Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fork In The Road

Vote was 123 yes, 92 no, 9 abstain (224 present)

Yogi Berra had the right idea although he could have been a tad more specific about which path to choose.  Perhaps he was suggesting how important experience and instinct are when making decisions, like that famous Supreme Court justice line about knowing porn when he sees it.

For Amherst Town Meeting last night the same path was chosen for a second time even though sternly forewarned it's a dangerous road.

In spite of unanimous approval of the Select Board, School Committee, Finance Committee (with one abstention) and a slew of vocal supporters the $67.2 million Mega School project failed to garner the two thirds votes necessary to pass a bond issue.

 Supporters rally at entry to Middle School last night

Perhaps the most devastating testimony came from member Russ Vernon Jones a retired long time Principal of Fort River School, which these days some folks try to portray as health hazard:

"The education plan (2-6) does not match what works best.  Grade configuration is BIG mistake.  Neighborhood schools build community.  This will dismantle K-6 for many years to come.  Of course teachers want a new school!  But previously they opposed it when other opportunities were available." 
And Maria Kopicki was her usual professorially articulate self, presenting persuasive statistics showing the wait for state funds on a new plan is not necessarily a generation away.

But the sooner Mega School supporters accept defeat and withdraw this project from the MSBA pipeline the sooner we can get started on a new and improved project that will attract widespread support.

A much needed step to make Amherst great again.

 Focus may shift from Wildwood (bottom) to Fort River School (top)

(And with the new 100 year flood plain maps, which FEMA may approve in the next two years, showing dramatic reduction in the overlay around Fort River that school site could get more buildable, although it would require Town Meeting removing it from Flood Prone Conservancy overlay.)  

Click to enlarge/read


Anonymous said...

The only thing that we know for certain now is that we will pay more and get less.

Larry Kelley said...

Far from "certain."

Anonymous said...

What would have happened if we had a mayor?

Awesome side-by-side picture.

Anonymous said...

The liberals lose two big ones, first Hillary and now the mega school. All the kings horses is right. This is where the mental illness starts to show its ugly face.

Blame yourselves, fools... said...

"A much needed step to make Amherst great again."

When Amherst is great again, I will cry like Chuck Schumer.

Until then, GO TRUMP!

-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. Friggan ~LOVE~ this American renaissance!

Anonymous said...

Well, if no one is splitting the cost with us, it's hard to imagine that this will be cheaper.

Anonymous said...

When we design a new school plan can we find an architect that isn't good friends w/ someone on the school committee .. how much did we just waste by not paying attention to the survey abt what the community wanted for new schools in the first place. Because Maria and Morris and Appy knew best ? Relook at the survey listen to the community and figure out how to build the new school/s we need. Stop blaming the voters and town meeting for this failure .. If the former SI and her munions had listened to the ppl instead of playing father knows best.. we would have saved a lot of me by and be moving forward right now. Thank you Russian Vernon Jones for speaking the truth that the others still fail to admit.

Anonymous said...

This is a good outcome. The Gazette yesterday put emphasis twice on the erroneous fact that "...the town stands to lose $30+ million in MSBA funding" failing to mention that the town would have to spend as much to get it through an override that didn't even pass. Too often do communities justify spending much more than needed simply because money is available from some other entity.

I feel this is a win for the town, it keeps the neighborhood elementary schools intact, will allow for a more methodical approach to improving the existing infrastructure, and I bet Amherst can achieve the desired goals for far less than $30+ million.

Anonymous said...

Ah... Extreme liberal here... was against the mega school.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is time to move on. The question is the willingness of the administration and school committee to show leadership and to find new solutions in spite of this defeat. I'm looking at Mr. Nakajima to set the right tone and course here.

Anonymous said...

I'm a liberal NIMBY who voted no.

Larry is a Conservative NIMBY who also voted no.

Maybe we can stop calling each other names and work together.

Maybe then we can rein in the out of control powers that be at Town Hall.

But it will be much harder without Town Meeting!

