Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Try Try Again

Select Board looking dejected on last night of Special Town Meeting

The illustrious Select Board all but announced a Special Town Meeting would be called in the near future to have a second go round at the $67 million Mega School project that could not even muster a majority vote in Town Meeting when a supermajority of two-thirds is the minimum threshold for passage.

At last night's meeting they set aside Wednesday morning December 28 for an additional SB meeting to address the 200 signature petition should one be handed in by then.  Hmm ... anyone want to take bets?

And yes the Town Clerk's office confirmed a petition form to call a Special Town Meeting was recently taken out.

The Select Board can, however, with a simple majority vote,  call such a meeting.   But since all the important articles they unanimously recommended at the recent Town Meeting session -- including the Mega School -- were badly defeated, they should probably rely on someone else taking responsibility for the revote.

Although if they wish to be particularly heavy handed they could call the Special Town Meeting for March 29 a day after the Town Election and a day before the MSBA deadline for getting the two-thirds approval, that way school supporters could run one-issue candidates in the town election to stack the deck in favor of the Mega School.


Anonymous said...

Not sure why the will of the people at town meeting holds no meaning for the select board. I refuse to vote for this or any other large project until the town considers seniors on fixed income and provides tax breaks for that group who's standard of living can be dramatically altered with large tax increases.

Anonymous said...

The select board only values their own pompous opinions. We need a mayor. The select board is so out of touch with reality, maybe they should find jobs at Hampshire College. Rant over!

Anonymous said...


"Peter Demling, of Atwater Circle, said having Town Meeting re-examine the proposal would be a good idea. Demling said there is new information that members didn’t have, including that the design can’t be changed, that there is no process for an accelerated submission to the MSBA and that the level of teacher support for the project is high."

None of that is/was "new information" so TM members were either ignorant or uninformed. Which is it?

Anonymous said...

If the majority turned away the new mega school as wasteful -why does a vocal minority get to toss the binding will of the people- what justification do a select board take for dismissing the people's voted will ?!! Seems pretty anti-thetical to democratic elections ??! Kinda like defacto voter fraud- uber arrogance !?$&@?!

Kevin said...

Why should a self-appointed minority -- like you, Larry, someone who got 111 votes in an uncontested election in which there were seven candidates for eight seats on town meeting (with the eighth person elected by 2 votes) -- get to 1) overturn the results of a fair and legal election, 2) throw away $37.4 million in state funding without the voters having a say, 3) bypass our elected School Committee, and 4) dictate educational policy for the next 50 years. In what system of government does a small, self-appointed group do that, overturn the results of an election and dictate policy over the elected officials. Millions of Americans have died to preserve the right of the people to determince their own destiny. And now you want to what? Shove a bill for $100 million, what this will cost when it's over, down out throat? To prove what?

Larry Kelley said...

To prove the powers that be who came up with the current $67 million Mega School concept could have done a better job.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone schedule a Town Meeting for December 28th when many people are out of town for Christmas break? This is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...


Ha! Nice... dude, I love the attitude, but I hear this from some (not all) No voters, and I need help understanding it: are you really, genuinely motivated by "sticking it to" the "powers that be"? E.g. Maria, Mike(?), SC(?), SB(?).

Larry, you've seen enough large initiatives like this in the town; you know how it works: no matter how many outreaches, input meetings, community forums, etc are done (and they did a lot), most people don't pay attention until the last minute; and in this case, a well-organized and well-funded SASS, representing a small but vocal faction, stuck it to BOLD et-all, who thought that common sense would carry the day. Teachers are now trying to show what their majority voice actually is; but obviously an uphill battle.

So what do you gain by empowering that tactic? What "lesson" is learned, and by whom? You know we still need the fire station and DPW building; you know FR & WW need replacement. That's a ton of future dough. Aren't we only "sticking it" to ourselves in the end as a result? In the political post-mortem, BOLD got their SASS kicked, no doubt; I just don't see why we have to let them kick the rest of us as well, in order to feel like we've proved some nebulous point. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, You are definitely not a We The People kind of guy. I think the point of democracy is to give ordinary citizens the power to make decisions over decisions that affect their lives. Our limited town meeting is closer to this than 5 select board members or a mayor, just as open town meeting is the closest. Maybe we should go back to open town meeting so the voices of ordinary citizens can be heard, the very voices you seem least interested in. You are incredulous that anyone would have an opinion other than your own, which is to obediently defer to the select board, the school committee or any entity other than town meeting. Is every decision by Congress or any federal agency or any board okay with you?

Anonymous said...

> None of that is/was "new information" so TM members were either ignorant or uninformed. Which is it?

Neither. Third option: Demling describes things as "new information" in order to justify a special Town Meeting.

Anonymous said...

>> so TM members were either ignorant or uninformed. Which is it?

