorder (i.e. taking minutes). Both are significant violations of the OML.

There was also a potential violation of labor relations law. If the head of HR was permitted to be there, then the MTA Rep (union) arguably ought to have been as well.

But the bigger issue is that Mazur was there at all. This wasn't an "Oh, Bleep" mistake -- not when Vera had to make a motion to remove her from a subsequent meeting.

And you'll notice Larry that they still haven't mentioned the extra Chapter 70 money. If there are 100 kids in the Pelham school, that's at least $5,500.00 that's supposed to go to Pelham, which I think they could use right now.

Wonder if they'll ever see it?

Anonymous said...

I have personally learned more about the community from this blog vs. the gazette. What I have learned is not generally positive, but I have learned it.

Anonymous said...

Is Kurt the Gazette's source? Stranger things have happened.

More importantly. it's a lovely rumor to circulate...


How do you like it being done to you, Kurt?

Anonymous said...

I don't understand all the people trying to defend the School Committee for, let's be plain here, lying to the public they're supposed to serve.

Are the commenters defending them paid shills? Are they hoping to get a slot of their own on the Committee someday and don't want to encourage public scrutiny? Or is it just stupid party loyalty?

Publishing false transcripts is WRONG, no matter who does it and no matter whose friends they are and no matter what clique they're part of. Defending this behavior is despicable.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me, like with a compromised police department, that eventually the commonwealth may have to step up and take over this organization, clean house, fix problems, etc. in stead of having countless meetings and then debates over how the meetings were communicated.

Do the citizens, students and businesses have to tolerate the school's endless problems, expenditures and lack of stewardship no matter what?

Who's job is it to fix this when the issues never seem to end?

Who is in charge in the end?

Larry Kelley said...

In Northampton it would be the Mayor.

Anonymous said...

Greenfield's Mayor also serves on their school committee?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your response Larry, as I know you seek the Mayor system in Amherst or similar, but who is in charge of the school board in Amherst when they are failing and need oversight, discipline or removal?

Larry Kelley said...

Amherst does not have a recall option, so you're out of luck.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am out of luck....but what about everyone else?

Does it makes sense that there is no real oversight of the school board, no way to discipline them quickly and that when the head Admins quits she gets more money than most of her student will make before they are 40 or if we look at the ones that stay in town, perhaps they will never make that much?

It honestly makes me wonder why she did not go for $1,000,000 and why the school board does not make their own pay the same. What could we do, seems like the only option would be to blog more.

Is this part of the new backwards trend after 9/11 to assume that those in public service can do no wrong or gasp, have good intentions? It think it is worth noting that our first set of laws were put in place to control those in power, because they were the obvious group that could abuse the people and take advantage. Now they have 100000x more tools to abuse us and we simply trust them with next to no way to keep them honest....and the citizens are the problem?

Again, why are citizens complaining about the people and not fixing the system that literally asked for this to happen? Once you put low quality people in such a system, what other result could you expect? What quality of people are you often left with when the private sector demands those with the most skill? A mayor system will not fix this, actual oversight and consequences could. A mayor is just another layer of the same group of folks, he or she may help administrate the government, but they will be on the same team and I surely hope those pushing for a Mayor, put a recall, consequence and punishment system in place before the first Mayor is "elected". This is far more critical than the compensation package.



Anonymous said...

We need Rick Hood to clean up the Mess! LOL

Larry Kelley said...

Yes, whether the Charter Commission comes back with Mayor/Council or not they have discussed a "recall provision" for anything they come up with.

Nina Koch said...

So, Larry, are you saying that you would be willing to pay higher taxes in order to support paid positions for things like School Committee, Library Trustees, etc?

Anonymous said...

Remember the old expression, "You reap what you sow?"

Larry Kelley said...

No Nina, I'm saying we should pay a Mayor/Council to run the town and, like Northampton, the Mayor would sit as Chair of the School Committee and keep the freakin' amateurs in line.

Anonymous said...

Great. And any clown can get elected mayor. No resume required.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, maybe you should run.