Anonymous said...

That's your problem, you can't work together. It's Town Meeting vs anything else that doesn't fall in line but this town is too nice to actually stand up for their rights and their kids future. Get rid of this old bag of wind and you'll start to move forward. Keep it and the ball and chain will simply keep you where you are.

Anonymous said...

in my view, this project (like all policy and programs) by Ms Geryk was based on her fervent idea (obsession) of equity, which to her appears to mean 'exactly the same experience for every single kid'. The unusual configuration proposed prek-1g came out of the limited size of CF, and not driven by child development needs. CF can only house up to 1st grade, so what do we end up with... a flawed plan, a plan that entirely revolves around her insistence of her definition of equity. I hope that we can quickly go back to develop a new plan that is more rational and not gerrymandered around Ms Geryk's obsession. I am happy to pay more in taxes to support new buildings but I want the plan based on sound practices (and data) and one that the community wants, which appears to be k-6 schools.

Anonymous said...

I agree 11:39. It's time to take some responsibility. Town meeting is like The Great Wizard; no one has to take any responsibility for their actions and no one has to make a decision. It's time to let 16th Century Plymouth live in a museum and time for this town to move forward and create a system where there is not only a voice but faces who can take responsibility. Rock, paper, scissors isn't working anymore.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Town Meeting for voting down this problematic and expensive school building project.

I was watching the action live last night on Amherst Media. The truth is nobody, the pro Yes side or the No side can know exactly how the -much feared- MSBA dept will response. But my money is on that Maria lady who made the most sense to me with her clear eyed presentation.

This loss is –completely- on the School administration and School committee shoulders. They should have come up with a plan better supported by the community. They are the only ones with the authority to come up with a new plan now. I suspect they will continue to dig in their heels and screw this up. It will probably take a new School Committee and Superintendent before any progress is made on fixing or replacing Fort River or Wildwood.

I’ve been kicking around whether or not we should do away this Town Meeting. Last night was point for keeping TM around. This bloated new school building project would have been signed by an Amherst Major and town council in back rooms meetings months ago.

Kudos to you Larry for providing this coverage and discussion forum for town issues. The Gazette and S. Merzbach have given up on any journalistic integrity and have taken to writing press releases for Town officials and passing them off as news stories.

Anonymous said...

Improve the existing infrastructure? What planet are you on?
And by the way the override did pass.

Anonymous said...

There are many in town who believed in the reconfiguration plan. Just because they lost doesn't mean they don't exist.

Anonymous said...

I, too, was watching on Amherst Media last night (103 days since a contract!) and I couldn't get over the absolute SEA of white-haired old farts that comprise town meeting.

Bye bye Town Meeting - you are as old and decrepit as your members.

DaveMB said...

It seems unfair to call Larry a NIMBY -- isn't he in favor of building a new fire station near his house?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Geryk supported regionalizing the elementary schools, so hilltowns could keep their small expensive elementary schools--with $$$ from Amherst taxpayers. Who else supported regionalizing? Appy, Brewer and Steinberg. All arguing the hillltown small elementary schools are important to each town's' community.

kevin said...

Failure to pass will cost Amherst $12 million to $40 million extra, out of local services. And roughly double on your tax bill by the time it is funded. This was a "Bond Authorization" but Select Board failed to include the full text of the original article, namely the title, "Capital Program - Bond Authorization". You will thank me when this is over.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear! Right on the money.

Anonymous said...

If you are not white-haired or old, why don't you run for Town Meeting? It takes people to step up and be the change they want to see.

Anonymous said...

Kevin: you are not a truthful person, methinks

Anonymous said...

