Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Finally: Secret Documents Revealed

Regional School Committee meeting September 7

After a nitpicking hour and a half that seemed like FOREVER the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee voted 5-3 to release the executive session minutes spanning almost 15 hours of behind closed doors meetings, culminating in a $309,000 payout to former Superintendent Maria Geryk. 

But then member Vira Douangmany Cage changed her mind and switched to "abstain." Either way clearly Ms. Cage, Stephen Sullivan and Trevor Baptiste were unhappy with the release of the minutes and associated documents.

The key puzzle piece missing, however, are the Pelham School Committee minutes of the executive session that Maria Geryk used in her initial demand letter claiming breach of contract and defamation of character, which led to "emotional distress".

Mr. Baptiste said her characterization of what went on in that meeting was wrong, and she uses that to trash his good name as well as Dan Robb and Vira Douangmany Cage.

But at least we now know most of the real story:  Maria Geryk panicked after issuing a stay away order on March 17 to Aisha Hiza  without due process, realized after the May 5th Pelham School Committee meeting that she would not get away with it, so then desperately decided to hit the road in a new Mercedes.

And who better to know how to game the system than someone who once led that system?


This is a pretty good intro to the documents package below

163 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why did Vira abstain? What a poticial maneuverer she is.

Anonymous said...

What a disgusting perversion of justice. A paid professional in a leadership position can't handle conflict or constructive criticism, has no apparent ability to communicate with the school committee or the public, escalates racial tensions by hiding behind lawyers, all at tax-payer expense, uses those same lawyers to publicly and privately bully, malign, and defame the chair of her supervisory committee who is African American, voluntarily separates from her position, asks for 3 years salary, and then claims she was the victim of racism?!?! This is outrageous.

And Amherst, get your act together- hire a new law firm without all the blundering, incestuous ties- get their incompetent hands out of our pockets ASAP. And next time, hire a superintendent with some meaningful leadership experience. And once again, the $300k question- HOW did Geryk and her attorneys get their hands on her evaluations, using the substance of those evaluations as the partial basis of her claims, BEFORE the evaluations had been approved and released? The individual committee members were unable to see one another's evaluations, so they were operating in the dark when they were presented with the formal demand letter. WHO leaked those evaluations in toto to Geryk? A very few people would have had access to them. Geryk's claims of people on the committee leaking documents become far less compelling when one considers that her administration, her employees, had access to far more information, and kept it under lock and key, except for when it suited them to release it. Appalling.

Anonymous said...

Aren't there still minutes missing from the last SC meeting? So it comes down to Amherst having to pay ~$250K for a fiasco in the Pelham SC. nice one.

Anonymous said...

No 12:13, the fiasco belongs to the Regional, it cannot be pinned on the Pelham SC- we've all observed several years of Geryk, backed by the incompetent attorney's, public mishandling and escalation of situations at the regional level, in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Larry! Again and again you scoop the Gazette and Republican. I fear this story of greed and corruption is not over yet. Thanks for keeping us informed.

Larry Kelley said...

I live to scoop.

Although these days it's not much of a challenge.

Anonymous said...

Well Anon 1205 that's one way to look at it.

Anonymous said...

next question- why haven't executive session minutes of the Pelham SC meetings been released? According to Ms Geryk's complaint, Mr Baptiste has been duplicitous. Did the many typos and grammatical errors in the letter from Ms Geryk's lawyer result from migration to Scribd? Did Ms Geryk ghost write a portion of it? It is not very professional (just like the one to Mr Baptiste)

Anonymous said...

12:05, I am afraid I do not agree at all. My reading of these documents is that Baptiste and Douangmany-Cage exposed the SC to considerable legal liability, and opposed the release of these minutes because it is now clear to all that their incompetence -- and, apparently in Baptiste's case, hypocrisy -- has cost all of us. Even without the leak, after all, Geryk still would have had a great number of actionable claims against them, and the best case scenario for ANY attorney would have been to go trial, which even in the best case scenario would have come at considerable expense to the taxpayer. It's not then persuasive to blame this on the town's law firm.

The real question is what Baptiste and Douangmany-Cage thought they were doing this whole time. Is it really reasonable to suppose that Geryk would NOT try to defend herself after publicly being called a racist for months on end, especially when we all know (a) that she could not publicly reveal the details of the stay-away order without the consent of the parent involved, (b) that she literally could not present her side of the story, and therefore (c) that the field of public debate was slanted decidedly against her? Is it really a realistic assumption to think that a person in this position would not look to sue? And if the person is therefore likely to sue, is it not prudent not to give them reason to sue? But Baptiste and Douangmany-Cage have done just that. They committed mistake after mistake -- a series of errors enumerated in Long's letter without any response from either of them. This is NOT good social justice. This is choosing a single cause celebre, and grandstanding over it on social media in a way that ultimately hurts the entire school district, up to and including those many students of color who now will have FEWER resources for their education because Baptiste and Douangmany-Cage exposed the whole committee to liability. Even in these minutes, it is clear that they simply have no idea what they are doing, and to a dangerous extent. Both of them just want to fight, without an eye toward the long-term consequences for the district or the kids. That's not activism; that's just being combative.

On the point of ineffective, I note that Vira appealed to the wrong commonwealth authority to try and block this deal: she wrote to the attorney general, not the inspector general, wasting valuable time to block this deal with yet another unforced error. Even if you fully support her, especially if you fully support her, you have to admit that she simply has no idea what she is doing. An ineffective fighter -- a fighter who fights just for the sake of fighting, without self-restraint or tactical-strategic thinking -- is a bad fighter. Vira is a terrible fighter, and I sincerely hope that she is not elected to represent us on Thursday.

Anonymous said...

This town is run like a Clinton administration would be. No wonder why every Amherst car has an Obama/Clinton bumper sticker. Just shows how ignorant formally educated people are.

RKA45 said...

As a community member that jumped to many educated conclusions on the public blog .. some of which were accurate assumptions and some were inaccurate I think it is a stretch to assume as Geryk did, that every assumption was a leak from a committee member. The bottom line when the tables were turned and we as a community started pointing out all the issues in the school system Maria used this is an excuse. I would love for her to prove I heard anything from a school committee member. I would have volunteered my phone, my computer and anything else she needed. Nothing would have been there . .

Anonymous said...

Let it not go unremarked that part of the reason Geryk was able to file a defamation suit was because of what was being said about her on social media AND BLOGS.

Now, if you are one of the people who has derived sadistic pleasure from venting against Geryk in fora like this -- not just disagreeing with her and criticizing her, but calling her the most atrocious names, many of them sexist, and treating her like a public enemy -- you need to know that your actions have consequences. In particular, they are expensive.

Larry, the same goes for you. It may be your constitutional right to run a crass and nasty blog, but what's written here is neither legally neutral nor without its market price. Fact: the nastiness here has cost us. It added strength to Geryk's demands. And it will cost us again, as soon as the next candidate for superintendent reviews what's been said here, and brings it up in his or her negotiations over salary. We are ALL going to have to pay more to the next candidate in part because the venom that is spewed in this basically unmoderated forum will be directly material to any negotiation. You want me to lead a district this divided and hateful? Fine. But it's going to cost you.

Meanness may feel good for sadists and bullies, but please remember: incivility is not without costs. In particular, it is expensive for the town. I hope you summon up the courage to recognize your responsibility in all of this, and begin to use a firmer hand in your moderation of comments. Criticism, debate, disagreement -- this is normal and even desirable. Calling people names, venting hatred, ad hominem attacks -- this has never been okay. Larry, please do a better job letting people know when they cross the line.

Anonymous said...

Wow....don't you really want to know who anon 12:33 is?

Larry Kelley said...

The free exchange of ideas and debate can be a tad rough & tumble.

If you can't stand the heat ...

Anonymous said...

Larry, that's weak. Go listen to a parliamentary debate in England, which is much more rough and tumble than what you have here, and tell me how often you hear ad hominems. They are the furthest thing from rough. They are weak, undisciplined, ineffective -- like personal fouls in football. That is why among skilled debaters ad hominems are classed among the fallacies.

Anonymous said...

Everything anon 12:48 wrote is hogwash and self-serving to those in power. These people seem to think they are above criticism. I love the hidden threat about not being "legally neutral". Geryk SHOULD NEVER have been hired!I use to defend her but didn't really know her or her behind the scenes machinations. Future SI candidates may read this blog but I hope other school systems read it too when they consider hiring Ms Geryk.

RKA45 said...

The heat from Chestnut St is the reason so many of our logical thinking Committee members left.. As I said before she can dish it but can't take it

Anonymous said...