But you would have to come out of the dark and give your name.

Laura Quilter said...

The problem with School Committee is not that the amateurs are out of line. The problem with SC is that the members (amateur or not) do not know how to supervise (or maybe they refuse to do it). How to put evidence on the record in order to protect the institution. How to separate their personal beliefs in comity & "getting along" & supporting the administrator, from their simultaneous duty to represent constituents individually and the as a whole.

This, by the way, is why I've yet to be persuaded that a Mayor will "fix" anything. I see more problematic behavior in the elected & appointed committees than in Town Meeting. (The evident power rush that some people seem to act out when they get to "run" a meeting, or be "in", is really disappointing to behold.)

Laura Quilter said...

But yeah, a recall provision is definitely needed.

Anonymous said...

And let's even not get started on the Library Trustees... I can't believe it's even still a thing

Anonymous said...

Laura...the town meeting has no responsibility to any one but themselves. I am willing to pay a mayor 100 grand so he will care and I know who to hold accountable. PEOPLE WILL CARE ABOUT THEIR CONSTITUENTS when they have something to lose rather then a bunch of people I don't know, don't seek my opinion, and requires about 10 friends to elect them. TM is a private fiefdom!

Michael H said...

Sarah Dolven, the former Vice Chairwoman of the Regional School Committee from Leverett, resigned from the Committee because:

“I felt that I could no longer ethically continue participating in the process. I am truly heartsick about the level of dysfunction in this committee, and the level of suspicion, mistrust and deception that is apparent.”

www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/08/amherst_regional_committee_mem.html#incart_email

I applaud you Sarah Dolven from Leverett!!!

Dr. Ed said...

"In an email Monday, regional Chairwoman Laura Kent said she has "paused" in releasing the amended executive session minutes "until I have a discussion with the attorney general's office about the situation."

Wow....

She's already discussed things with the AGO, inside of a day was able to get theur advice and schedule a second A/P revote.

MA law requires minutes "by the next meeting, and never more than 30 days" -- It's been more than 30 days since the July meetings. And they've had subsequent meetings.

And now the Vice-Chair, not involved in this mess, has resigned.

Why do I think that a State Grand Jury has been convened?????

Dr. Ed said...

Larry, I am not even sure a CITY can even be in a school district -- the problem is that Amherst's Mayor or would still have to hash it out with 3 towns.

Anonymous said...

ED
WHY DON'T YOU GET UP FROM THE COMPUTER AND TAKE YOUR MOTHER OUT FOR ICE CREAM......AND STAY IN YOUR PART OF THGE COMMONWEALTH ....MAYBE GET A JOB..BUT AMHERST DOES NOT NEED YOUR ADVICE. ALSO, YOU SEEM LIKE A BITTER MAN...GET A THERAPIST

Rick Hood said...

"The problem with SC is that the members (amateur or not) do not know how to supervise (or maybe they refuse to do it). How to put evidence on the record in order to protect the institution. How to separate their personal beliefs in comity & "getting along" & supporting the administrator, from their simultaneous duty to represent constituents individually and the as a whole."

That's really insulting. In my 6 years I went along with only one thing where I was not sure I agreed, and that was the ARMS scheduling changes of last year. (Which I do now regret). That was the only time I supported the Superintendent, giving her the benefit of the doubt over something I did not agree with. I do not make decisions in order to "get along".

Stop accusing people of things just because an outcome is not what you want.

Larry Kelley said...

Another problem is they, like the former Superintendent, don't react well to criticism.

Anonymous said...

I vote for appy and kent as the two "deceoptive" school committee members identified in dolven's resignation email. deceptional is much much much more criminal than dysfunctional!

Anonymous said...


Well, the good think about getting rid of Town Meeting is that there will be 170 or so fewer involved citizens scrutinizing budgets, asking questions of town employees, remembering past history and statements by elected officials or department heads. No more opinions, information and questions from the cheap seats. No more Finance Committee organizing the budgeting process, keeping it open to the public, independently looking at how budgets and proposals affect the town. Less scrutiny, less public process, fewer opinions from all sorts of people, less information to the public--all to the good. So much easier to make decisions among just a few, the elected few with enough money to run campaigns.

