Friday, February 3, 2017

Sh*t Storm Indeed

$67 million Mega School

Over the past 20 years only two Town Meeting actions have been challenged by referendum (and failed) where enough signatures have been collected within the short five day deadline to force it on the local election ballot.

That alone is a major hurdle, requiring 5% of the registered voters to sign a petition.  But the most challenging aspect of the crusade is the state requires "the people" to meet the same standard imposed on Representative Town Meeting, in this case two-thirds support.

"A question put to the voters at large under the provisions of this section shall be determined by a vote of the same proportion of voters voting thereon as would have been required by law had the question been finally determined at a representative town meeting."
The other provision which sounds easy is the local election must garner a minimum turnout of 18% or the referendum vote is invalid. Now that may sound pretty easy but in overly politically active Amherst our local elections have garnered a pathetic average of 15% turnout over the past ten years.

Behind the scenes email exchanges, including elected officials 

The only local elections to attract over 18% turnout over the past generation involved Charter change (twice) -- aka replace Town Meeting/Select Board with Mayor/Council -- or pocketbook Override questions.

And none of those outcomes were decided by much more than a 55/45% margin.  And both of the referendum of Town Meeting attempts failed to pass after all the effort to get it on the ballot.

In fact this Mega School question already went to the voters on the November 8th ballot and only barely won a simply majority and even then by less than 1%.

It would be one thing if town officials were simply performing due diligence with no downside.  But that is far from the case, because in order to take this foolhardy desperate last stand we will lose one full year gaining Mass School Building Authority approval for a new and better plan.

The bigger the risk the bigger the reward I suppose.  Something I would expect from President Trump but not so much from our overly enlightened local government.

House on busy Rt 116


Anonymous said...

Where's the leadership of the School Committee? I would have hoped that they would have met on this issue on Tuesday or Wednesday night, voted to withdraw the project and end this circus.

We have an election for new school committee members coming up. Hopefully there will be more than 1 candidate for each seat. If not Amherst residents can't complain.

Anonymous said...

Why does it matter what the school committee does? No one in this town (well nearly 50% of it) has any respect to their responsibilities.


This year will be no different- it doesn't matter who sits in the seats; the blame will always remain.

Anonymous said...

There is no way the MSBA will accept us back in the process during 2017.

Anonymous said...

If this petition goes through the opposition will mobilize again and it will fail, so then we waste another year fighting ourselves instead of coming together to find a new plan. What a waste. No wonder charter schools are looking better all the time.

Dr. Ed said...

Amherst is so very entertaining.

I don't think this is about schools as much as power, and the end result will be no new school at all.

Anonymous said...

Appy, Ordonez and Hazard are demonstrating over and over again that they cannot listen to members of the community. They have no awareness that others see this project differently and want to keep K-6 schools and that maybe this is a good idea. They ignore Douangmany's calm, consistent views, shared by thousands of people, that this is a poor project and it's time to resubmit to the MSBA and work together on a new option. Nakajima used to say this.

Appy will leave the school committee the way she started it, continued it and led it, mired in anger, controversy and division, just like Geryk.

Is there any leader that will stand up with Douangmany and bring people together?

Anonymous said...

Are they just going back to turn of the last century multi-story brick rust belt magnate inner-city schools-like the one they razed in 1974-My patio brick source ?!???

Anonymous said...

Oh the irony.....
With the charter people are crying "keep Town Meeting, it is more representative of our citizens!" That is of course until it makes a decision they don't agree with then it's "let's get this issue on the ballot so the citizens can decide!" So is TM valid and representative or not? Having your cake and eating it too is not the definition of Democracy touted as heavily practiced and respected by this town. From a hypocritical standpoint, this email chain shows striking similarities to how the town's nemesis Trump does things.

Anonymous said...

Larry - a question, and an observation:

Why do you characterize this as an official/government effort? There's no indication or evidence this is being driven by the SC, SB, etc. I understand your suspicions, but this is apparently being led by frustrated parents.

Whether or not an SOI can be resubmitted in 2017 after 3/28 is an open question, which will be taken up by the SC at their next meeting on Monday 2/6 at 6:15pm. If it can, then this referendum will have no impact on the MSBA process at all.

If it can't, and delaying withdrawal of the project for this will mean delay of SOI submission... then the SC will have to make a decision (presumably on 2/6). I'd submit that it's more reasonable to withhold judgment until that meeting, and that decision.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, so at 15%, you really cannot say that any election result represents the people.

Interesting also is that these same people make real decisions that are far more important constantly every day.

Perhaps if we left more of the resources in the hands of the people and did not pile it up collectively in the hands of government folks, you would know how the people really think.