What is happening with the Pelham SC & with Union 26? Darius Modestow has resigned (from the SC or just the Union? -- it wasn't clear last night), & Tara Luce is still on the committee but as a Amherst school employee, has recused herself from a number of important SC matters recently, including the recent settlement with Geryk & before that, the stay-away order issued by Geryk to a Pelham ES parent. Are there even still sufficient Pelham SC members to serve?

Anonymous said...

"If you can't stand the heat..."

...get out of the kitchen, right?

Well, Geryk is getting out, and you may say good riddance, Larry. But the previous commenter's point was that on her way out, she's taking a large chunk of everyone's taxpayer money -- including yours -- thanks in no small part to this blog.

"Weak" is right.

Anonymous said...

Comical that Vira's opening statement at the debate focuses on "transparency" when she wanted her name removed from these minutes.

http://wwlp.com/2016/08/31/3rd-hampshire-district-democratic-candidates-debate/

Does the election on Thursday mean that Vira is leaving the SC???

Anonymous said...

Funny: no one brings up elementary regionalization anymore. Given all that has been happening recently, including the issues with Pelham, Shutesbury's unhappiness with the region, & the recent controversies, it seems like an idea that is dead, dead, dead.

I don't think it ever had all much traction among those who live in Pelham, Leverett, Shutesbury, save for one over-zealous former Leverett SC member, but it definitely has even less now.

Anonymous said...

We now have definitive proof that Ms. Geryk's faux "Union 26" does not exist as a legal entity.

Therefore, Ms. Geryk's and attorneys' orginal contract signed by a faux "Union 26" representative has always rendered her original contract null and void.

And therefore, Ms. Geryk's Separation Agreement signed last week by a faux "Union 26" representative likewise renders the Separation Agreement null and void.

MaryC said...

12:48 … So, we should not have the nerve to state our opinion on a blog because someone could deem it defamatory and therefore file a suit? I know someone in particular who had a very bad experience in dealing in Maria, and if people want to express their frustration and anger on a public bog, they have a right to. This is, after all, America. To suggest that what was said in this blog contributed to Geryk’s demands is ridiculous. Many people on this blog have legitimate concerns and opinions and should not be censored for fear of hurt feelings or demands of the “injured” party.

Anonymous said...

it is still shocking to me all that Geryk's spouse was able to get away with, in his verbal & online attacks on community members, school committee members anyone who questioned his wife's leadership or her proposed changes for our schools in anyway. The school administration, the police, knew about some/many of the incidences.

and add to this the fact that as of mid-last year, the superintendent's children had both left the ARPS schools. What does that say about the district that she is leading when her family thinks they will get a better education elsewhere. More and more other Amherst families are feeling the same way these days.

Anonymous said...

1:05 anon, 12:48 here.

"Future SI candidates may read this blog but I hope other school systems read it too when they consider hiring Ms Geryk." I hope you realize that this is exactly the point that Gerry's attorney has made in his letter, and that you are here really just arguing against yourself. The reason that Geryk was able to successfully threaten a defamation lawsuit -- and the reason why there could be no effective response from the SC or from their lawyer -- is in part because there is so much evidence on this blog that the attacks that have been made against her, and that are now a permanent part of any keyword search on her surname, have made her unemployable. Stated negatively: if the SC lawyer had tried to prove that she had NOT been defamed, Mike Long could've neutralized him with a host of of examples from precisely this blog. Put simply: SAYING THAT GERYK'S FUTURE EMPLOYERS MAY READ NASTY THINGS ABOUT HER ON THIS BLOG ADDS STRENGTH TO HER CASE AGAINST THE SC, NOT YOUR CASE AGAINST HER.

As for protecting the powerful, nonsense. Reread my post. I am not defending Geryk in the least. I am saying that her critics criticized her in incompetent, weak, and self-defeating ways. And, unfortunately, your post is a perfect example of this. That you actually think it is a point IN YOUR FAVOR that future employers might read what is said here shows far your hatred of Geryk has taken you from self-knowledge about your own utterances.

Anonymous said...

Obama and Clinton are finished. And for god's sake (or griff's for all you atheists) get a conservative in as super. Or is the fix in on that, too?

Anonymous said...

Free speech. What line?

Anonymous said...

It seems all the candidates for the Story seat are saying the same things. I will probably vote for Nakajima because he seems to have the most experience with the system. But I am still open to other thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Vote la Cour. The progressive candidate - she'll move the town forward. I believe in her strong ideas around smart zoning and thoughtful progress.

Anonymous said...

I'm voting for Bonnie MacCracken because she does have experience with our Boston government. She has written legislation, testified before committees, fought for militry families to not lose their homes, and fought for the enforcement of laws that banks do not seize homes unlawfully. She has existing relationships with the people there and does not have to start from scratch.

Anonymous said...

It is very hard to defame a public official. Also I don't see how anon blog comments could be brought into a defamation suit against the SC. Geryk vs the Amherst School Committee & various anonymous People? You sure write pretty but make little sense. I know where I am not getting my bike fixed! Criticism is not Defamation! Now maybe Kurt has been defamed except if things said are True! Maybe if Geryk had earned her promised advance degree she would have been a better SI. THAT'S bait and switch ! I can't believe how restrained the SC is by all these laws, ethics and sweetheart contracts from doing their duty to the kids and the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...


Mary C, 12:48 here.

The question is not whether we have a right to express ourselves. We obviously do, even though as we all know the right to free speech is not in fact the right to say anything we want. I would even say that we have a responsibility to criticize out public officials, within the bounds of decency and respect.

No, the question I am raising is whether it is in the best interest of the public to leave unmoderated a post like this:

"Time to burn Kent & Appy in effigy. Maybe if someone can find a hogshead barrel, an effigy of Geryk as well. And yes, a herring hogshead, Maria is that rotund, and every bit as fishy.

0r if it's too dry to burn, stake the effigy down on the town common and ceremoniously drive an Ash stake through each of their hearts. Appy's a Psychologist (at least when she remembers to renew her license) and her spiel tonight was a PsychOp."

This is protected speech. Fine. But does it really help us make decisions together as citizens? To make fun of someone's body size? Would you really, honestly defend this post in particular? Is there anything even remotely redeemable about fat-shaming the superintendent? Likewise, to bring the children of the superintendent into the picture, like 1:50PM just did -- would you really and honestly defend that? How is politicizing the lives of these children anything but prurient gossip trying to pass itself off as criticism? If there is something redeemable about discourse, please do defend it. But if in your heart of hearts you find that you cannot actually defend speech like this, then you agree with me more than you disagree with me. Why allow speech like this on this blog at all? Please note that if Larry were to moderate this post by deleting it, the free speech rights of the post's author would in no way be infringed: Larry is not under some sort of constitutional obligation to publish anything that comes his way.

But even as this sort of speech adds nothing to our lives, it really does subtract a lot from each and all of us. To begin, it subtracts legitimacy from Geryk's critics. I am open to criticisms of her, but honestly the way you all talk about her makes my skin crawl. And it is pure gold for her lawyer: read his letter. So particularly if you are critical of Geryk, and you do not want to add fuel to the fire of her demands, it is in your rational self-interest not to come anywhere close to defaming her. So it detracts from criticism of Geryk. But what does it add? And if nothing -- what really is the point? A responsible moderator would ask these questions.

To me, the point is not whether we can say things like this. Of course we can. The point is whether we should say them. And I am not in the least persuaded by the notion that any question I might pose to myself about whether I should or should not speak is also somehow self-censorship. To entertain such questions is the very definition of thinking before one speaks, if not conscience itself. Thinking before speaking, needless to say, is not a violation of free speech. With freedom comes responsibility, and the responsibility to think before we speak is not remotely related to self-censorship. So really, is it conscientious, does it add anything to our town and our ability to make decisions together, to fat-shame the superintendent? To gossip about her kids? We can do this; it's our right. But should we do it? Does it add to our town, our civic life together? That's what I want Larry to ask himself, and you all to ask yourselves. If you experience that question as self-censorship, then honestly I am sad for all of us.

Anonymous said...

anon@2:28: please "the way you all talk about her makes my skin crawl." Not ALL. Most posters don't make personal attacks, most posters criticize Ms Geryk's policies and judgement (fair game, IMO). Yes, some posters (most notably Ed and some wack jobs that live somewhere in the world), who post a lot of comments, are outrageous and Larry is a complete asshole for posting those comments (eg your examples). There is NO way, however, Larry's blog could be used for an anti-defamation claim- no way no how. Perhaps there is material on Vira's and Trevor's social media that could be used (I have no idea if that is the case). However, it is now over. Plenty of blame to go around and cover just about everyone involved...Let's move on folks.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:31, 12:48 here.

"It is very hard to defame a public official. Also I don't see how anon blog comments could be brought into a defamation suit against the SC. Geryk vs the Amherst School Committee & various anonymous People?"