Amherst is a town populated with town meeting members who love to pass resolutions condemning some figure in history from 250 years ago who may have committed an atrocity and then with equal fervor passing a ban on plastic bags and then strutting around like they were with John Lewis on Bloody Sunday in Selma Alabama in 1964. But when it comes to actually putting skin in the game, like financing a desperately needed school or paying for additional firemen or police officers, well, they suddenly are nowhere to be found. No doubt working on another "courageous" condemnation of Pontious Pilate, Hitler, General Custer and Wile. E Coyote. This town is a joke to just about everyone in neighboring communities and quite honestly, it's a joke to many of us who live in the town. It is a town that will not stand up and make a sacrifice if it costs a dollar. But if it just involves stringing a banner across Main Street, well, you can sure count on Amherst for that. So enjoy your feelings of superiority, Amherst. Enjoy your media mentions when you endorse the Dalai Lama but go and hide when some reporter asks you about children who are at risk and could be helped with some financial sacrifice. I'm sorry, I should let you go. You still have that proclamation to finish condemning the Trix Rabbit for trying to eat cereal that is just for kids. Oh sure, NOW you're helping kids.

Anonymous said...

IF it's funded. It won't be.

Anonymous said...

I loved the one point yesturday of not voting for the motion because it would inflict a 5% tax increase on us all, including those who can least afford it. But in doing so, inflicting us all to a likely greater tax increase in the future through increased maintenance costs on the decrepid buildings and the increased cost of construction.

Anonymous said...

We celebrate diversity. Except if you have a certain color hair, or are a certain age. Other than that...Oh yes--and if your political leaning is not our own.

Anonymous said...

The central administration blew it by proposing a school set up that was diametrically opposed to what parents and teachers wanted. See what 451 parents and 137 school employees said they wanted in a survey a year ago:


Read it and weep.

Nobody wanted "Option C", which was what Town Meeting just voted on. There was very clear antipathy toward the two options (C and D), which abandoned a K-6 model. Boy was it STOOPID to carry that option forward. STOOPID, STOOPID, STOOPID.

Read the survey again and weep some more.

To those who say "There is no alternative to what we just voted on. It was that or nothing."

Read the survey and smile. There IS a good option going forward, Option B. Option B was heavily favored by parents and school employees. "Option B" puts co-located K-6 schools where Wildwood is. It's not perfect, but it would have gotten 67% in Town Meeting.

Smile some more. Even if it takes 5 years to get it going, we will have 50 years of school buildings that make sense.

If you're in the mood to weep some more, you can think about the people in the 1960's who approved Wildwood and Fort River with open classrooms and about the 50 cohorts of children who have suffered in these ridiculous classrooms for 7 years each.

But then you can smile again, because analogous STOOPIDITY was avoided this time. We'll have to wait a few more years, but we will get school buildings that make sense. We won't force a STOOPID school set up on children and families for another 50 years.

Anonymous said...

So your answer was to force another generation of children to suffer for 7 more years. You people are animals. No, I take that back. Animals take care of their young. You people are just jerks.

Anonymous said...

Think about the amount of time just spent gathering 250 people together in town meeting for 3 hours. 750. Then the time people spent preparing for it, then before that collecting signatures for the revote. Then the fall night in town meeting (750 again), then the town vote before that. All the time spent by BOLD and SASS, the people who demonstrated, the boards, etc. Think about how much time would have been saved if the Wildwood Rebuilding Committee and Geryk had put together a school project that people supported. Talk about thousands of hours wasted.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:40, the no folks also love their children and were trying to take care of the kids in this town. The shitty amount of playspace, the long commutes, the large crowds of kids, the extra transition -- all of these things hurt kids. You thought the good stuff was worth the bad stuff or the bad stuff didn’t both you, but the no people had a different take. That doesn't make them jerks or animals. The way the yes voters argued was more off-putting than the crappy old buildings, honestly.

Anonymous said...

Anon, 2pm: "There are many in town who believed in the reconfiguration plan. Just because they lost doesn't mean they don't exist."
There are many in this town who don't believe in the reconfiguration plan, and it's not just the white-haired elderly Town Meeting members who voted against it on Monday, or the other Town Meeting members (including some people of color and parents with young children) who voted against it on Monday.

In the Nov election, this town was split 50/50 on supporting the reconfiguration and consolidation plan. There are many demographics that did not support the plan, and there are many reasons for them voting as they did.