Janet McGowan

Larry Kelley said...

Sarcasm requires its own special font.

Larry Kelley said...

Otherwise, I agree.

Anonymous said...

And when Rick Hood, who uses his name and devoted 6 years of voluntary service to the school committee, tries to defend his integrity, the blogster Kelley belittles him. That is one of Kelley's favorite 12 year old tactics from his junior high days. He is so incredibly insecure he immediately goes to bullying and snide remarks. When was the last time you devoted 6 years of service to the town Kelley? Maybe if you wanted to learn what it takes to be on a school committee you would start interviewing past members to see how much reading and preparation they have for this job that many people in Amherst will take great pleasure to drag them through the mud for doing.

Oh but now you'll just beat these people up for spending all that time and still not performing up to your fat, old white guy standards. Or maybe Leisure Services has a job for you teaching golf at Cherry Hill.

Maybe you should trot out the photo of you standing with the peace people on a sunday morning to remind everyone how concerned you are for the well being of all people?

It's fitting that Ed is your biggest fan.

Since you will never experience this, you might at least want to study what integrity is: "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness."

Larry Kelley said...

Yes Kurt, whatever you say (even if you don't have the balls to use your name).

Anonymous said...

Boy this Kurt guy sounds like a real A-hole. Maybe he should move out of his mommy's cellar?

Nina Koch said...

So, Larry, what would you consider "reacting well" to criticism? When Laura Quilter makes a defamatory statement that is simply untrue, should Rick just let it stand? Or should he offer information to counter the untrue statement? I thought you believed in more speech.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Larry, how mature.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand- if the SC approved the minutes don't they HAVE to post them in the form in which they were approved? Ms Kent, even with this hard job, should release the minutes NOW. The longer she waits, the more distrust and suspicion. If she cannot for some reason release them, then she needs to inform the Amherst community. Rules apply.

Larry Kelley said...

Just sounded a tad snippy to me Nina.

But then compared to Kurt's comments, utterly collegial.

Rick Hood said...

On the “criticism debate”, people should criticize actions/votes/etc., not people’s motives, which is impossible to know. Thus, the assumption that SC member actions/votes are based on “getting along & supporting the administrator” is what’s wrong, not criticism per-say. There is an article in the Gazette today about school committee “dysfunction”. That dysfunction has often been caused by members assuming motives of other members (and administration) rather than just looking at facts.

Now, my comment - "Stop accusing people of things just because an outcome is not what you want" - is assuming motive also, so my apologies for that.

@12:29 PM

“…if the SC approved the minutes don't they HAVE to post them in the form in which they were approved…”

I would say yes. This is what the OML guide says:

“Public bodies are not required to disclose the minutes, notes, or other materials used in an executive session if the disclosure of these records may defeat the lawful purposes of the executive session. Once disclosure would no longer defeat the purposes of the executive session, however, minutes and other records from that executive session must be disclosed unless they fall within an exemption to the Public Records Law, G.L. c. 4, § 7, cl. 26, or the attorney-client privilege applies. Public bodies are also required to periodically review their executive session minutes to determine whether continued non-disclosure is warranted. These determinations must be included in the minutes of the body’s next meeting.”

http://www.mass.gov/ago/docs/government/oml/oml-guide.pdf

Laura Quilter said...

Nina, "defamation" is a bit over the top, in a number of ways.

However, I think Rick is reasonable to take umbrage at my statement, in the sense that I was being critical of the actions of School Committee members, and he was one for six years. Rick, I wasn't specifically meaning you, or any particular votes. I'm not talking right now, for instance, about the reconfiguration vote or any other particular vote. I'm talking more generally about the relations b/w the SC and the Superintendent.