Read the demand letter from Geryk's lawyer. He is claiming among other things that certain members of the SC destroyed her professional reputation with statements on social media and blogs and that she is now unemployable. The amazing things that people have said about her on this blog, which go far beyond simple criticisms of her as a public official, provide support for that claim. In fact, the way that she is criticized here is Exhibit A that her reputation has been destroyed and that she is unemployable. Now, whether or not she was actually defamed we will never know. But a majority of the SC, including at least one with a law degree, as well as the SC lawyer, thought that the claims were sufficiently plausible to settle with her for $300K. So your argument is with them and not me.

And, in case it even needs to be said, defamation is NOT protected speech. We do not in fact have the right to spread lies about people that hurt their reputations. Geryk's lawyer alleges that Baptiste approved of her actions w/r/t the Pelham situation behind closed doors, only to then criticize her publicly, with the strong implication that her actions were racist, to the detriment of her reputation. Now, whether the lawyer's claim has merit we will never know. But what we do know is that enough of the SC thought that it, along with the other claims, had enough merit, to choose not to fight in court. So, in short, Geryk had a case, and the venom on social media and blogs helped her make it.

Anonymous said...

3:03 anon, 2:28 here.

Fair point.

Anonymous said...

"it is still shocking to me all that Geryk's spouse was able to get away with, in his verbal & online attacks on community members, school committee members anyone who questioned his wife's leadership or her proposed changes for our schools in anyway. The school administration, the police, knew about some/many of the incidences."

THIS is the actual 46 USC 1983 "color of law" tort, and anyone who was bullied by Kurt *still* can (and should) sue the school district. It's a far more valid claim than the crap that Maria was trying to raise.

"the superintendent's children had both left the ARPS schools. What does that say about the district that she is leading when her family thinks they will get a better education elsewhere."

WHO signed off on this? The ethics laws would preclude Maria from doing it, as well as everyone else in the district, so who did it?

Larry Kelley said...

Defamation is exceedingly hard to prove.

And the person making the statement or the poor blogger hitting the publish button on it has to know 100% that the statement is untrue.

I could publish a comment saying Maria Geryk is a space alien and honestly testify in court under oath that, "hey, ya never know ..."

MaryC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Larry has refused to post the only thing about Miss Maria that could be construed as defamatory, would be if it were not true.

Squeaky, you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with 12:48.

While true that Geryk is a public figure she was, more importantly, an employee . . . with a contract . . .that was violated by Baptiste and Cage, who, spoiling for a fight, failed to follow the procedures that they were contractually obligated to follow.

If you read the demand letter, the reason that Geryk demanded 3 (rather than 2) years of severance is because she felt defamed by Baptiste and Cage and was offering a release from liability not only to the regional district but also to Baptiste and Cage personally.

"We believe that the individual behavior of Mr. Baptiste and Ms. Cage is outside the scope of their duties as public officials. WE believe that their individual liability should not be subsumed with the general release of other committee members and thus have made a demand for three years' salary in consideration of a broader than normal release."

According to the minutes, Baptiste and Cage both favored expensive litigation. Cage was "not afraid of litigation. She said: "Bring it on." She suggested a 'counterclaim'. Baptiste 'described his desire to be "put on the stand".

Both Cage and Baptiste appear to have failed to properly complete their evaluations of Geryk and asked to amend them.

Litigation is expensive, especially so if you lose. And remember, Baptiste and Cage were not playing this game of chicken with their own money they were putting regional school budget money at risk.

Anonymous said...

So Bush & Cheney ought to be able to sue the Town of Amherst for that rather defamatory Town Meeting resolution?

Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

Threatening the life, health, and/or safety of a public official is prohibited, as it should be, but anything else is fair game. Always has been.

Anonymous said...

Bush and Cheney were elected . . . not hired. There is a difference.

Employment law, especially in the Commonwealth, favors the employee. The School Committee, acting in its supervisory role, cannot damage the reputation of an employee without first following proper procedures. Full stop.

If you are going to fire, let go or 'constructively dismiss' an employee because you think they are racist, you better be able to back it up with demonstrable proof.

If you, as an employer, are going to use a media megaphone to claim your employee is a racist, or incompetent, or otherwise unfit for their job, you better have some concrete proof that will stand up in court.

Larry Kelley said...

When did anyone "use a media megaphone"?

I picked up and broke the story of Maria's idiotic treatment of Ms. Hiza after I watched a Regional School Committee meeting where a concerned group of people (many of them ARHS graduates) railed against the stay away order.

And since they were using "public comment," which is on the agenda, it was fair game.

Anonymous said...

Say it over and over but it ain't true anon 3:13. Anon bloggers would not be any part of any lawsuit nor proof of anything. SC folded because some are team Geryk and some were afraid of being personally sued. As to defamation....an opinion that she is racist is an opinion and that she is fat is a fact. The earlier post about "burning in effigy " may rise to the level of threat and then is a police matter but nothing more. But anon 3:13 keep writing long paragraphs trying to prove you are right. And go fix some bicycles! As for the next SI just hire any college graduate and shoot the dice again.

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected.

Baptiste and Cage did not 'directly' use a media megaphone, but Baptiste, as Regional Chair, did allow a regional public meeting, which he knew full well would get a lot of attention, to be inappropriately used rake Geryk over the coals for a problem that originated in Pelham.

Public comment is only fair game if the matter being discussed is appropriate business for the deliberative body receiving the public comment.

Despite your characterization of Geryk's treatment as "idiotic" it appears that even Baptiste agreed - at least early on - that it was an appropriate and proportionate response.

I think it has always been irresponsible and premature to characterize Geryk's response without knowing the full extent of Hiza's behavior that precipitated that response. If Hiza really wants public support she should authorize release of the records.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Houston......I'm here in the comments section.....and it does appear that we have some intelligent life here, at least for the moment...mind you, Houston, we've been searching on this barren planet for weeks...but I am catching some ever so slight movement that appears to be common sense today...I mean we still don't have any names yet, so we can't make any identifications.....we will continue to monitor stupidity v. insight levels, and report back......Houston, I should point out that I have not seen Dr. Ed today, so conditions could change.....and all of the good stuff could get sucked out of here in a flash.

Rich Morse

Larry Kelley said...

Nonsense.

Pelham is part of the Region at the middle and high school level and Maria Geryk was very keen on them expanding the Region with their elementary school.

Anonymous said...


Sorry Larry, Vira very much used a media megaphone. To wit:

http://www.gazettenet.com/Regional-School-Committee-member-Vira-Douangmany-Cage-speaks-out-on-banning-mother-2316663

That image is the very definition of using a media megaphone. And Vira's declaration that Geryk's ban was a "racist, unnecessary" act is exactly what 3:51 is talking about. If Geryk's lawyer had been able to demonstrate (through written evidence, e.g. minutes, and sworn testimony from other SC members) that Vira was informed behind closed doors of the Geryk's reasoning for the stay-away order, but nevertheless described it in public as a racist act, then he would have had good grounds for a defamation suit. He would have been able to prove that Vira knew that she was not telling the truth but described Geryk as a racist anyway. And because in this age of diversity there is no more damaging a label than racist, the iteration of that description of Geryk in public damages her reputation and makes her unemployable.

Larry Kelley said...

Nobody reads the Gazette anymore.

Anonymous said...

This is all your fault, Larry.

Larry Kelley said...

Don't shoot me I'm only the piano player (or maybe the messenger).

Anonymous said...

Geryk's lawyer certainly read the Gazette, the SC certainly read the letter from Geryk's lawyer -- to the tune of $300K, in fact.

Seems relevant to me.

Larry Kelley said...

Well then it's all the Gazette's fault. The old blame the media routine. Thank you Donald Trump.

Anonymous said...

You comment about the Gazette is glib Larry, but wrong.

I noticed that candidates for Ellen Story's seat thought it wise to spend money on ads in the Gazette and Bulletin . . . even Vira. Did any purchase ad space from you?

Baptiste and Cage did an unprofessional and poor job of leading. They - not Geryk - are costing me money. They - not Geryk - will make it difficult to find a large pool of qualified candidates to replace Geryk.

If Baptiste and Cage truly believed in their assertions, they should have behaved like responsible administrators of the public trust. They should have lobbied other members . . . built a constituency to support them . . . . sought consensus.

Instead they lobbed emotionally charged bombs at Geryk and succeeded . . . in wasting money and running her out of town.

Highly irresponsible and regrettable.

Larry Kelley said...

I think all the candidates were scared off by Kurt Geryk and Nina's call to boycott and harass my advertisers.

Anonymous said...

For the record Larry, I don't blame you at all.

I admire what you've created here. You work hard at it.