If the new school supporters continue to blame elderly TM members who don't want higher taxes for the way the vote went on Monday (which shows an ageist and socioeconomic bias against people on fixed incomes), they are not seeing the bigger picture of the myriad of issues with the plan. It will be hard for us to move forward as a community unless the verbal, print, and online attacks on those who voted No, cease and desist.

Anonymous said...

Hours and over a year. This plan emerged in October of 2015 and the building committee plowed forward- ignoring input from anyone daring to have a different idea.

We need a fiscally responsible plan for K-5 elementary schools. (Stop the "everything we want" view in designing the school)
Keep taxpayers and other town departments in mind.
Second grade needs to be with first grade (many children are still learning to read)
Move six graders to the Middle School (there is room)
Cut the plan for Pre-K- Children of today need full time programs as parents work full time.

Anonymous said...

Time to stop insulting each other and start talking about what to do next.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 11:56 PM

Please don't love the rest of the town's kids the way you love your kids. The town's kids deserved better. Honestly.

Anonymous said...

What did we get for Obama's $700B?

Anonymous said...

what to do next?! huh? i have been waiting for the ring leaders of SASS to tell all of us mouth dripping dogs since the vote failed the first time. WHERES THE PLAN PEOPLE?

Anonymous said...

Well...actually..we Are animals.0

Anonymous said...

I dont support regionalization in the hilltoens.. Geryk can support it but the communities of Shutesbury and Pelham don't. It was always she knew what was best for everyone because others don know what is best for their children. If we had completely regionalization w Amherst this is what would have happened in less than. 3 years if she was still around. Pelham kids would have been pushed to one of the amherst schools. Or east amherst kids wld have been pushed up the hill. Rumor is she would eventually change PES into the alternative school . Pelham kids eventually would be in the mega school if it had succeeded and crocker farm for pk-1. Pelham children &residents would have lost all the reasons we pay don't grumble too much abt the high taxes in our town our community, put children's close relationship ships with their peers. Nothing she dI'd was to benefit others. There was an end game in her regionalization plan. Just like the end game in the Miss Hiza situation was to discredit Trevor Bapiste. She was a woman with a plan. For a lot of you she has still succeeded in pulling the wool over your eyes.

Anonymous said...

The first Town meeting mirrored the town vote 50/50. Just like the ck and balance system to override a vote by the people that failed.. which it did you need 2/3 to pass. If you have trouble wit how the democracy system in town works then lobby for changes in that but don't ask TM to overstep the actual vote by the people. If more people supported the new schools then the should have voted on election day.

Anonymous said...

Yes but a minority of the town as shown in the survey didn't. If you supported the school and didn't vote and are now grumpy it didn't pass than shame on you ! But Thank you at same time.

Anonymous said...

SASS is not to be blamed for lack of developments- The failure of the building committee, school committee, select board and Interim Superintendent to move forward from November's vote
is the reason for the stall.

The founders of SASS have attempted to get their voices (ideas) heard since October of 2015- All their attempts to move the process forward have been thwarted.

Anonymous said...

Yea where's the plan SASS?. The thing that really enrages me is that while the Fort River and Wildwood kids have to continue to suffer in classrooms with no walls for the foreseeable future Ms Quilter's daughter goes to a private school with actual walls! I really want to know why she fought so hard against giving all kids in Amherst the opportunity to attend quiet classrooms with walls while taking her daughter out of noisy Wildwood so she could attend a school with quiet classrooms with walls.

Anonymous said...

The hill town regionalization agenda was pushed by Kippy Fonsh from Leverett-an ex teacher-teachers union boss-and local Leverett and regional school board member and teachers union booster cliquey big time . Regionalization would be a disaster for the hill towns upper class elite students who pay much more in taxes than Amherst for such privalidge-the teachers union and Kippy Fonsh are NOT in this for the hilltown kids-the pecieve the higher pay scale of Amherst teachers would benignity the pay scale of less degrees teachers-Amherst is lower class-and pays more to lower class teachers-in accord with more blue collar community values-this is why the teachers union promotes regionalization-which only serves to destroy the hilltown students elite status !!!

