Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Just Say No

Town Meeting members had to negotiate a gauntlet of No supporters to get to auditorium
After two hours and twenty minutes of discussion Town Meeting voted no

In spite of narrow (50.8%) ballot support last week, 100% Select Board support, and a rah rah Daily Hampshire Gazette editorial, Amherst Town Meeting rejected the $66.4 million new Mega School by almost the same margin it passed on November 8.

The measure required a two thirds vote to pass since it involved borrowing but did not even muster a majority, losing 106 to 108 or 49.53% yes to 50.47% no.

The fatal flaw was not so much in the bricks and mortar construction -- the idea of twin schools under one roof -- but in the paradigm shift it would bring to neighborhood schools turning Crocker Farm into an "early childhood center" (Kindergarten and 1st grade) and building a Mega School for co-located 2-6 grades.

After the fall of former Superintendent Maria Geryk (who landed on a $300,000 cushion) the Select Board should have delayed both the ballot vote and Town Meeting article.

They have until February 2 so there's plenty of time to call another Special Town Meeting to try again, but with the stunning setback last night it's highly unlikely it would prevail.  

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

You got your wish Larry--
A Town Meeting vote that almost exactly paralleled the town-wide vote. (50/50)

Anonymous said...

Anyone who was opposed to it, should go to school for a week or so in Wildwood or Ft River. See what it's like to be the 2nd grader that has to cross two upper class quad classrooms to use the bathroom that's located in the 6th grade quad. Oh, and try to hear what the teacher is saying over the quad noise. And, maybe, you'll be the lucky student who gets the quad class with no windows, or the one that faces the brick wall. Nice job town meeting.

Anonymous said...

The mega-school was out of touch with the need of the Amherst community.

Anonymous said...

hey, anon@8:20::: don't blame the 'no' voters for not supporting a reconfiguration that was not supported by parents and teachers. There were lots of other options (some not even explored) but Ms Geryk and her team, steamed ahead regardless and set their course against the wishes of the community. I would have supported an override to support k-6 schools, as I'm sure lots of other TM members. On balance the need for a new physical building did not over-ride the value of k-6 schools for our kids and our community. Maybe the next school administrators will actually listen to the community (imagine that!).

Dr. Ed said...

"See what it's like to be the 2nd grader that has to cross two upper class quad classrooms to use the bathroom that's located in the 6th grade quad. Oh, and try to hear what the teacher is saying over the quad noise. And, maybe, you'll be the lucky student who gets the quad class with no windows, or the one that faces the brick wall."

The progressive educators of the 1970s advocated open classrooms much as they advocate "co-located" schools today. An equally stupid idea.

Amherst dodged a bullet.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8.20, no one who voted No thinks the quads are an acceptable setup. They voted No because of grade reconfiguration. There is no need for it to be attached to fixing or rebuilding the schools. It creates more problems that it solves.
The quads have to go, but eliminating K-6 education in Amherst doesn't have to be part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

Can't say I'm disappointed in the town meeting vote. I also found the other article in he gazette interesting that the select board is considering a raise in the tax rate. I wish the select board would consider options for reduced taxes on non working seniors on fixed income. Even minor tax increases can have a impacting result on seniors.

Anonymous said...

Way to blow $35M!

Anonymous said...

Makes sense.

The ROI for the community was dismal.

3 cheers for the right to spend your own money.

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes to lose.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:36....that's the problem...everyone thinks state or federal money is FREE....got to get our share even if it's for stupid projects like rotaries....

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think that Town Boards, Library Trustees, Select Board et al. learned anything from last night's three-hour discussion? Perhaps that they have truncated the Public Process? I doubt it. Let's see whether the Library Trustees will change their policy of silencing the public during public comment time.
I think we are just seeing the beginning of the divisions on this warrant.

Anonymous said...

1 down, 3 to go (fire station, dpw, library)

Anonymous said...

Gold-plated DPW? You've got to be kidding. There's no need for a new DPW.

Anonymous said...


I am a resident and was at the back room to see how this vote would unfold and am glad the NO side prevailed. I’ve witness many inane dialogues at town meeting, but the NO opposition in this case was right on the money.