Consider standing at the check out at big Y. You would have no doubt after looking in peoples' carts, what they wanted to eat.

But you can look at the results of the Amherst elections and statistically would not be valid making a single claim, even if everyone voted for hot dogs.

The is a byproduct of obsession with collectivism, it is not a byproduct of anything else. The cost of collectivism is money, the benefit is that you talk about everything until you have invested more in talking about it than actually doing it. Correct, this is not an actual benefit, it is a punishment.

I vote for better quality, cheaper, educational estates with retirement funds for all students to stop working at 50, it is far less expensive than the ideas being collectively considered that will produce another useless generation as they did last round. Or simply mandate home schooling and parents can get to know these kids and we wont care about the output, just like we don't care about most folks garbage, we just throw it away, we don't coddle it at endless cost.

Anonymous said...

10:37 isn't making any sense. the people who are crying 'TM doesn't represent the town' are the same people who are trying to get rid of TM. Clare Bertrand and Appy and all the other Charter Commission crowd. You can look at list of who voted and practically all the people who support getting rid of Town Meeting also support this megaschool.

Dr. Ed said...

I still say "follow the money" -- someone will be making a lot of money if this monstrosity is built, and who might that be?

Larry Kelley said...

I think he/she is talking about Gerry Weiss and Meg Gage the two main Town Meeting cheerleaders on the Charter Commission.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:37 here, that is correct Larry.

Anonymous said...

Andy Churchill, Mandy Jo Hanneke, Irv Rhodes are all charter cheerleaders, and megaschool cheerleaders too. Nick Grabbe and Tom Fricke both signed the petition to force a second vote in TM. 5 for 5.

Gerry Weiss seems like a mixed bag, but even if you count him as a TM cheerleader, the TM people seem split: Rueschemeyer and Stein said NO to the megaschool proposal, Weiss and Gage voted YES to megaschool proposal.

The charter commission cheerleaders own this one, Larry, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:10....I love how you always talk about collectivism ...but now I wish I could ever understand your posts! It would seem as though "collectivism " (education) has let you down.

Anonymous said...

Why is it so unacceptable to fix one school at a time? Why does the new building have to be so fancy and cost so much? If residents really can't wait to do the schools one at a time, or if it is absolutely necessary to consolidate into two schools, then why not build a PreK-6 for half the elementary kids (550) either at Wildwood or Fort River (which is no longer mostly floodplain) and put an addition on Crocker Farm to allow it to hold the other 550 students? Or move 6th graders to the middle school and go to two PreK-5 schools? I don't get why this grade reconfiguration and this expensive palatial building is considered the ONLY way to address building problems? Am I missing the point?

Anonymous said...

Mega school wasn't alright but this is?

Anonymous said...

When thinking about this collectivism, I am speaking of this endless attempt to reallocate resources to everyone vs. using them yourself. The endless attempt to cooperate for little benefit and huge cost. This is not complex. You can skip to the last paragraph if you want.

But to make fun of me in the middle of this heap of crap is really funny.

The fact that anyone thinks all this is really going to result in better students is off or that someone that is capable of educating their kids without community financing on their own is the problem is really odd. The schools are there at this point for those that work at them at this point.

There are only two reasonable ways to look at this. Either A, there is no way in hell anyone should let their kids near this place or these people or B, this is all bullshit. Now go on pretending that neither is the case and that spending all this money will make the community better in stead of poorer. I thought of a C, all this is just for the fun of the debate.

Anonymous said...

Yes - it wouldn't have the educational and logistical downsides of grade reconfiguration, 200 fewer students so a smaller school, smaller footprint hence presumably cheaper, more room for play space and green space, fewer buses. Maintain continuity for all elementary years (no 1st-2nd grade transition).
Not perfect, but I think it would achieve many of the goals of the current proposal in that it would address both schools at once and allow for easier north/south redistricting (same as the proposed 2-6 school) and run special needs and ELL programs in two schools with no need to bus out of neighborhood to attend special programs.

Anonymous said...

Build the school, stay with Town meeting, raise taxes, stop development. This is why I love Amherst. Stop whining Larry Amherst is great or you wouldn't still be living here.

Anonymous said...

Am I misinterpreting, or is it really just this simple:

The town school system is bleeding students to better alternatives, the school administration is in disarray, and the misguided and fractious SC is utterly ineffective. Moreover, today the ARPS curriculum is hollowed out by nonsense social justice subject material, the town finances are unsustainable, and we have a landscape scattered with abandoned or decomposing husks of school buildings that were built in the 1960s when Amherst was a thriving community with citizens who demanded high academic achievement for their children. But it ain't the 1960's anymore, no matter how much the communist tree-dwellers in Leverett and Shutesbury wish it.