It is a bit like the free speech area in Berkeley. An open soapbox, available to all.

I am sure a lot of people lurk here, following stories but unwilling to join the metaphorical melee.

The question you have to answer is whether you want controversial issues like this to be hacked apart here as if it were the Battle of the Bastards (Game of Throne reference, look it up) or in a more thoughtful, deliberative way.

I suspect you enjoy the former and aspire to the latter.

Larry Kelley said...

I'm fearless, and these days I don't give a fuck.

Give voice to the voiceless; seek truth and report it. That's all I really want to do.

People can smell that, because it oozes from my every pore.

Anonymous said...

Do we know that the school committee was informed of the reasons for the stay way order as put forth by anon 4:10?

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, with the release of the minutes and the complaint letter, Vira and Trevor should resign their SC seats. It's the right thing to do.

Tom D. said...

Just a friendly suggestion for the search for a new superintendent: Announce in your advertisements that no candidate will be considered for the post unless they can prove that they have been a registered Republican for at least ten years.

Anonymous said...

12:33,

That is the most rational, clearly stated explanation I have read on this whole case.

Thank you for taking the time to think and write.

Anonymous said...

geryk, friends and attorneys are the destroyers of our schools. geryk's threateneing demand letter is a solely based on maliciously distorted legal reasoning and plain old bullshit! but hey, we in the people's republic of amherst don't believe in equal protection and impartial legal representation for our SC members, especially when they dare to honestly do their jobs and evaluate the very very very incompetent incompetent superintendent.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people seem to be basing their comments on the presumption that what the lawyer said in the demand letter was based on the truth. The lawyer's obligation is to advocate for his client, not necessarily to tell the truth. To represent what is in the demand letter as the truth, without hearing the other side of the story, is to judge the case without knowing the facts. That is not due process, any way you slice it.

Anonymous said...

Careful 5:10 Maria might sue you and Kurt beat you Up! Larry will you be reporting on the Appy organization?

Nina Koch said...

That's pretty funny, Rich. Keep sending your reports.

Hate to tell you, though, that Ed has decided to post anonymously now. Last week, someone pointed out that he posts throughout the day and all night too, so he stopped using his name. This means my filter program doesn't work any more and I end up reading some of his blither by accident. For example, 3:18pm is Ed.

I guess I will have to spend a little more time on my language processor which detects Ed-speech through the text of the post rather than the poster's name.

Anonymous said...

"We now have definitive proof that Ms. Geryk's faux "Union 26" does not exist as a legal entity. Therefore, Ms. Geryk's and attorneys' orginal contract signed by a faux "Union 26" representative has always rendered her original contract null and void. And therefore, Ms. Geryk's Separation Agreement signed last week by a faux "Union 26" representative likewise renders the Separation Agreement null and void."

Larry, what do you think about the above assessment of Union 26? Is it possible that Maria and attorneys scammed us to extort $300,000 from our schools? Isn't this criminal?

Anonymous said...

I think the entire school committee should resign. Half of them because they are nothing but publicity-seeking loudmouths who further only their own politically correct and morally bankrupt agendas. And the other half because they were stupid enough to let the first half wreak havoc on the system and doubly-stupid in folding like a wet dishrag when a greedy self-important administrator threatened a lawsuit. So what if she sued? Defend yourselves in court and stand up for your town! Instead, they took the coward's way out and just forked over our hard earned tax money in secret. Boy there is a lesson to be learned here. Never give a position of power to people who crave it. Find the people who are too busy with living their own good lives and don't need the trappings of power and privilege of being in charge of large sums of money and great numbers of people and make THEM the school committee members. Hell, just draw the names randomly from town citizens... you won't do worse than the people who run for the office and we have to choose from. If this committee has even a shred of decency, and I doubt it... they will all turn in their resignations and let the town start over with caring representatives.

Anonymous said...

Ann 5:40…
funny you mention a lawyer not speaking the truth…this whole blog is based on opinion, false comments, lies and such..
Pretty much everything Vira and Trevor have stated are lies…why start telling the truth on this blog now ??

Anonymous said...

At least Ed's not a pathetic loser who has to boost his self esteem by demeaning others like you do Nina.

Anonymous said...

Hey there 6:38, er, I mean Ed. Can't you do any better than that? Your writing and disguise skills are so obvious.

Anonymous said...

I am impressed with 12:33's opinions and interpretation of this matter. Sounds very reasonable based on evidence so far. Now, if we just could see ALL the information (both sides) of the Hiza/Pelham encounters, perhaps the real truth could be revealed.

I sure worked very, very hard to earn my portion of the tax dollars spent on this fiasco! Not money well-spent for all my efforts and long hours. I will be voting tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Larry, for empowering people on your blog. The "nitwits" cannot "pin this one on you." They only need to look in their mirrors, to find the root cause of all this mess.

Anonymous said...

ANIMALS...just ANIMALS...Now the school union booster nutz clique has done it's " Union business" on our community with this latest Geryk debacle..etc,etc, ad nauseum...How "Enlightened/Educated" is it to write letters to the Gazette insisting that it is "Immaterial" to violate open meeting laws because " It's for the kids???"..or blatantly and shamelessly ignore the States conflict of interest laws in prossing active teachers-union bosses-or BOTH (Kippy Fonsh) who write glowing letters when hiring Maria Geryk ? "For the kids" is Codex for "Loot the taxpayer-fly by night" We deserve better-this is an insult to all who must pay or be served-some "Special Interest"..think life's a party-but party's were not meant to last-so now they cut and run-PLEASE...only LEGIT candidates for school committee-no teachers just to approve tax increases/performance reviews of own work-that's corruption-it's getting PRURIENT ! Word to the wise-heads up !!

Anonymous said...

anon@6:38 (Ed?) LOL! You mean Dr ED!!!

Anonymous said...

I meant are you going to report on the Appy orgy larry! I hate spell check randomly changing whole words!

Anonymous said...

From today's Gazette coverage: (http://www.gazettenet.com/Controversy-over-Pelham-restraining-order-prompted-superintendent-Maria-Geryk-to-seek-separation-4590504)

"Long’s memo also cites non-compliant evaluations, which violate Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines and language of Geryk’s contract, and that “the gist of the evaluations done by Mr. Baptiste and Ms. Vira Douangmany Cage, whch I have reviewed, appeared to have been transmitted into the public domain prior to finalization.”

But Douangmany Cage said that she could not release her evaluation since once she completed it online, it was only accessible to the chairpeople of the regional, Pelham and Union 26 committees, and likely Geryk.

“Obviously she was privy to them because she objected to them,” Douangmany Cage said.

Baptiste had the same issue with his evaluation. “I've never seen or know of it being released publicly,” Baptiste said."

WHO had access to these evaluations, and passed them on to the superintendent and atty Long BEFORE the evaluation process was finalized? That person should be sent a bill for $309k.

Anonymous said...

Folks, the US Supreme Court has spoken to defamation: Falwell. v. Flint.

Back in the '80's, Jerry Falwell, a Baptist Minister, was the head of the Moral Majority, an organization which advanced a socially conservative agenda which included opposition to both ETOH and per-marital sex.

I don't know if it's even still in publication, but Hustler was the more explicit/vulgar of the three "Men's Magazines" that combined photos of nude women with other things of a similarly prurient nature. Larry Flint was the publisher/owner of Hustler.

Hustler did a parody of a Campari Vodka ad which essentially stated that Falwell had lost his virginity with hid mother, in an outhouse while drunk -- and that he preached while intoxicated as well.

Well, that was protected speech...

Burning in effigy as a threat of violence? In what dimension of reality? (I haven't seen a Hogshead Barrel in 40 years, they've gone the way of wooden Lobster Crates.) And why is what one person says evaluated outside the context of what was said about him? Perhaps he was responding to visceral from Kurt and the rest of Maria's Minions...

Anonymous said...

Larry, please post just the "arbitration" portion of Maria's contract -- I remember it being a absolute mandate, not what the lawyer said.

Personally, given that letter and the demand to give it back, I would have publicly resigned -- and either explicitly stated why, violating all confidentiality, or (more likely) publicly called for a DESE takeover of the district and for the Inspector General to "read the document presented at that meeting."

Larry, the Town should sue that lawyer for incompetence.

And as to Vera, we wouldn;t know any of this but for her and Trevor.

Anonymous said...

"WHO had access to these evaluations, and passed them on to the superintendent and atty Long BEFORE the evaluation process was finalized?

The "owner" of the data had access to it -- Whoever was able to log into the Survey Monkey account -- which is one of many reasons wht SM ought not been used. OTOH, this login data is public record and I think SM is obligated to provide ti -- like any other public contractor whois the custodian of public records.

Any access would be either Appy, Kent. or someone given the password.