The problem from the get-go on the school building issue was the early and complete shutting down of any feedback from those outside the school superintendent’s office, the school committee and the school building committee. It was like those three entities were in their own echo-chamber of self-supported views with ZERO input from parents and teachers. They decided to push ahead with little or no community support.

And then came the spin and the lies: I was told this plan would be for two separate schools on the Wildwood site. Yet when I reviewed the site plan it was clearly one large connected building. Every time Mike Morris said it’s two separate ‘co-located’ school his creditably went down. The moderator kept dragging him back to the podium. At the end of the evening Morris’s creditably was driving on fumes. I thought Morris could make a good superintendent, but he’s too drunk on the Appy’ cool-aid.

I was told this plan would create a universal pre-k at Crocker, but as I looked into where the $67 million would be spent, not ONE cent was for the pre- school center. Why not be honest and say while the money for this plan is only for the new building, it opens up the -possibility- of using the now empty Crocker Farm school as a pre-k center (for which funding will need to be found). Irv Rhodes lost major creditably on this point by suggesting that the vote would create universal pre-k. Give me a break!

The other prime selling point was fear of losing the MSBA money, and how beautiful the new building would be, never how this consolidated school building was in the best educational interests of the kids in Amherst.

We're over-do for a real/permanent superintendent and new school committee that can break out of the echo chamber and be truly responsive to the public educational challenges we face.

Anonymous said...

One of the speakers at Town Meeting against the school building project was a second grade teacher at Wildwood. She was quite persuasive in describing the issues with the proposed split between elementary schools with K-1st gr at Crocker Farm, & 2nd-6th grade at the new school building, and in describing the issues with using the Wildwood site for two schools, including the limited play space except for down the hill on the ARMS fields.

Anonymous said...

New school/DPW/fire station/library expansion, what's that come out to, about $100 million or so? That might actually be enough to cover the unfunded pension/health liabilities that Amherst has!

Dr. Ed said...

"Anon 9:36....that's the problem...everyone thinks state or federal money is FREE....got to get our share even if it's for stupid projects like rotaries...."

It's more than that, the local share definitely is NOT free money. And you have to live with the consequences of what you build -- for 50 years or more. (Hadley's Hooker school, closed in 1996, is named after Civil War General Hooker....)

These trendy bifurcated "co-located" megaskools are the new asinine idea and I'm already seeing research critical of them -- but the communities are stuck with them. Just like a lot of communities got stuck with open classroom schools....

Anonymous said...

Funny Thing - The Sunday New York Times last month features that " Mid-Century Modern Brutalist garage factory floor type educational facilities are all the by far rage right now and the overwhelming vast majority of all today's educational construction facilities-what's old-is the new " Hipster vogue" right now- Appys cabal-is trying to just soak you-to the cleaners-Go Figure !!!!$&@??

Anonymous said...

Larry thank you for covering this. This CAN hopes you support and report Vince's article to kill the new DPW building. $350,000 for a study? Not on my dime. Go Vince! (Never thought I'd hear myself say that).

Anonymous said...

according the the mcas doe site, CF preschool had 64 kids last year. According to the CF website about the preschool, there are 85 seats. Last year it appears that 21 seats were unfilled. Why does Ms Appy use the expansion of the PS (adding more seats) as rationale for the project? How many of the 64 kids were targeted populations (those with need)? Why is Pelham included in the Amherst preschool program? How many Pelham kids are in the program? I suspect Ms Appy was tugging at our heart strings...

Anonymous said...

Killing the misguided library expansion should be next. How about using the existing space much better?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many of these Town Meeting Members who thought that the schools at Wildwood and Fort River were perfectly fine for our children to spend 8 hours in every day, 180 days a year, for six years of their lives in... breathing in whatever mold and other awful things are in the air because of poor construction, drinking water that seems to be laced with lead and where the walls offer no privacy for thoughtful learning or reflection.... with poor heating in the winter and a leaky roof during rains... I wonder how many of those town meeting members would move their children into a house with those same problems? How many of those town meeting members would just say "Okay, that's good enough for my children to live in... if they get sick, they get sick. If they can't have a moment's peace and quiet because of noise and distractions and that affects their learning, that's okay.... and if they're cold and wet because of poor construction, sure, that's not gonna kill them. Yes, I will still move my family into that house."