Anonymous said...

How about hire good rounded teachers. Give them a budget of $500,000 and a set of standards and let them do the job soup to nuts.

For $500k they can make $100k, have a $50k assistant, $25k a year for plumbers, electricians, cleaning people, any repairs, pay a $50k a year mortgage and have a decent estate, put $20k a year into outdoor resources on this multiacre estate, put $50k a year into new computers and software, a $20k a year furniture buget, $10k a year for utilities, $10k a year for qualified public speakers, $25k a year for field trips. $10k a year for Larry's Property taxes.

I am at $360k a year with these robust budgets with your kids learning on an estate by a well qualified teacher that can pull all this together.

Then lets even throw in $10k a year for an administrator to oversee this one classroom for the town, principal or whatever. They oversee lots of classrooms so they still get paid well. I will throw in $45k so that each kid in the 25 kid class hanging out on this robust estate each day gets a catered gourmet, $10 lunch. Even though we have $10k for public speakers, lets throw in another $20k for musicians, artists, craftspeople, police, firemen and more to come in and give talks with compensation that is really good. $10k for books, Ipads, and more. Remember this is the budget every year.

I am still only at $445k. Your kids could have everything I listed above for less than you currently pay. That leaves around $65k for anything I forgot, anything that goes wrong that is not already covered by the hugely robust budgets above.

The town would be full of many beautiful educational estates that would all get nicer and nicer over time like say Amherst College. Their budgets would be through the roof and we could still consider lowering taxes to accomplish this.

Any decent teacher could pull all this together if you give them the actually money that their classroom produces. Every last stakeholder would be better off, the taxpayer, the teacher, the students most of all, the parents and the bloggers.

Part of my point is that this collective school concept is so far down the rabbit hole, folks are not even doing a basic reality check. $500k a year is a huge budget for a classroom. The reality is that the kids could be educated and the extra could be invested so they don't have to work after age 60 and they could live robustly.

Oh and you will attract the best of the best of the best teachers in the country for less expense than you are paying now. Gasp, I think we may even be able to fit two classrooms on an estate and have some cost sharing. I just freed up 1/3 of the budget again for more stuff, now the kids that go to this school estate can stop working at 50.

Peace. Think about it. Reality check time.

Never mind, put the kids into a building that can be converted to the prison they will eventually occupy.

Anonymous said...

I supported the plan and voted for the override and collected signatures for the revote and worked hard to counter all the lies and misinformation propagated by SASS.

Anonymous said...

President Obama's 700 billion had nothing to do with "improving school infrastructure." Ignorant non sequitur.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:31 am: The attacks on Ms. Quilter really should stop. Every parent tries to do what is best for their child, and we can only speculate what wasn't working for Ms. Quilter's child at Wildwood. I doubt very much her switching schools was all about inadequacies of the building.

In her last year with the district our former superintendent was homeschooling her children. What does say (if anything) about the quality of our schools and the education they offer?

Numerous past School Committee members, Amherst Education Foundation leaders, ARPS administrators and teachers do or have sent their children to schools outside of ARPS, be they private schools or charter schools.

My point is that regardless of individual parent decisions(which are personal and involve a variety of factors) about their kids' education, that's not how the community should be making decisions and also that people can still be thinking about and caring about what's best for the community and our schools and students, even if they don't have students in the schools themselves.

Anonymous said...

Question .... OOPs !!! Almost forgot with all this teacher salery budget tax n spend euphoria hoopla-how will these pampered teachers-" Stand and deliver-for the kids" other than blowoff about how all the regional alumni got " Institutionized-asap-upon graduation-Soooo " Lets go grab a beer !!!" Amherst home brew joints - need a budget cut-ASAP !?@&$$$$

Anonymous said...