QUERY -- who set up the SM survey? (Hood?) That person would have access, too.


That person should be sent a bill for $309k.

Suing Survey Monkey would suffice -- I'll bet they log IP Addresses and wouldn't it be interesting to know what addresses accessed the data.

Anonymous said...

12:33 has neglected to take into account the long record of intimidation by the admin. of the few who tried to speak truth to power. This was not an isolated incident, but the last in a string of similar. 12:33 is viewing things through a lens that sees only one side of the matter, and from the perspective of someone who has not bothered to interview all involved, or to find out what's really gone on.

Nina Koch said...

6:38pm is not Ed. Ed doesn't know how to spell "loser." However, 7:43 pm, 8:15 pm and 8:36 pm are all from Ed.

I would like to apologize to you, 6:38 pm, if you believe I have said something demeaning. I am not sure what you are referring to, however. What did I say? Would calling someone a pathetic loser be an example of demeaning others?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:41...facts of the case aside...does everyone have to interview all involved before they have an opinion? Boy that's gonna make things tough...I gotta work you know!

Anonymous said...

9:18, perhaps it is impractical to interview all involved, but 8:41 is correct - the demand letter that was released today provides a very biased view of the proceedings, produced by the attorney representing Ms. Geryk, and does not account for the other side. For others here to insist that Ms Douangmany Cage and Mr Baptiste created this maelstrom for their own personal agenda strains the limits of credibility and fairness. This is their community, they live and work here, their children are in school here- they volunteer their time to support the schools, to make them stronger, and I cannot imagine that they would ever use their roles on the SC to intentionally inflict damage- I am certain that they were, in fact, attempting to repair damage, and that they were tremendously limited in recourse as a result of the policies and actions of Ms. Geryk (and her over-reliance on tone-deaf legal advice), her administrative allies (read: employees), and certain feckless members of the School Committee. I look forward to casting my vote for Vira tomorrow, as a matter of fact.

Anonymous said...

Ed doesn't know how to spell "loser."

Sure he does: "N-i-n-a"

Anonymous said...

One thing everyone is missing: The right to petition for redress of grievances is independent of the legitimacy of the grievances.

Anonymous said...

I heard kurt no longer has the boke place

Anonymous said...

Did someone suggest that this blog resulted in higher school costs and a reduction in the school's reputation....well worth it to have free speech....or more accurately put costly speech. Let's stop pretending that any of this will matter to the students or the comminity in the long run or that anyone with real life challenges would care.

Anonymous said...

If I am not mistaken, the evaluations and survey monkey were set up or handled by an assistant to the supt., so as far as I can gather the evaluations, even though they were the sc's responsibility (to evaluate their employee) were administered by the administration, and flowed back to an employee of the administration, so instead of staying within the possession of the sc, they went back first to an employee of the administration. If I am not mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Vira cost the district $309,000 because she cannot control herself. We should impeach her to leave the school committee and certainly not vote her into any other public office. If this is the kind of help she offers to schools, we can do without it. Maybe she should start paying the district back the $309,000 she cost us.

Anonymous said...

All these comments, all these opinions, didn't change a thing. She still got the money and the taxpayers got screwed again. Amherst school system will never change...

Anonymous said...

Maria Geryk's wingman, Kurt Geryk, has contributed to the chaos.
He is a frequent social media and blog poster, and has spent a great deal of time and energy "trash talking" particular members of the community.Remember the threatening Facebook message he sent to a Yankee Candle employee when she lightly criticized Maria?

Since we now know that Maria is reading the blogs and social media posts (per the demand letter), we can assume that Maria did nothing to censure Kurt.

I think the citizens have a legitimate counter claim against Kurt Geryk. $309K sounds about right.

Anonymous said...

The psychobabbling superintendent was grossly unqualified to serve, self-righteously destructive of the school system and motivated by the worst social justice impulses. It is ironic that her handling of the Hiza case, possibly the one single act that she performed correctly in her entire tenure, should be her downfall - and Amherst's great tragedy.

Anonymous said...

"Maria Geryk panicked after issuing a stay away order on March 17 to Aisha Hiza without due process, realized after the May 5th Pelham School Committee meeting that she would not get away with it..."

Larry, I read through all the documents and I don't see how you reach that conclusion. I do not see any statement from Geryk where she believes that the Hiza decision lacked due process. She makes clear that she is leaving because some members of the school committee tried to brand her as a racist, and other members did not denounce that, not that she thinks she made a mistake.

Anonymous said...

12:33 (aka New Guy/Gal on Message), if you haven't abandoned this project yet, I have to wonder why your comments don't include the disclaimer "this message paid for by the so-and-so competitor for State Representative campaign."

Vira has my vote as of 8:30 this morning when I left the polling station. You claim she's an ineffective fighter- I happen to disagree with you on that point. The fact is she's a proven fighter. She fights for the people in her community, and in particular those who might not otherwise have a voice. Vira is active, she's in the community, and she's chosen the path of integrity over easy popularity and meek acquiescence.

You say she and others created this controversy. She didn't create the controversy- it was already there- she merely placed it under a spotlight when so many others wanted to avert their eyes and pretend it away. Does that make you uncomfortable?

Over and over again I've seen in my professional life, and in the political arena, what happens when the leadership circle is populated with sonorous yes-men and yes-women, creating an incestuous echo chamber of expensive decline.

To her great credit, Vira stood up and challenged a broken leadership when few others had the chutzpah do it, and that's exactly the kind of leader I want to see representing this district.

Anonymous said...

9:22

I don't believe 12:33 was impugning Vira's bona fides as an activist, nor was anyone questioning the role of activism in the process.

The question here is whether Vira is/was effective. Activist or not, once she accepted her seat at the table of the school committee which brought with it a responsibility to act within the law and to honor the terms of Geryk's contract. She also, as a member of the school committee, had a fiduciary duty to the citizens of Amherst to behave responsibly in these roles.

While Vira may have succeeded, as an activist, in advocating for Hiza and running Geryk out of town, she did so at great cost to her fellow citizens. If Geryk's demand letter claims were specious, lacking in merit, ungrounded in fact, then Vira and Trevor should have welcomed the release of the demand letter. Instead neither of them supported its release.

You may argue that social activism, like civil disobedience, comes with costs. I agree. In this case, however, the cost was not born by Vira or Trevor, but by the taxpayers of the Amherst Regional School District, who are paying significant severance to Geryk.

Notice that in the separation agreement Geryk agrees not to sue Vira and Trevor personally. Yes, all other members were also indemnified from further legal action, but only Vira and Trevor were called out by name in the demand letter.

All of Vira's and Trevor's calls for transparency ring hollow when they themselves opposed the release of documents which reveal their hypocrisy and incompetence.

Anonymous said...

Let's not make "activist" some sort of lofty profession of the unselfish and public-minded. My experience with activists, at least the local ones here in Amherst is that they are generally and specifically in the case of these two being discussed, very self-centered, keen for the spotlight at all times and very proficient at being quick to call anything "racist" that they don't agree with. I don't think I could hold these activists in anything but contempt for their having chosen to ply their trade in a nice little town with a lot of very decent people who are usually trying to do the right thing. This is a nice town and it is not a racist town. But these "activists" have put us on the defense through their shameless public statements. And unfortunately, this nice town has given them a platform by electing them to an official office that they are clearly unqualified for and uninterested in. They are only interested in drawing attention to themselves. I would love to see these "activists" actually go out and make a living at a real job that requires a skill that doesn't involve crying "racist" and demanding apologies. Not gonna happen.

Rebecca Casa said...

@836 I asked this exact question in the last blog. Rick Hood was kind enough to answer. His response was it is perfectly legal and common practice for the SI to see her evals before presented and gone over at SC meetings.

Rebecca Casa said...

The reason they opposed the demand letter is,because it is, one sided amd speaks to incidents from the executuve session minutes that haven't been released Or aporoved. Emily M said to be careful on interpreting the demand letter because portions were taken out of context to prove a claim.

Anonymous said...

9:53: let's stop pinning the price tag on Douangmany Cage and Baptiste, shall we? I've yet to see anything compelling that shows Douangmany Cage acted outside the law or breached Geryk's contract. All I see are accusations, no substance.

In terms of fiduciary responsibility- Geryk's employment was costing this town plenty, any way you slice it. The unpopular so-called mega-school with the multi-million dollar price tag, for example. The Carolyn Gardner settlement. No, there are many other people on whom we can pin that price tag, beginning with Geryk herself, who worked the system from the inside out. Off the top of my head: how about the person who leaked the evaluations to Geryk, for instance? Or... let's see... Geryk's attorney Long (paid for by the town of Amherst?) who sent a slanderous and threatening letter to Baptiste on behalf of Geryk the employee? I wonder if Baptiste will decide to sue the town for defamation, or emotional distress, or racism. And if he wins, would you pin that price tag on him, too?