I'd definitely go with (unfairly) uninformed. I think most No voters were reasonable, citing the ability to change the design (and keep the 34M) - or at least the ability to get "right back in" the process with a different design - along with perceived low teacher support (I think one teacher spoke that night, against it).

Problem is, none of that is true: MSBA has now confirmed that change to the design is not possible without losing the $; MSBA has also now confirmed that we don't get any special treatment, and we'd have to resubmit our interest in 2018, waiting an unknown number of years to re-start; and the teacher support was (and is) overwhelmingly positive.

It's definitely sour-grapes for Yes voters to whine about something like the 2/3rds rule: that's the rule, accept it. But to reconsider a major article, after new information comes to light that counters the unchallenged misinformation put forth that night: that's also well within the rules, and equally legit.

Anonymous said...

+1 to anon 4:01

Anonymous said...

The community is divided over this issue, I don't believe there is any new information which will change my mind that smaller K-6 schools are more desirable. The idea of the mega school being more equitable doesn't stand up too. Has the school committee ever met with parents from South Amherst who would be most impacted by the change? Is it not important to ask the lower income parents, and people of color in South Amherst what is equitable from their point of view?

Brett said...

"Our limited town meeting is closer to this than 5 select board members or a mayor, just as open town meeting is the closest. "

Not sure the numbers back that up -- two precincts stood out to me:

Precinct #3 - Town-wide
Yes - 398
No - 638

#3 - Town Meeting
Yes - 11
No - 10

#10 - Town-wide
Yes - 696
No - 616

#103 - Town Meeting
Yes - 2
No - 21

Anonymous said...

Umm. There is no meeting scheduled for 12.28.

Larry Kelley said...

SB Meeting.

Anonymous said...

Some Pigs Are More Equal Than Others..George Orwell- " Animal Farm" I guess a union-booster spendthrift tax and spend without representation "Uber Gifted Rich White Wunderkinden" must be worth-throwing democracy in the trash can-that you-Kevin ???!! (Not everybody spends all day in hipster internet cafes..with this kinda "blowhard"..some people-want to AFFORD TO LIVE !!

Anonymous said...

The administration did talk to the parents in South Anherst and they do want the new Co located schools.

Anonymous said...

Did they just talk or did they listen? I don't believe they want to go all the way to Wildwood, when Crocker is just fine

Anonymous said...

The problem is that they don't go to Crocker. They go to wildwood now.

Anonymous said...

>>Has the school committee ever met with parents from South Amherst who would be most impacted by the change? Is it not important to ask the lower income parents, and people of color in South Amherst what is equitable from their point of view?

You ask an excellent question, and deserve a full answer. Direct meetings in the neighborhoods (South Pt, Boulders) were held by the schools, and parent attendees wanted 2-6. I offer for your consideration that 2-6 is more equitable than K-6, twinned or otherwise (another point misrepresented by SASS). The reasoning goes like this:

No one thinks it would be fair to have wildly different class sizes in the 3 schools, so what do you do? Re-draw lines of who goes where, as often as reasonable (given the transition cost): "redistricting". Last time was when MM closed: we took kids nearest to CF, and bussed them to FR/WW. Well now it's 2016 and CF is over-crowded again, so what do we do? If we fail this vote, then it's more redistricting, more bussing kids away from their "local school".

But that's just the beginning. Families living closest to CF are disproportionately poor and minority compared to the rest of the town; and nobody thinks it's cool to have one school with a very large pct of poor and minority kids, while the other two have a very low pct. Not fair to them, and not fair to the other kids (kids should know all types of kids). So what do you do? More bussing of kids away from their "local school", to achieve some kind of balance.

And finally, what about our neediest kids? The ones with major special needs (like Downs, severe autism, CI, etc), who require specialized teachers, expensive resources and appropriate spaces. Refuse to service them, and pay to ship them out of town? Heck no: this is Amherst! That would be grossly unjust. So we take care of them in-house; but it's not financially or physically practical to replicate specialized services across all 3 schools. So what do you do? More bussing away from their "local school", to central services in one place (WW). And not only do families get broken up this way, but the kids with the special needs are isolated from their local peer groups, and the CF and FR kids never get to interact with these kids: it's a lose-lose.

Now this all might sound harsh, because many kids do go to their "local school" (CF, FR or WW), and have a good experience. So why slam these great places? The reason is that it's not a slam: it's pointing out the imperfection, trying to make things better for *all*. The reality is that the kids in the above subgroups don't enjoy the privilege of a "local school" - for them, it's a myth. This is why "save local schools" really means "save local schools, except for the kids who can't go there", and so is the less equitable solution than one 2-6 school, which in one stroke solves all of the above problems.

Bottom line, I don't think SASS is heartless in this respect; but they're ignoring this current reality, and misrepresenting the facts on it because it suits their limited purpose. And IMO, TM voters deserve better.

Anonymous said...

I think the current reality is that kids and parents don't like bussing. Bussing in the name of equity is still bussing. Why burden the low income kids and people of color from South Amherst? Equity in quality, services, and experience can be achieved without bussing.