I stand by my comment, though. The School Committee (SC), as a whole, does not seem to have been doing a good job in its relations with the Superintendent's office (SI). From my observations, the SC and SI work hand-in-hand, which is no doubt efficient for getting things done, but is, structurally, not a good set-up for oversight and transparency ("checks and balances", if you will). "Not getting along" and disagreement may feel ugly or unproductive at times, but it's actually built in to democracy. And while the whole Superintendent imbroglio is no doubt more complex than we're all seeing, the SI/SC relationship bears close examination. (As does the role that legal counsel has played here.)

If We-the-People got to do a performance evaluation on our School Committee, I'm sure a lot of people would be unhappy with the "not getting along" attitude of Vira and Trevor. I happen to think that "not getting along" is important for a well-functioning democratic organization, so that's not a per se negative for me. I base it on the content of the disagreement. Similarly, I'm going to look at the content of the "getting along".

This Superintendent has been getting a lot of flack for the whole time I've lived in Amherst. I haven't seen the School Committee doing much about that. The pushback has been coming from the community, and nothing has happened at the SC level. That's frankly weird, given that the SC is supposed to represent the Town. Most concerning to me, the problems seem to have not been reflected in her performance evaluations. Apparently because two SC members filled out their concerns but did it "incorrectly". Why on earth weren't they corrected and helped to fill them out correctly, to ensure the substance of the evaluation was carried out? Given that I know that several of the members, past and present, were recruited by the School Administration, that looks like classic cronyism instead of a well-functioning oversight group.

I have seen a fair amount of "gulp -- I like the Superintendent but this doesn't seem quite right". What I have yet to see is any thoughtful, substantive assessment of what has gone wrong. Laura Kent suggested the SC has a mirror to look into. I'll be interested to see what that means. Will the School Committee engage in some self-reflection and issue a public report about it? Will changes happen as a result of that mirror, and who will be asked to change? The people saying that there are problems with the Superintendent? The people saying there are problems with the SC's relationship with the Superintendent? The people saying that we need a better evaluation process for the Superintendent, and better contracting?

Process matters. People don't pay attention to it until something goes wrong, but process always matters. I hope that's part of whatever mirror the SC looks at.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, the level of transparency and communication with the community from the ARPS admin has dwindled substantially over the past several years. Just try finding reports or any of value on the ARPS website. I think this hasn't just been an oversight by Admin. I guess the SC has been fine with that....

Katrina van Pelt said...

Thank you for writing this, I agree with this completely

Anonymous said...

"Most concerning to me, the problems seem to have not been reflected in her performance evaluations..."

Ms. Quilter,

Have you read carefully the evaluation of Mr. Robb? Or of some of the other members centering on the question of conflict resolution?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, it's a good thing the state and local governments set standards. And by the way Amherst schools consistently exceed them by a large margin. The local SC and SI (or mayor or whatever) have a limited scope of what they can do, good or bad.

That's a pretty good checks-n-balances system I would say.

Anonymous said...

Ms Geryk was unqualified, overpaid and given a no questions asked contract giving her all the power. How did that happen Ricky? Future SI candidates should also be given a personality test to weed out Sociopaths! Check their spouses too.

Dr. Ed said...

Future SI candidates should also be given a personality test to weed out Sociopaths! Check their spouses too.

No,No,No,No,Mo,No,No,No!!!!!

Hasn't the sad experience of the past few years demonstrated exactly why NOT to give the Voodoo Scientists absolute power?

Never forget that Geryk dropped out of (or flunked out of a Psychologist-licensing Doctoral program, that Dr. Appy is a practicing (and hopefully licensed) psychologist, and Kent is in a related undergraduate program. Didn't the ordeal of Aisha Hiza give clear warning of why you do not want to give absolute power to a Voodoo Scientist?

"Ms Geryk was ... given a no questions asked contract giving her all the power."

Unqualified can be dealt with, you simplly tell the SI what to do and lrt him/her/it take credit for doing it. As to overpaid, they all are!

The problem with maria was the lack of accountability.

Dr. Ed said...