Anonymous said...

Rebecca, why haven't the Pelham executive minutes been released? Long past due...

Anonymous said...

So Rebecca let's oppose the demand letter because it's one sided and at the same time embrace Aisha's one-sided version of events! Ever hear of double standard?

Anonymous said...


9:22, 12:33 here.

9:53 is exactly right. I am not calling into question Vira's good faith or motivations. I don't know her at all, and I would prefer to take her at her word that she is fighting for those without a voice. The question is whether she is good at what she claims to be doing. When at the eleventh hour she appeals to the wrong commonwealth authority to block Geryk's payout -- instead of writing to the inspector general she wrote, mistakenly, to the attorney general -- do you really think she was doing a good job fighting for those without a voice? Or is this a very clear example of ineffectiveness, of someone who at the most basic level does not have a working knowledge of the system she proposes to enter? Skilled activists know how to use rules and laws in the same way that skilled carpenters know how to use tools. You would never hire a carpenter who, full of good intentions and good faith, nevertheless hung your front door at a ninety one degree angle because he doesn't know how to use a miter saw properly. So why would you vote for a representative who makes analogous mistakes in the area of social justice? I'm not uncomfortable in the least with anything Vira says. I'm dead serious about the need for social justice. I'm uncomfortable with people who are not effective advocates for social justice at a time when there clearly is a need for social justice. All supporters of Vira, in fact, should turn the question around on themselves. If we are dead serious about the need for racial justice in particular today, why on earth would you be so complacent about the unforced errors of someone who claims to be fighting for racial justice? Why would you not hold that person to the highest possible standard? Why is it that you are so easily satisfied -- why it is enough for you for someone to SAY she is fighting for racial justice, only then to ACT in such a consistently errant manner as to produce results for our district that COUNTERACT our ability to provide real educational equity? At a certain point, X is as X does, not as X says. If what X does is act in such a way as to expose our school district to $310K in payout, then you cannot convince me that X is good at what she does. This is not to cast aspersions on her motivation, her good faith, whatever. It is to say -- based on her record -- that she is not good at her job. "Bring it on" is something George W. Bush would say. And honestly people, a real social justice fighter would never split hairs or backtrack in the following manner:

"Douangmany Cage termed the ban a 'racist, unnecessary' act" (http://www.gazettenet.com/Regional-School-Committee-member-Vira-Douangmany-Cage-speaks-out-on-banning-mother-2316663)

"'I never called her a racist' Douangmany Cage said" (http://www.gazettenet.com/Controversy-over-Pelham-restraining-order-prompted-superintendent-Maria-Geryk-to-seek-separation-4590504)

That's the language of a flip-flopping politician, not the language of someone who has the courage of her convictions, who thinks before she speaks, who says what she means, and who then sticks to it. Someone who does racist things is a racist, and if you throw down with a charge like that you need to be able to defend it and defend it well -- not waffle on it when you are questioned about it.

It's precisely because we NEED good social fighters right now that, in my opinion, we very much do NOT need Vira representing us on Beacon Hill. We need someone stronger, more effective, more competent, more courageous, and with more knowledge of the actual rules and laws that govern us.



Anonymous said...

"It is ironic that her handling of the Hiza case, possibly the one single act that she performed correctly in her entire tenure, should be her downfall"

No. There are patterns of behavior, I'm not willing to believe that she was competent just this one time. It's too much of an outlier.

Besides, she didn't perform it competently.

Hiza's supporters had an absolute right to petition for a redress of grievances. She should have kept her mouth shut and let them speak.

Say there was someone who believed that the earth was flat and the Moon made of Blue Cheese -- and wanted the curriculum to reflect this. That person has every right to complain about how the Supt isn't teaching this. How many decades have those flk been protesting on the Common?

Letting people speak does not affirm their message, while attempting to stop them pretty much does.

HAD Geryk been in the right, she wouldn't have needed to worry about Hiza's friends saying things. QED, Geryk wasn't.

Larry Kelley said...

Good point.

The best way to get college kids to joke about Harambe is to tell them they can't joke about Harambe.

Anonymous said...


One can do racist things without being a racist. One can merely be incompetent.

"Douangmany Cage termed the ban a 'racist, unnecessary' act" (http://www.gazettenet.com/Regional-School-Committee-member-Vira-Douangmany-Cage-speaks-out-on-banning-mother-2316663)

"'I never called her a racist' Douangmany Cage said" (http://www.gazettenet.com/Controversy-over-Pelham-restraining-order-prompted-superintendent-Maria-Geryk-to-seek-separation-4590504)

Anonymous said...

I asked this exact question in the last blog. Rick Hood was kind enough to answer. His response was it is perfectly legal and common practice for the SI to see her evals before presented and gone over at SC meetings.

It's also illegal.

First, even under the veil of executive session,you cant have one member of the committee provided access to documents without every other member also provided access.

Second, and I think this is what the AGO will rule, once anyone other than the individual authors has access to the reviews, they are public documents open to all.

Third, in being able to read her reviews before the SC could, Geryk violated the ethics laws.

Anonymous said...


11:42, 12:33 here.

"One can do racist things without being a racist."

So, I get this idea, but honestly aren't you a bit tired of it? Aren't you a bit worried by what can be justified using this logic? Extend it just a bit further: Person A says the n-word, hangs a noose, burns a cross, shoots an innocent black man, whatever -- commits any act that seems on its face to be racist. But is Person A a racist? Of course not. As we all know, one can do racist things without being a racist.

It's the dominant common sense of our day: we live in a racist system in which, strangely, there are no racists. Everyone is responsible for racism and therefore no one is responsible. In fact, racism is like the weather: in the same way that rain does the raining whenever there is rain, racism itself is to blame for racism whenever there is racism. We are left with acts without actors, deeds without doers, crimes without criminals, music without musicians. Racism is like original sin: we all have it, we're all tainted by it, it can never be cured or fixed by any human act, and so the best we can do is confess it on a regular basis, preferably every week.

I'm tired of the complacency of this logic and I'm tired of everything it justifies. The confession of sin is not a politics. It is a theology masquerading as a politics. And most of all I'm tired of people who play with words when there in fact is a great need today to call things by their name and sound the alarm. If you're going to call an act racist, in my view you are just playing with words unless you are also prepared to call the actor racist. If your response to me is that we should hate the sin and not the sinner, then you simply confirm the point that this is a theology and not a politics. It has nothing at all to do with changing the actual lives -- the actual health and safety -- of actual people in this world. It's just about feeling an occasional sense of relief in one's soul.

So if this is all Vira is saying -- if her apparent contradiction can be explained away on the basis of the cliche that there is racism but no racists -- then I am really more impatient and more unsatisfied than ever. I ask again: is she serious or not? To me the answer is clear:

*Either* it is the case that Vira really and truly does think that it is possible for there to be racist acts for which no racist actors can or should be held accountable (or, in the concrete: she really and truly does think that Geryk committed a racist act and also, at the same time, really and truly thinks that Geryk is in no way a racist -- a proposition that I think would surprise many of her supporters);

*or* it is the case that she is here just splitting hairs, backtracking, waffling, flip-flopping, equivocating, and playing with words with respect to a question that any civic-minded person finds extremely anguishing, and that requires all of us to get serious with each other.

In neither case am I convinced that this kind of language is the language of someone who is up to the task of confronting racism in our community.

Anonymous said...

12:28, let's just drill down past the fluff by considering, for a moment, that Vira, when confronted with the very real threat of litigation based on claims of defamation from an administrator with immediate access to town-sponsored legal counsel, paired with a lack of support from the majority of her fellow (white) school committee members, decided that the wisest course of action was, in fact, to label the act, as opposed to the actor, as being racist. Seems to me that was a smart move. The kind of move I would expect from someone entrusted, say, with fiduciary responsibilities...

Anonymous said...

"The reason they opposed the demand letter is,because it is, one sided amd speaks to incidents from the executive session minutes that haven't been released Or approved. Emily M said to be careful on interpreting the demand letter because portions were taken out of context to prove a claim."

This is a major issue for several other reasons:

First, the document does not yet legally exist. Hence neither Geryk nor anyone else can legally use it for anything, it's an embargoed document.
She could use her own notes from the meeting, or could put everything into the text of her demand letter, but she can't reference a document that does not (legally) exist!

Second, Geryk can't claim that these minutes reflect the meeting -- ony approved & published minutes are that.

Third, this was a meeting of the PELHAM School Committee, which apparently met in executive session. Everyone else is a member of the public.
Hence in giving the document to the Amherst, Shutesbury & Leverett reps (i.e. the Districy & Union Committees), Geryk violated confidentiality -- this alone is grounds for her to be fired.