Anonymous said...

No equity cannot be achieved in quality services and experiences. Read Anon 6:27.....Crocker would have many more kids of color and low income kids and one school still has to house all the intense special needs kids. So the reason many of us send our kids to theses schools (diversity) would be eliminated. If I wanted to send my kid to mostly white, mostly wealthy school I would move someplace with cheaper taxes. But you'd be turning Fort River into that school overnight; ironically in the name of equity?!

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is townwide referendum can reverse any "yes" vote of town meeting.

Hence even if TM passes this at the last minute, it won't count because it still can be repealed.

Anonymous said...

Really, why should we trust this School Committee at all?

This is the same School Committee that just paid out 306k to their special friend, former superintendent Maria Geryk. I imagine they're working on a special payout for Mike Morris now.

This is the same School Committee where most of it's members are also deep into the pro-development 'booster' cult called Amherst for All.

Have you counted the buses this plan would need? It would be a transportation and busing nightmare and they know it. 700-to-800 kids stuck in one building with not enough play space. I guess they'll keep them inside staring at screens, wonderful.

Anonymous said...

"December 6, 2016 at 6:27 PM"
Why didn't we get this information at Town Meeting? I never really understood for what concept "equity" was a code word. I guessed but didn't have as much information as you are including in your comments. I am a senior citizen willing to increase my taxes so that Amherst schools might try to live up to their glorious reputation, warranted or not. And my experience is that Amherst Schools have been over-hyped for more than forty years.

Anonymous said...

6:27 PM:

You're saying that because some kids must suffer extended bus rides (not sure if that's really true, but for the sake of this argument let's go with that for a moment), we're going to make all kids in Amherst suffer extended bus rides. That's just a strange and harsh way to achieve equity, let's make everyone suffer equally.

It's a punitive vision for education in Amherst, what parent would want that for their child? Send your kid into a system designed to achieve 'equal suffering' rather than equal excellence.

And that's the reason we're going to dump our 3 current local schools and build this $67 million 'co-located' 750 student consolidated building with a tiny playground? The most public elementary expensive school in the history of Massachusetts btw.

And how much of that $67 million is going to the Early childhood center a Crocker? Not one dollar. Has the funding been identified to build this Early childhood, universal and free Pre-k center? That's a big promise with zero real world delivery.

More than a bit of a bait and switch here.

Anonymous said...

Anyone besides me think $34,000,000.00 is a lot of money? Especially if it is spent on a white elephant? $67,000,000.00?

I'm tired of constantly hearing about the "needy" requiring all their problems met by the taxpayers of the town.

I'm sick of "do-gooders" always "threatening" the kids and their education with 1/2 truths.

I do not like re-votes on anything that does not please the "squeaky wheels", with nothing to do but protest when they do not get their way.

I am PROUD to be American. I believe in the American Dream. And, I pay taxes in this town Lots of them!

I do not feel like moving. I probably was here before you. (if you are someone who is not liking what I have to say, or believes in all this crazy spending.)

Use the present library, DPW building and schools. They are certainly a lot better than many in the world where people seem to be doing just fine.

Anonymous said...

If you have not read 'Animal Farm' or '1984' since high school, it is time to re-read them. Shocking!

Anonymous said...

Remember that most Amherst teachers do not live in Amherst and do not pay taxes here. Would they be willing to take a substantial pay cut to have a shiny new school? Or perhaps a large reduction in benefits? I'll bet NOT. Yet, many may want a NEW place to work.
So it goes with many of the apartment dwellers in South Amherst crying equity issues. Many do not pay property taxes either. Many do not even work! They just collect taxpayers money. Of course they want to demand something big and expensive.

Anonymous said...

"I am PROUD to be American. I believe in the American Dream. And, I pay taxes in this town Lots of them!"

Not sure what proud to be American has to do with funding for a new school, but I do know that the incoming President of the United States of America has not paid taxes in more than 20 years, and that he thinks anyone who does pay taxes is stupid. I intend to stop paying taxes as soon as possible. I'm doing the trump when it comes to taxes.

Oh, and by the way, I'm damn proud to be an American. And the thing I like best about this country is that it grants us freedom to speak our minds, regardless of what you, madam, are tired of hearing. If you don't like the fact that other people can speak their minds, then you should definitely leave America and find a country that doesn't allow people to speak.

See the veterans of our wars didn't defend the flag, they defended the principles, the ideas of our country, most of which absolutely guarantee the freedom to speak.

Anonymous said...

Touted as two co-located schools- When a fire drill or evacuation occurs - It is one mega school

Anonymous said...

We should be looking for new solutions on fixing the schools, not revisiting the old divisive mega school. What a waste of time and energy

Anonymous said...

I agree- Lots of time and energy wasted in planning an expensive undesired new school and
force feeding it to us isn't the means to healthier schools for "the children"