"The problem with SC is that the members (amateur or not) do not know how to supervise (or maybe they refuse to do it). How to put evidence on the record in order to protect the institution. How to separate their personal beliefs in comity & "getting along" & supporting the administrator, from their simultaneous duty to represent constituents individually and the as a whole."

Rick Hood replied:
"That's really insulting. In my 6 years I went along with only one thing where I was not sure I agreed, and that was the ARMS scheduling changes of last year. (Which I do now regret). That was the only time I supported the Superintendent, giving her the benefit of the doubt over something I did not agree with. I do not make decisions in order to "get along"."

Nor did you know what you did not know.

First & foremost, there is a BIG difference between giving the Supt the benefit of the doubt and asking her to address concerns you have regarding her proposed new policy. Blindly supporting a policy you had doubts about was neither supporting her nor proper supervision.

And how many misguided policies did you blindly approve without even knowing you were doing so? How much "due diligence" did you not do?

Rick, if you'd been on a corporate board (e.g. Enron's) under similar circumstances, people would be demanding your incarceration. We both know that.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

So, I served on the SC for three years, including with Rick Hood, and I agree completely with Laura Quilter's observation. In my experience - both before I ran, while I was on, and after I departed - SC members assume one of two roles. One role is clearly the role Katherine Appy has taken (and in my opinion, this was very often the role Rick chose), which is to support the superintendent and in effect serve as cheerleader of the schools. In fact, I believe that was the campaign Appy ran on (initially against me, before I chose not to run). Another role, which interestingly has most commonly been the role people of color have assumed (although clearly Steve Rivkin and I chose this role as well) is to represent the community, and to question decisions and policies made by the superintendent; in this sense, I agree with Laura that the SC should represent the town. When I was on the SC, for example, I refused to support an override, because I was not convinced the schools would use the money well, and many people in town shared concerns with me about their finances. But I took a huge amount of heat for that decision. Clearly there were other times I disagreed with decisions and policies made by Ms. Geryk as well as her predecessors. And I also took a huge amount of heat for that, including (the straw that ultimately led me to leave not only the SC but Amherst) an email circulated widely by my son's guidance counselor criticizing me in highly personal terms (the guidance counselor who was, ironically, in charge of teaching my son and other students about the hazards of cyber-bullying).

I don't live in Amherst anymore, and haven't followed all of the specific issues this SC faced. But I do firmly believe that our town, and our students, are not well-served by SC members who approach the job with blind support for the superintendent, no matter who that person is. Too much research (in psychology and other fields) points to the hazards of groupthink, which is very, very easy to fall into in such a situation.

Anonymous said...

To Rick Hood,

I feel you need to be reminded this is not the only time you went along with the administration:

"That's really insulting. In my 6 years I went along with only one thing where I was not sure I agreed, and that was the ARMS scheduling changes of last year. (Which I do now regret). That was the only time I supported the Superintendent, giving her the benefit of the doubt over something I did not agree with. I do not make decisions in order to "get along".

Stop accusing people of things just because an outcome is not what you want."

When elementary math changes came up you met with parents who explained to you the failings of investigations. You clearly understood the problem and could have sided with the parents when you saw the major flaws in this math program. You instead went along with the administration and rubber stamped their flavor of the month math changes (or rather lack of changes if memory serves) that continued to cause more harm than good. You gave the administration the benefit of the doubt even when you knew full well there was a huge problem. So stop accusing people of accusing people. You are no better, your memory does not serve you well.

You never sided with the people of Amherst rather with the administration. Sorry Rick, I think you are a nice person with good intentions. You may have felt like you gave much to the town but I feel your time was a huge disservice to all the kids of Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Follow the bully or the establishment or the deep pockets or the influential and not make waves is the easy way, the coward's way.

RKA45 said...

Rick any idea how the policy got passed that all communications from teachers and principals must be run through Maria's office??

Anonymous said...

Catherine S - It would be far easier to believe you except for the simple fact that it is school committee who sets policy not the superintendent. If you knew so much about roles, then why misrepresent the situation. You served in a capacity that was all about privilege and elitism. You were the one who shared an identifiable email about the superintendent's family with Larry on this blog. I saw, I know. Unbelievable.