Fourth, her attorney should be disbarred for this, as should the school's for not objecting.

Fifth, the DRAFT version of the Pelham minutes is a public document NOW and Kent should have released it with the rest. The OML is clear, any document used becomes public.

Yes, Pelham should have released minutes within 30 days, but that is a moot point here -- The document is public because in the 2nd Exec Session -- the problem is that it was used.

There are other issues as well, but the bottom line is that a document which STILL does not officially exist was used to give Geryk $310,000 of public money.

Anonymous said...

12:47, I see your point, and in the abstract it is plausible. It's just that the portrait of Vira you paint here seems to me inconsistent with the portrait that emerges from the recently released minutes, in which it is clear that Vira wanted to play chicken with Geryk using taxpayer money. This is the Vira who said "bring it on," even though all the lawyers in the room were counseling that a lawsuit would be even more expensive, would cost all of us even more. Can you please help me understand how these two Viras square? Can you please help me understand how the Vira who said "bring it on" was carrying out her fiduciary responsibilities? And even if you are right, and Vira was shifting her claims of racism on the basis of political expediency (the balance of forces, as you rightly note, was aligned against her), what really does that say about her willingness to fight for what she believes? We should have the courage of our convictions, we should fight on principle, we should oppose any and all racism -- unless we begin to notice the winds shift against us, in which case we should shift our anti-racism as well? Really? I'm just not persuaded, not in the least, and I am genuinely worried about what will happen if she is elected today.

Anonymous said...

So, I get this idea, but honestly aren't you a bit tired of it? Aren't you a bit worried by what can be justified using this logic? Extend it just a bit further: Person A says the n-word, hangs a noose, burns a cross, shoots an innocent black man, whatever -- commits any act that seems on its face to be racist. But is Person A a racist? Of course not. As we all know, one can do racist things without being a racist.

"Can" is not absolute.

As to the above incident, would you have a different opinion if, hypothetically, this were a dispute over a woman? I'm thinking of a specific incident at UMass, one which a Black SGA leader described as "something stupid over a girl."

Well....

Anonymous said...

I still do not see where Vira' or Trevor' behavior ever came close to defamation.

The school superintendent's job for any sizable community like Amherst will always be a lightening rod for comments and criticisms. It's part of the job. You need to be tough, have a thick skin and real leadership skills. Didn't M.G. know this before taking the SI job? In looks like she was rushed into the position six years ago unprepared, supported by a bunch of bad actors on the School Committee wanting a compliant, easily controlled candidate. Why not let her prove her admin/leadership skills as a principal first, while getting the proper degrees and credentials?

That same group on the SC, led by Appy and Kent, 'encouraged' the $309k payout to get her out of the way. I can't believe they did not fight such a bogus defamation threat, based on the vaguest hand-waving 'comments made on social media'. With no specifics, no facebook or twitter screen shots. It looks like Columb's 'advice' to the SC was highly suspect. I like the part where he's questioned about his conflict of interest, says it's no problem and that's the end of it? Like Lance Armstrong said he never doped and we should just take his word for it? This is a failure of the School Committee, it's chairperson, and attorney, not Vira or Trevor.

And my goodness, what nonsense that the idiotic SI 'Survey Monkey' evaluations were administered by a staffer of M.G.? Really? Does anyone think this bizarro performance review process for the superintendent was a good idea? There's much talk about how inappropriate it was to criticize M.G. by anyone, at any time, on any level.

Sorry, I just can't buy it that the superintendent's position is above any public comment, scrutiny and accountability. That's just nuts.

Now Laura Kent and Katherine Appy want us to sign up for a $60 million 750 student mega school that nobody wants. Appy has been having private 'Wine with the architects' meetings with the celebrity architect (who's casino design firm stands to make millions from the project) at her home. Nothing to worry about here, just fork over your property taxes, the current Amherst School Committee has it all under control. We'll be paying the price for this boondoggle of a project for the next 30 years as the town's debt limits are 'overridden'. Hopefully the mega school will die with the override vote in November and we'll get a clean sweep of the SC this spring.

Anonymous said...

Anon 323
You clearly don't have a clue about what you are talking about. Surprise surprise.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's hard to believe there are so many wing nuts in Amherst. This blog seems to attract the wackiest people in town.

Larry Kelley said...

Said the Anon attracted to this blog.

Anonymous said...

Larry, where do these minutes show that Maria panicked after giving the stay-away order to Hiza? That's simply not in them.

Larry Kelley said...

I have other sources.

Anonymous said...

Your blog post implies that the release of the minutes is where that comes from. Since the point of your post is the release of the minutes, you should state that you believe this about Maria based on your sources.

Larry Kelley said...

I just did.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 3:23 is seeing things clearly. And it's also clear that there are several commenters here, one in particular, who have no sense of the ongoing, systematic intimidation by the administration of those who would speak out against it. My sense is that that commenter is more interested in the present election, and throwing the vote one way, than in the truth. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Vote conservative. Progressives voted for prohibition.

Anonymous said...

Free speech IS the right to say anything. You can say it. There may be cosequences...

Anonymous said...

Tune in again tomorrow for another exciting episode of "As The Skin Crawls."

Anonymous said...

Well, 12:33, you got your wish. A 22 year old white male Ivy League graduate with years of inexperience and privilege under his belt. Let's hope he can walk his talk.

Anonymous said...

"Well, 12:33, you got your wish. A 22 year old white male Ivy League graduate with years of inexperience and privilege under his belt. Let's hope he can walk his talk."

Howie Carr is going to have fun with this schmuck -- and as to the Umass Budget, the reps from Eastern Mass will as well.

He went to Brown, which isn't even in Massachusetts -- he's going to make a really good case for financing a flagship public campus 2+ hours from where everyone lives, particularly as he talks about carbon taxes.

But hey, like all White Leftists, it;s about how other people must be forced to live, not how he lives.

Donald Trump is going to change a lot of this bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for Solomon!

Anonymous said...


10:12, 12:33 here. I actually agree with your assessment and share your uneasiness. At no point in this campaign did I see Solomon say how exactly he is going to do all of the wonderful things he has said he is going to do. End climate change? As a state rep? Really? And is that even the right verb? Can you really end climate change? Or at this point can you really just slow it down, mitigate it, figure out sustainable ways to survive its worst effects, and otherwise prepare to live with a painful chronic condition? So no, I was not convinced in the least by him, I just saw him expend a lot of energy saying how energetic he is, but I guess that was enough. Seems like a nice person, but I think he will get chewed up, ignored, patted on the head like a puppy, and otherwise patronized on Beacon Hill. I ended up voting for Nakajima because I thought he was smart, experienced, tough, rooted, articulate, strategic, and would be able to throw elbows in negotiations without also permanently alienating people.

Anonymous said...

White and male? Ivy League? Oh, the horror. He should have been disqualified on these facts alone. Can Vira sue him?

Anonymous said...

One good thing about Solomon is he has a lot of years to gain seniority. Twenty years from now he'll be young and in a leadership position. Go get 'em Solomon!

Larry Kelley said...

Although he did say he was in favor of Term Limits of only six years.

Anonymous said...

There is no way Solomon will be in the legislature for 20 years. He'll be ready to move on after one term. He's very ambitious and sees this seat as a stepping stone to the next thing.

Larry Kelley said...

Well when he becomes President then he can really do something about climate change.

Anonymous said...

This blog is fun. Never solves anything. But still...

Anonymous said...

Leave the privileged, young, white, Ivy Leaguer alone. He won "fair and square." All registered voters had their chance to vote.

He was not my choice, but he is the Rep. Good for you, Solomon. Now, be honest and trustworthy and do your job as a REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PEOPLE! Young people can make this country a better place.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that there would be a solid Republican candidate for this seat has the UMass Republican Club not been shut down. Imagine how Amherst would have benefited from a debate between this candidate and a working-class socially-conservative TEA-Party candidate. A lot of people would have a very difficult decision to make -- a conservative Republican would win.

Anonymous said...

Ed, if you can't even get along with your fellow Republicans, you need to do some more reflecting.

Anonymous said...

Republicans are too busy working!

Anonymous said...