And my point Anon 1151 is if her child gets to go to schools with walls why is she fighting so hard to prevent my kid from doing the same. I am enraged by that.

Anonymous said...

anon@10:33 AM: you are incoherent (but looks like you are bigoted)

Laura Quilter said...

Hi anonymous 10.31,

If you "really want to know" something about me there are plenty of people you can ask, including YES people and including me. My contact info is widely available. Write me and let's sit down, person to person, over a beverage, and chat.

Anonymous said...

This is a leadership moment for Mike Morris and the School Committee.

I understand he has until February 5 to withdraw the current failed building proposal from the MSBA in order to get a new Statement of Interest on file and in the queue within this fiscal year. If they fail to take action on this, the resultant delay lands squarely on their shoulders.

I want to believe that they’ll move forward and do what’s best for the district. But my cynical side says their sour grapes, post failed vote, will scuttle any and all forward movement in addressing the problems at Fort River and Wildwood.

For the first time Morris and the old SC triumvirate (Appy, Ordonez, Hazzard) will have to do something they appear completely loath to do, reached across the divide and build a plan with genuine community support and input.

I’m forever hopeful, but not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

Feb 5th is just a few days. (Is the deadline actually Feb 6th because Feb 5th is a Sunday?) I hope that the school administration and the School Committee members move forward as quickly as possible, and do what needs to be done to get a school building project for Amherst back in the MSBA pipeline.

Anonymous said...

Anon 213 we can apply to get back in the pipeline as early as April 2017. Then we have to wait to be invited by the MSBA into the process again. Amount of time to invitation is unknown. Then once we're invited we begin a long process that was started this time in 2013. Yes, once we were invited into the process it took us 3 years to get to this point. So probably a minimun of 5 years from now to get us to the point in the process we are at today. SASS really screwed this town over. Hope you all are happy.

Anonymous said...

Anon229 How old are your children ?

Anonymous said...

Hey Larry, did you see TM member Kevin Collins is collecting signatures for a third vote?

Anonymous said...

Ok 2:29 PM, I’ll bite.

At the fall TM meeting multiple parents of former Fort River students and a Wildwood teacher were among the many who spoke convincingly of why this plan was bad, none of them members of this SASS group.

The parent and former Fort River principal who spoke convincingly against the plan at the last TM (Jan re-vote) meeting was also not a member of the SASS people.

(All TM meetings available for verification on Amherst Media btw.)

Do we need to review this again? 750 students on an undersized site, limited playground space (including a hardtop play space inside the bus loop roadway), doubled bus commuting times for many students, traffic issues (single road for all drop-offs and pick-ups, plus 23 buses) and the destruction of three local schools.

You can bitch and moan 'til the cows come home, but opposition to this deeply flawed and expensive plan was much greater than this SASS group.

Anonymous said...

What do you call a 9-12 school?
Answer: A high school

What do you call a 7-8 or 6-8 school?
Answer: A junior high or a middle school

What do you call a K-6 school?
Answer: An elementary school

What do you call a K-1 school and a 2-6 school?
Answer: You call it a "pig"

And no matter how much lipstick you put on a pig, it's still a pig at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

This truly is a leadership moment for the school committee and Mike Morris. The choice is clear: move on and find another solution or dig in your heels and let the project drop. For a 50 year investment of this size and cost we need to get it right.

Anonymous said...

You do not have to pay attention to the SASS to know this plan was not right for the future yet to be born children of our town. It wasn't right for the traffic flow and safety with no commitment for new stop lights on either end of Strong St. It wasn't right for the kids to have long bus rides... or parents trying to pick up kids in both schools at the same time. Then we would end up with problems w the teachers union when they have to watch kids til 330 or later. It is def not good plan for the residents of Strong Street with all that happening in an inadequate space. The children with no outside space. The list goes on and I have never read one thing from the SASS, Something needs to be done but it didn't need to be this option. The supporters have been brow beat and snowed into thinking it's best. Back to the drawing table find something that keeps the siblings together with space for the kids to actually play. Keep class sizes manageable.