You know how many of those town meeting members who voted against the new safer, more healthy school would move their own families into a house with those same problems as Wildwood and Fort River... I'm guessing ALL of them. Because they clearly don't give a damn about taking good care of children.

Hey, town meeting members who voted against the new school... I feel sorry for whatever families you are the head of and I hope that someone out there is taking good care of your children because you certainly are not.

Anonymous said...

My kids went to Wildwood and loved the open layout and interaction between grades (reading buddies, etc.). And they have gone on to be gainfully employed, college graduates.

Fix the systems, keep the buildings.

Anonymous said...

Actually, 3:54 I think a lot of town meeting members sent their kids to those 2 dreadful schools: Wildwood and Fort River. Thousands of students went there.

I wonder if the district leaders will reflect on how they spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars and came up with this proposal that almost half the voters rejected and more than half town meeting rejected. Our school leaders fell short.

Anonymous said...

to 4:29 from 3:54

No, the only ones who came up short are the kids. And there is no excuse for the indifference and bad faith of the people who opposed this school project. I'd have more respect if they'd just say their REAL reason for opposing it: they didn't want to pay for it in their property taxes, that they think more of their money than they do of the town's childen. No, on second thought, I'd have the same amount of respect for them that I have right now. Just cheapness all around... cheapness of money and even worse, a cheapness of heart. There is no solution for that. Shame on all of you.

Larry Kelley said...

And you are?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Larry, is "anonymous" only for people who agree with you? Feel free to make that a condition of your blog, though. I will respect it. It's your blog and I am a guest here. If you would prefer, I will leave. Again, it is your blog and I will abide by your rules.

Larry Kelley said...

My rule is if your are particularly abrasive (as you were) I would be more impressed if you signed your name.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Town Meeting members. You have done a great service to the children of Amherst. They are mostly too young right now to realize the positive impact you have made on their lives. This school would have been proven to be a disaster.

Parents and community members expressed grave concerns when Wildwood and Fort River were originally constructed. Their concerns were valid, but the two schools were built. We now see the results.

Eventually, and hopefully with good thought and planning, and fiscal responsibility, these buildings will be reconstructed or replaced. We are not there yet and the sky is not falling! All this nonsense about how "unfair" everything seems to be in Amherst, is just more B.S.

We better be aware of where the town will be financially over the next few years before more dollars are hastily and foolishly spent. I would suggest no library expansion, no DPW garage, no silly intersections. All these things require money from the taxpayers, who are already stretched far more than taxpayers in most other Massachusetts communities. Enough is enough. Better choices in spending our money are a much safer and acceptable way to go.

Thank you, Town Meeting!

Anonymous said...

The Administration was wrong to hand pick the building committee and not listen to teachers, parents and community members.

We don't need award winning architects and a grandiose wish list to secure healthy school buildings for our children.



Laura Quilter said...

On the taxes -- I am happy to pay taxes for good projects. It was the project that I objected to. That was my "REAL reason" for objecting to this plan, and I and many others made that pretty plain, starting with last September, when we learned of the consolidation plan and began voicing concerns about it.

Walter Graff said...

You can focus on buying new expensive hammers but in the end, it's always qualified carpenters that build a house, not hammers. I'm glad to see Amherst isn't wasting money where it's not needed.

There are plenty of less expensive ways to tweak the schools. How about focusing on education first. Stop wasting time on everything but what is good for these children now. My kids went to Fort River for a time and none had any issues with the school, the layout, or anything else. The only thing they liked talking about was how great their teachers were. I was at the school often and all I saw was great teaching, students interested in learning, and little to nothing of the issues people like to fantasize about.

The town has it's finger up its ass when it comes to hiring anyone administrative (eg a superintendent, picks for Fort River Principal, etc). If more people got involved and stopped letting the lunatics run the asylum, Amherst could show far better results in the state, as it should for the amount per pupil that it pays to educate. The fact that so many ran from the school for Charter Schools speaks volumes to Amhersts issues when it comes to education.

Anonymous said...

We're supposed to impress you?

Anonymous said...