Rereading this older Mass Live article and the accompanying documents, I still can't believe how handily Geryk and Long took Amherst to the cleaners. This was clearly their end game months ago. The superintendent circumvented the school committee and instead had her attorney make statements to the press on her behalf. What a coward. When Long wrote that letter to the Gazette, undermining the RSC and escalating the public feud, fueling the fire, did Amherst foot the bill? When he labored over his defamatory, threatening letter to Dr. Baptiste, did he then send Amherst the bill? Long's letters did as much damage to Geryk's reputation as anything else I've seen. He shows that she was thin-skinned and incapable of handling conflict. He shows that she was willing to throw fuel on a fire and set the whole conflagration alight in public. He shows that she was actively undermining the leadership of her supervisory body. He shows that she was already considering litigation against the region, and was willing to make that threat public, and was setting the stage in public. Geryk is a bully of the greatest magnitude, and I cannot believe how complacent people are in this town. I don't know if the Baptiste family has the stomach for it after everything they've been dragged through, in service to this community, but I would love to see them sue the town. Geryk brought this down on herself through her own gross incompetence, and sadly, so many others are paying for it.

Take a long look at these documents, folks. See the top of the email from Dr. Baptiste? Atty Long sent that email to someone named Denise on his staff, and asked her to print it out. Yes, Attorney Long, on behalf of his client Maria Geryk, made those documents public. Not Trevor Baptiste. Not Vira Douangmany Cage. Maria Geryk. She created this mess and this awful dynamic, she paraded it around in public, and then she had the nerve to walk away and complain that her reputation was being destroyed in public, and she wanted $$$$$. Who destroyed her reputation in public?! She did it herself- the evidence is right there! http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/05/lawyer_for_amherst_superitende.html

Anonymous said...

The people of Amherst should be real proud of this bunch. Look at the amount of money they have taken from the kids of Amherst.

Katrina van Pelt said...

Thank you 9:41

Anonymous said...

Thank you 9:41. We're not all idiots. Democracy and our Constitutionally protected rights and liberties, USE THEM OR LOSE THEM! It ain't over till its over...fighting right down to the bleeding knuckle for our kids and schools. Trevor and Vira are our honorable knights of shining armor. Friends of color, please excuse the racist outbursts from Geryk, her attorneys, a majority of the SC and the Gazette editors. Thank you Larry K for maintaining your high standards of journalistic ethics and patriotism.

Anonymous said...

What Republicans are there for Ed not to get along with? I'm not saying that one should vote for a Republican, but when was the last time one had a chance of voting against one?

They are 15% of the State Senate, 16.6% of the State Reps, and completely irrelevant. Bill Weld is running for national office -- as a LIBERTARIAN and post-Mitt, the party can't even finf warm bodies to put onto the ballot.

In the past decade, the two major victories (Brown & Baker) were both against Martha Coakley, perhaps the absolute worst candidate that the MassDems could possibly muster.
Party registration has fallen from 15% a decade ago to 9% now -- at what point is it considered a "fringe" party?

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected, a socially-conservative TEA-Party candidate could win that seat, but such persons aren't Republicans.

It will be interesting to see what a Trump-led National GOP does to the mASSgop next year....

Anonymous said...

Connect the dots, the real reason the SC could not engage in the lawsuit is because the Geryk's legal team and that representing the schools are identical.

That is Geryk's political savvy and the real scandal.

Anonymous said...

Connect the dots, the real reason the SC could not engage in the lawsuit is because the Geryk's legal team and that representing the schools are identical.

That is Geryk's political savvy and the real scandal.

Anonymous said...

Ed, there is actually a UMass Republican club:

https://www.facebook.com/UMassCR

Alive and well.

Anonymous said...

If the 22 year old is reading this email...

Could you please pick up your yard signs? Note that all the other signs are gone.

Anonymous said...

anon@9:41 there seems a gap in your logic. How does Mr Long's request to print out his email equate with his being the source of the leak? I'm not saying one way or the other, but unless you have more information, I don't buy your conclusion. At the very least the overlap of legal representation from one firm is suspect and certainly not 'best practices'. I do hope that our SC quickly finds new legal representation. The current firm seems to have failed us miserably and at great cost (monetarily and reputationaly).

Anonymous said...

The email was obviously received, printed, and copied from his office, ergo the obvious conclusion is that he or an agent working at his behest leaked the email from Dr. Baptiste, as well as the answering correspondence.

Anonymous said...

Anon 841: LOL big time! Where is your sarcasm font? You can't really be serious. Your comment is straight out of The Onion!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Long is Ms. Geryk's attorney and he does NOT work for the same law firm that the SC's lawyer, Mr Coloumbe, works for.

Anonymous said...

ANON 941
The SC does not supervise the superintendent. They appoint the SI, they evaluate the SI, they set policy and they set the budget. Period.
The SC does NOT supervise the superintendent.

Anonymous said...

The SC does NOT supervise the superintendent.

And that is the problem.

That is why EdReform failed, and why more charter schools are our only hope.

Will the last person in the ARSD please remember to turn off the lights?

Anonymous said...

"there is actually a UMass Republican club:
https://www.facebook.com/UMassCR"


No, there is a "College Republican" franchise (note the "CR") which is not the same thing.

It'd be kinda like if Judie's Restaurant was shut down one spring, with a McDonald'd opening there in the fall. Yes, both are technically "restaurants", but in both cases the franchise is totally controlled by National, doing whatever National tells it to do.

Charlie Baker and the mASSgop are now very much at odds with National, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out at UMass.

Anonymous said...

Ummm, 4:42, "evaluation" is a form of "supervision."

Anonymous said...

aonon@4:02 (and 9:41) your conclusion doesn't whatsoever preclude the leak came from anyone else who received the email (including Trevor and anyone he shared it with). Huh? I've no idea who leaked it. Your conclusion is just one of many possibilities (supported by no verifiable facts).

Anonymous said...

Ummm. No its not.

Anonymous said...

4:42, yes, they do supervise the superintendent, although our former superintendent seems to have labored under the false assumption that the committee was there to serve at her pleasure and rubberstamp her every step. Here's a little primer:

"The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a school district is the school superintendent. The superintendent is essentially the face of the district. They are most responsible for the successes of a district and most assuredly responsible when there are failures. The role of a school superintendent is broad. It can be rewarding, but the decisions they make can also be especially difficult and taxing. It takes an exceptional person with a unique skill set to be an effective school superintendent.

Much of what a superintendent does involves working directly with others. School superintendents must be effective leaders who work well with other people and understand the value of building relationships. A superintendent must be adept at establishing working relationships with many interest groups inside the school and within the community itself to maximize their effectiveness. Building a strong rapport with the constituents in the district makes fulfilling the required roles of a school superintendent a little easier.

One of the primary duties of the board of education is to hire a superintendent for the district. Once the superintendent is in place, then the board of education and the superintendent should become partners. While the superintendent is the CEO of the district, the board of education provides oversight for the superintendent. The best school districts have boards of education and superintendents who work well together.

The superintendent is responsible for keeping the board informed of events and happenings in the district and also making recommendations about daily operations for the district. The board of education may ask for more information, but in most cases a good board will accept the superintendent’s recommendations. The board of education is also directly responsible for evaluating the superintendent and thus, can terminate the superintendent should they believe they are not doing their job."

citation: http://teaching.about.com/od/admin/a/Superintendent-Of-Schools.htm

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:15pm: No verifiable facts?! Give us a break! It is a FACT that the leaked email from Trevor Baptiste to Michael Long was sent FROM Long to his assistant Denise Kilrain with the directive "d- please print." Her name appears at the top of the leaked copy. You truly expect us to believe Long's office then forwarded Baptiste's own email back to him with the message "d- please print" and he then leaked that himself? Please. The FACT is that Long's office, as agents of Geryk, are not only greedy and slanderous, they are sloppy.

Rebecca Casa said...

I didnt say I oppsed the release. I said members of tbe sc didnt support the release. It is hard to accuse them of a double standard when they had no control over the aishas records, being released. Also it is very different in that everyone in Todd situation has viewed the documemts. In Aishas situation she hasn't seen what is written.

Rebecca Casa said...

100% AGREE.. Im afraid this decision will force them to be released even thou releasing the minutes will improve the chances of Aisha getting more money from the Pelham and possibly the district.

Anonymous said...

anon@11:37 it is clear from the letter to Baptiste and the demand letter to the SC, that Mr. Long is sloppy (to say the least, and unprofessional- the language WTF!). However, how do you suppose (in your scenario) this printed email ended up 'leaked'? Did this Denise (on her own, bizarrely) mailed it to someone? Or Mr. Long snail mailed it to someone? I'm just trying to understand this action you think happened. If you explain it more thoroughly, maybe it would make sense. Did wikileaks get a hold of it? huh?

Anonymous said...

I don't why the "how" matters as much as the "from whom" but it was probably scanned and sent as an attachment. It really doesn't matter, the point is the leak clearly originated from Long himself or someone else in his chain of communication, and it was obviously used as a attempt to silence, humiliate, and intimidate Dr. Baptiste as a way to get him either to fall in line, or back off, as well as to set the stage for Geryk's severance bid.