Dr. Ed said...

"an email circulated widely by my son's guidance counselor criticizing me in highly personal terms (the guidance counselor who was, ironically, in charge of teaching my son and other students about the hazards of cyber-bullying)."

I don't think people realize how serious a criminal offense this was, or how much potential harm it can do to the child -- it's actually worse than sleeping with a student, as reprehensible as that is.

I don't care how much you dislike someone, you don't mess with their children.

Rick Hood said...

@ 9:37 PM
”…this is not the only time you went along with the administration”
You missed the part of what I said in bold:
“I went along with only one thing where I was not sure I agreed

Yes I met with (3) parents about the problems they had with the Investigations curriculum being used in the elementary schools, maybe you were one of them. A consultant was hired (Chen, June 2010) who ended up recommending Primary Mathematics (aka “Singapore Math”) and made some other recommendations.

After a bunch of study, they decided to stick with Investigations, but use materials associated with that curriculum that they had not used before, and increase PD, which they thought could help, while they continued to evaluate other textbooks. This was part of the “Math Action Plan”, created by the K-16 Math Council, released March 2011 and implemented in fall 2011. There were 21 people on this Math Council, including mainly math teachers, 3 math professors from local colleges, some administrators, and 2 parents. Perhaps the 2 parents on the council were against this plan, not sure.

After the decision to stick with Investigations for while longer I got a “nice” email from one of the parents saying I had “betrayed us and the children of Amherst by being a mouthpiece for Maria and the current administration.” Maybe that was you. But as Larry likes to say, if you can't stand the "heat" get out of the kitchen. I can stand the heat.

Eventually the textbook review process finished up it was decided to switch textbooks to Everyday Math, which was implemented in fall 2012. I thought that was one of the textbooks that was perhaps not “ideal” but “acceptable” to the people who hated Investigations, but we heard nothing from them (you?) when this switch was made. Did it take too long? Perhaps. Fall 2012 was 2 years and 3 months after Chen was hired. On the other hand when you make a textbook change you want to make sure you get it right.

Investigations was one of the most widely used curriculums in the state, along with Everyday Math and ThinkMath. For example, at the time, Investigations was used by Northampton, Arlington and Cambridge, ThinkMath was used by Brookline and Framingham, and Everyday Math was used by Newton. Primary Mathematics was used by something like 1 or 2 districts in the state. I saw a lot to like about Primary Mathematics, but I also thought there could be truth to the idea that we had not implemented the Investigations curriculum as well as we could have. I am not going to say I know more about math than the math teachers do. This was not “going along with the administration”, it was more like “going along with the math teachers”. And this was not some insane decision, since both Investigations and Everyday Math were widely used in MA, and MA is one of the highest rated states in the nation, if not #1.

Rick Hood said...

@RKA45
There is no such policy that the SC had anything to do with and I am not sure it is a policy. Where is that policy? There is no way that this can be the case. Principals and teachers have to communicate all the time, schools would come to a halt of "all communication" had to run through the SI.

Rick Hood said...

To give you and idea of stuff SC members get, one person said to me after a vote I had taken that I was “a leader that can be counted on to make independent decisions based on the truth”. But less than a year later, that same person said a vote I took was “politically convenient and timid at a time when we need courage and innovation” and was the “hallmark of your leadership”. I still have the emails, so those are exact quotes.

People are passionate about their positions, but when passion outweighs a logical weighing of pros and cons, government and community breaks down.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 3:42 am - First, I guess it depends on your definition of "privilege and elitism". As an SC member, I made a motion to redistrict the schools to reduce the concentration of poverty at one school, opposed an override (that my family could well afford but others could not), made a motion to institute a Spanish language program in the elementary schools, and voted to change law firms after numerous complaints from families of kids with special needs regarding the district's current representation (although I myself didn't have a child with such needs).

