Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Story Of The Year

'Twas a story that played out over too many months, too many Regional School Committee executive sessions and a final payout of way too many tax dollars -- $309,000 -- before it came to an ignominious end.

The precipitous fall of School Superintendent Maria Geryk, the highest paid town employee, is a cautionary tale that serves to remind us of the old maxim about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

Mike Morris, Maria Geryk, Amherst School Committee at Town Meeting May, 2016

Sure, there were grumblings over her entire tenure about failed academic programs, a seemingly revolving door for school principals, the high average cost per student driving our taxes skyhigh  and the steady stream of students choosing charter schools over our hometown offerings.

But over the course of five years nothing seriously challenged her throne until Ms. Geryk made one fatal monumental error in judgment:  issuing a "stay away order" to a single mother simply trying to get the public school system do something about the somewhat racially charged bullying of her 7-year-old daughter.

A story I first broke on April 14th and published over a dozen follow ups over the next four months. 

But that first story was my highest read (20,000+) and most commented story (210) of the year and it set off a slow rumble leading to a major earthquake whose aftershocks will be felt for a very long time.

For instance the failure of the $67 million Mega School can be directly attributed to Maria Geryk's insistence on having it her way even though the vast majority of parents and teachers preferred a different academic model to solving the physical problems with Wildwood and Fort River Elementary schools.

And after almost four years of deliberations the attempt to e-x-p-a--n-d  regionalization from the current 7-12 system all the way down to K-6 went front burner to back burner to dead & buried as well as the idea of merging the Regional Middle School students into the Regional High School thus freeing up that building for other productive uses.

Now the schools are searching for a another Superintendent and a couple of Principals.  And of course I will get the blame for bringing down Maria Geryk and creating a "toxic" atmosphere that no sane bureaucrat will wish to endure even for the overly generous salary the position guarantees.

Eric Nakajima was appointed to Amherst School Committee by Select Board and School Committee vote

But the recent appointment of Eric Nakajima to the Amherst School Committee and his quick election as Chair of the Regional School Committee to replace Laura Kent, a rookie who couldn't handle the pressure,  offers the best hope we've seen in a l-o-n-g while.

2017 promises to be an interesting year -- hopefully not in the Chinese curse sort of way.


Anonymous said...

"even though the vast majority of parents and teachers preferred a different academic model"

Rated: Pants on fire.

Anonymous said...

"a rookie who couldn't handle the pressure"

Entirely unnecessary and mean-spirited.

Happy new year.

Anonymous said...

And yet, in spite of all of this, some folk still want to erect Maria's Penis.

Larry, you ought to have included the turmoil in the UM School of Education, although I'm not sure which side won in that one...

Anonymous said...

"some folk" - try more than half of all votes and the VAST MAJORITY of teachers, administrators, school committee members, and school parents in town. Majority of those opposed are not in those groups, including opposition "parents" who have kids in town that don't go to Amherst schools.

The next town meeting vote will move many previously abstained and no votes to Yes, only question is how many?

Anonymous said...

Ed, your vulgarity is uncalled for and inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

Larry is soooo mean! Did you see the acting super cancelled homework over school vacation after polling student "leaders"? Apparently the stress of homework affects their well-being! I hope they don't feel stress when they are working at Walmart or are homeless....

Anonymous said...

DEMOCRACY in action requires the alert and active participation of those governed by it's policies-to insure the community is SERVED not LED-by the nose as it were-by the anti-democratic forces is school system insiders-teachers illegally serving on the school board in direct violation of state conflict of interest laws designed to protect against such perverse corruption of the system-when Kippy Fonsh writes letters to the Gazette touting Maria Geryk long after the fall of this union booster cheerleader debacle-and these cliques test any with questions with such profound insulting insinuations and disdain-then we must all accept corruption to increase union wages hikes-has been a misguided myopia which failed even it's much touted battle cry-"This is for the kids@ Make it about kids-not disgusting personal financial spendthrift greed-as with the Ms Gardner and Maria Geryk settlement debacles-Amherst regional-these policies are NOT " Educated" but un- adulterated-corruption-we can all do-MUCH better !!!???&@)))

Tom Porter said...

Agree the Exit of Maria was a major story, Larry. What a long fuse on that one, from day 1:

...with the fix-is-in selection as Super, through the cascade of mistakes (Gardner, Akalis, Terrell, disparate impact), through persistent failure to put performance points on the board (student retention, cost/pupil, achievement gap), and all along, a moat of jargon surrounding a wall of opacity.

Maria ought to have been removed from her position after 18 months, but in its wisdom the town enabled and bought her act far too long.

The only thing I can see that she did right was follow policy in the Pelham case. Naturally, for that bit of levelheaded executive decision making, the social justice crowd pounced to eat its own, and accuse her (and the circular firing squad of the SC accusing each other) of racism.

Why are progressive communities such cesspits of irredeemable racism?

Good job breaking and keeping ahead of the story. And drawing out lively commentary on all sides as this unfolded!

Happy New Year - and be of good cheer!

Anonymous said...