Anon @322 Pelham has its own preschool and is considered,part of the district that may be why. IDK I have yet to see what part of the,situation you ate referring to . Pelham preschool is full and,has, a waiting list. The problem I have it appears Pelham residence doesn't get you a priority seat. I know of children in pelham who had to go somewhere else while belchertown, amherst and so hadley children got spots first. Maybe,some of the pelham school kids went to crocker. I feel the grade reconfiguration was the big fail in this iniative. I think the schools should wait until we have a super. I also was hoping Morris was his own person but between the appy Kool aid and Marias secretly advising him accepting the interim job longer than he,said he would at SC because it " would be,bad for schools aND delay the hiring of a SI" His words... it would also make it impossible forc him to do both positions. Mike I like you but you need distance,yourself to be seen as a,viable replacement. Acting starus quo with the terminal is,going to find you back in your old job. I was hoping you cared enough abt the families and in this town too see that plan was,the wrong one.

Anonymous said...

Appy brought up Pelham students when mentioning the expanded preK at Crocker Farm? Really? Don't Pelham now have its own preK program?

Anonymous said...

Yes, 5:46, you are.

Anonymous said...

anon@11:43 You are mistaken. Pelham elementary is its own district (who shares our SI and admin, at a small cost through Union 26 (?#)). But students in Amherst and Pelham elementary schools do not share any resources and budgets are completely separate (or are supposed to be w the exception of the small cost share paid by Pelham for the SI and central office). Amherst students 'choice' into Pelham and visa versa, just like 'choicing' into any other school outside their district. That should also apply to the Preschool that is supported in the Amherst elementary school budget.

Anonymous said...

anon@11:43 you do bring up a point if your info is accurate- why are kids from Hadley and Belchertown in our preschool? Why would we need to expand our preschool if we already can't fill the seats with Amherst kids w needs? Something is not right here. What is really needed is expanded hours, that will bring in kids from family with needs. Ever talked about? I haven't heard Ms Appy discuss that...

Anonymous said...

anon@ 11:43: "The Amherst Early Education Center only accepts children whose families are residents of Amherst or Pelham" from the posted info at CF website---
http://cf.arps.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_927419/File/PreK/Application%20Letter%20Revised%20Feb%202015.pdf

Anonymous said...

All those complaining, it was just too much money. Steel buildings with insulation on a slab and you have a public building, cheap, big ready to go.

Add some walls, teachers and desks and it is a school.

Add garage doors, a mechanic, a plow and you have a dpw.

Add shelves, books and tables and it is a library.

Make a very big building and do all three. Build it for a couple million and move on. The rest of this is just a proposal for special interest theft, in fact even my steel building is.

Anonymous said...

The preschool program housed at Crocker Farm is an inclusion preschool program- it would be open to students with special needs first (including Pelham) and then tuitioned peers from Amherst. The Pelham preschool program is not an inclusion program so choice students who pay tuition may be the majority of students here.

Anonymous said...

This whole measure would have passed if they hadn't moved for the grade configuration and had a traffic plan in place. The former's admin attitude with not listening to parents and teachers has left us all with a very sour taste.

Anonymous said...

anon@10:38 how does the Town of Pelham pay into the Amherst Elementary school budget for the cost of those Pelham kids with special needs? Is there a formula somewhere? How was this agreement reached? You seem knowledgeable.

Anonymous said...

I have heard from reliable sources that the Preshool is having trouble filling it's non-special needs slots...

Anonymous said...

I have heard similarly (and the mcas DOE site confirms) that seats are not full in the preschool. Suggests that Ms Appy was just pandering to the kind hearted at TM. I don't believe a single word out of that woman's mouth...the end justifies the means (it seems)

Anonymous said...

I hope Jan gets here soon. Isn't Ma Appy's term done,in January 2017? I hope she just moves on everyone else that follows her is,just a brain washed puppet. Appy's professional skills were put to good use in brain washing some of the SC members ! If she leaves the poison leaves with her giving us a true real new start maybe our SC will become more successful at accomplishing things instead of acting like the congress of our country drawn on party lines.

Dr. Ed said...

"I have heard from reliable sources that the Preshool is having trouble filling it's non-special needs slots..."

As non-special needs children (by definition) have very different developmental needs, particularly at this age, I can't imagine why.....

"Suggests that Ms Appy was just pandering to the kind hearted at TM. I don't believe a single word out of that woman's mouth...the end justifies the means (it seems)"

The woman is a Practicing Psychologist which means she's both allowed to lie and to prevent access to facts that would contradict her lies. Society licenses her to deceive us "for our own good."