Second, you are wrong that I shared an email with Larry (and it was actually a letter, not an email). Larry received his own copy of the letter, and chose to publish it. I had nothing to do with it.

Perhaps if you were more confident of your facts, you would have chosen to use your name in publishing your comment, as I'm doing now.

August 26, 2016 at 3:42 AM

Larry Kelley said...

A hand written letter if memory serves.

Michael H said...

I came across a Dr. Seuss quote that makes me think about Vira, Trevor, Steve and former school committee members Vladimir Morales, Barbara Love, Amilcar Shabazz and Catherine Sanderson, for the thankless but courageous school committee work they do, and did, for our children and schools:

"UNLESS SOMEONE LIKE YOU CARES A WHOLE AWFUL LOT, NOTHING IS GOING TO GET BETTER. IT'S NOT."

6 years ago, after my grandson, wife and I were terrorized by school attorney Regina Tate, we dared not speak up for fear of further retaliation. No shutesbury school committee member would speak up for us, but amherst member Catherine Sanderson spoke up not only for us, she spoke up for the many other Amherst children and families who were similarly terrorized. Attorney Tate, who twice to my knowlege filed false retaliatory 51A complaints against parents who refused to sign IEPs, was fired by the school committee for her abusive and immoral conduct.

I want all of you to know that I personally forwarded the email to Catherine (cited above), written by Catherine's "son's guidance counselor criticizing [Catherine] in highly personal terms (the guidance counselor who was, ironically, in charge of teaching [Catherine's] son and other students about the hazards of cyber-bullying)."

So, I want to take this opportunity to publicly give Catherine a big thank you for selflessly caring a "whole awful lot" about our school community and not giving up on us!

Anonymous said...

I would like to offer Rick Hood a big thank you for his years of service, many of which were during tumultuous times. I always found him to be well-prepared on the issues, and found his contributions to be thoughtful, reasoned, and offered respectfully - a model many would do well to follow!

Anonymous said...

Once again Sanderson makes false claims or misleading claim about what she did or didn't do while on SC. She was the one who hired that nightmare Rodrigues and publicly defended him when she knew the truth, the special education attorney who parents were calling (hardly representing the public schools interests) and left pretty quickly under suspicious terms, and who like Larry was a slime about that letter.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 12:02 am - again, check your facts (then maybe you will be more comfortable owning your words). Seven people voted for Rodriguez; one abstained, and one voted for David Sklarz. I was the one who voted for David Sklarz. I didn't think Rodriguez was a good hire, and thus I didn't vote for him.

I also didn't hire Gini Tate; she was the special education attorney for years in Amherst prior to my election. I was successful in ending her services (for special education), but she was rehired quickly after my departure from the SC.

And I'm not sure what being "a slime about that letter" means. I received an anonymous letter in my mail. I didn't post it on my blog or refer to it on my blog or share it with others.

So, your (anonymous) post contains three factually inaccurate statements, yet accuses me of lying. Again, I can see why you choose not to post using your name, whereas I feel highly comfortable owning my own statements.

Take two said...

"Catherine S - It would be far easier to believe you except for the simple fact that it is school committee who sets policy not the superintendent. If you knew so much about roles, then why misrepresent the situation. You served in a capacity that was all about privilege and elitism. You were the one who shared an identifiable email about the superintendent's family with Larry on this blog. I saw, I know. Unbelievable."



You saw?


Aw.



-Squeaky Squeaks


p.s. Hey did you see this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClTFhawBfaw

Rebecca Casa said...

Im also asking based on Dan Robbs eval amd confirmation from three other curremt SC members. I was told it was referred to picy sib committee but is was the end of the year that it should be looked at this year.

Anonymous said...

Why did the school committee reps return the letter from geryk and her lawyer? Isnt the letter covered by the freedom of information law since it was given to them and they responded to it. Did the school committee reps violate the freedom of information law when they gave it back?

Anonymous said...

been 10 (business) days, where are the minutes, Ms Kent? Ms Kent? Ms Kent? Ms Kent.....

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, and I did send her a reminder email early this morning mentioning that.