YW .. for introducing the situation to you..&-THANK YOU for HAVING the GUTS TO HELP THE underdog by reporting what was,happening when no one else would touch this story.. Until after you did! I know you hate anonymous! In this situation I will stay an anon nit wit.. I wish the process had been less painful for everyone involved but Im so glad that some people's blinders were ripped off by this whole mess ! It was needed.. It will take all of us involved a long time to heal from this situation but not as long as this mom and her daughter!

Dr. Ed said...

"Majority of those opposed are not in those groups, including opposition "parents" who have kids in town that don't go to Amherst schools."

The parents of a school-aged child cease being "parents of a school aged child" when they (wisely) send the child to a different school?

What, then, are they? Martians?

This is both obtuse and offensive -- you are either saying that they don't exist or their children don't exist, and I don't know which is worse.

Reality check: they are parents, and they love their children -- they love them enough to (often) pay TWICE -- pay the property taxes to support your morass, and then pay (in both time & money) for the school their kid(s) is/are actually attending.

This is what did in the Antidisestablishmentarians -- the Baptists, Catholics (etc.) asked why they should have to pay for the Municipal church when they were already paying for the one they actually attended. I think these "non-parents" have an equally good argument, and it's why I support vouchers.

An even bigger reality check: VOTERS ARE TAXPAYERS!!!

When over half of the taxpayers don't have children in the schools, exactly why should they be willing to spend money on them? When you dismiss them out-of-hand, as you do, don't be surprised when they eventually turn on you.

So go erect Maria's edifice, with it's two, umm, whatevers, and live with the cluster-youknowwhat that will result from trying to get too many buses and cars into/out of a bottleneck, preferably without running over too many children.

Don't be surprised when you see those opposed to this MISTAKE then become opposed to future school budgets in general.

Dr. Ed said...

"The only thing I can see that she did right was follow policy in the Pelham case.'

WHAT policy?!?

They didn't even HAVE a policy, that was the problem...

Dr. Ed said...

Tom, the absolute first question that anyone (OCR, MCAD, AG, DOJ, etc.) would have asked is "and how many White parents have you banned?" (I'd ask it myself.)

Let us not forget that this happened in the midst of a national outcry about disproportionate suspension statistics, something that Little Miss Muffet (Geryk) spoke about so presumably knew about.

So she doesn't even have to know about "disparate impact", from the Ed Law class she'd have taken if she had earned the doctorate she promised to get.

So, you:

1: Have neither a policy nor a due process appeal process.
2: Have no objective criteria, nor citable facts.
3: The only person you've ever done it to is Black.
4: Seek to deny her friends (not even her) venue to redress grievances. (That's a Constitutional right, BTW...)

Tom, could YOU defend this with a straight face?
I couldn't -- and wouldn't try.

BTW, the facts are irrelevant -- Maria screwed this one up.

BTW, Hiza been offered a quiet settlement yet?

Anonymous said...

Still more liberal bullshit.
MORE liberal bullshit. Get a conservative in there.

Anonymous said...

We do not live in a democracy. (Or a mib-ocracy.). We live in a constitutional republic.

Anonymous said...

The whole community deserves a settlement FROM Maria Geryk and the union booster cabal for violating the community-conflict of interest laws barring all active teachers from corrupting the school board-and for destroying regional education-we are all owed a letter of apology - not some total perversion from Kippy Fonsh to the Gazette-what we got-offering excuses-just excuses-for such gross malfaence ?!$&@$$$

Anonymous said...

In a democracy, there would be votes on whether or not to keep the public school system.

Democrats may not like the outcome of that vote.

This is very far from a democracy, they do not exist.

Anonymous said...


Quit babbling and learn how to spell.

Anonymous said...

"Majority of those opposed are not in those groups, including opposition "parents" who have kids in town that don't go to Amherst schools."

It strikes me that these are the only truly objective people whose sole interest is what is best for the town.

Anonymous said...

are there any other elementary schools in MA organized like those in the Gerky plan: preK-1 and then g2-6? Any examples of dual elementary schools (co-located)?

Dr. Ed said...

A real question: What are the counts of children aged 0-5 living in Amherst?
And then what is the historical shrink rate between this and the number of children who actually enroll in Kindergarten? (Their parents graduate...)

From this, one can generate expected Kindergarten enrollment in Fall-17, Fall-18, Fall-19, & Fall-20.

As enrollment has been declining, if it continues to decline, you aren't going to need as big a school, are you?

Wouldn't that be something the taxpayers have a right to be told?

And Larry, for all you complain about North Village, most of the children there never make it into an Amherst school because their parents move -- don't let BOLD get away with inflating the numbers.

Dr. Ed said...

10:19 -- NYC has done co-locating for more than a century, but it also has a much greater population density than Amherst. My guess is that all of the children in both schools live close enough to walk.


Anonymous said...

You mean "mob-ocracy" of course. And yes, I'm glad we do not live in one.

Anonymous said...

Schools are called co-located in NYC because Public and Charter Schools share the same building (a bit different than what Amherst has planned) but it hasn't been a successful venture.

Anonymous said...

Once more with feeling: this is not a democracy (or 'mobocracy') but a constitutional republic. Do they not teach that in school?