So a state grant makes $$$$$ available for a perverse development project - think the Mountain Farms-killer "new mall" overbuild of 1978 - "You can have this money, provided you 1) build physical plant you don't need, 2) disrupt every family in town, 3) pony up millions of your own money, and 4) whistle down the path on the journey to Abilene." Angel-headed hipsters searching for an angry fix of taxpayer largesse to lard onto the town's hurtin' fiscal jalopy. Read the names associated with the push to shove the mega-school down the throats of the town: these craven teat-suckers are out in full force.

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding something here. Help me out, please.

Dr. Ed said...

8:13 -- other than WW & FR being built in the 1970's, you've pretty much summed it up.

Anonymous said...

This mega school project has been a disaster from the beginning.

There’s a lot saber rattling over the fact that the town is turning down $33 million in state aid, but they never address the fact that this project is very unpopular and, as many others have pointed out, educationally suspect (grade reconfig, playspace, busing, and so on).

What do you get for a $67 million school that nobody wants? An expensive school that nobody wants!

Perhaps a town wide referendum IS the way to go here. I believe it will fail big and the town will have spoken outside the bizarrness of a national election.

Mike Morris looks incredibly weak here, pinning his hopes that this poorly conceive referendum will save the mega school project and is willing to jeopardize the timeline of getting a new project underway this year.

More and more he appears to be a toady of the old Amherst-for-all build-baby-build school committee triumvirate of Appy, Ondenez and Hazzard. He appears to have no vision, leadership, or independent voice of his own.

There’s does appear to be some disturbing links between the pro-development Amherst-for-all crowd (and their representatives on the School Committee, see above) and the mess of the state’ MSBA ‘preferred’ architectural and construction firms programs. An unholy alliance? Some form of kickback? A good investigative reporter could uncover what’s really going on there. My guess it’s not going to come from the Hampshire Gazette. Follow the $..

Anonymous said...

That pretty much sums it every town.

When the government offers huge levels of free services, this is how people behave. No pride. Gimme Gimme Gimme Gimme.

This is resource lust with the ability to not pay the full share, it is EXACTLY like the fools at walmart on the day after thanksgiving having a bloody fight over a discounted TV....only this is 50-100x better of a discount for those clamoring.

This is the disease of "Free Stuff". Republicans and Democrats cannot resist, they have no immunity, but those in the other 99% of the philosophical spectrum get it.

Anonymous said...

MSBA is the continuation of the Big Dig -- and equally flawed.

Towns are finding problems with their new schools. Expensive problems that they'llhave to pay to fix themselves.

Anonymous said...

Mike is for Mike, he needs to grow a set and become a leader, not a boss following bad advice from the SC.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what the Amherst School Committee will do this Monday night after years and years of ignoring what parents want. 4 of 5 school committee members ignored the results of their own survey last January in which teachers and parents almost universally rejected reconfigering the grades. Who will they listen to now and why? Will they jeopardize any chance of Amherst applying this year to the MSBA? Will they vote to keep shilling for this project in the hope that 2/3rds of Amherst voters will vote to raise taxes for the most expensive elementary school in Massachusetts history?

Larry Kelley said...

Any School Committee member who votes in favor of taking that impossible long shot and wasting an entire year with MSBA should be recalled.

Unfortunately our current form of government does not have a recall provision.

Anonymous said...

I hope they get the signatures for the referendum. It will prove that Town Meeting is right! This vote won't even get a majority never mind two thirds. Foolishness!

Anonymous said...

Contact your School Committee members and urge them to withdraw this project from MSBA, it really could be an opportunity to right the wrongs of this process and project.

Anonymous said...

The attached Scribd email thread helpfully includes all the addresses you should write to to ask them to withdraw the project:

Anonymous said...

to Anon 9:08 and others:

If Kathy Mazur is still there she ranks higher in the cabal than Appy, Hazzard, Ordonez, and the rest. She's the insiders' insider.

Is there anything to suggest Morris isn't a part of it? Word on the street is he's got the Super job locked up. If he takes it, it might answer the question.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Charter Commission could do something useful and help us get a recall provision on the committees and boards. School Committee definitely needs one. Maybe one that automatically gets triggered after 3 Open Meeting violations. How many does Appy have now?

Anonymous said...

Is there a recall provision for town meeting? Toni Cunningham signed up for a seat just to vote on the building issue. What a bunch of BS; total affront to what town meeting is supposed to be. SASS did everything they could to thwart the process including filling TM with single issue voters but it is the SB that needs a recall?

A dump is a dump... said...

"If Kathy Mazur is still there she ranks higher in the cabal than Appy, Hazzard, Ordonez, and the rest. She's the insiders' insider."


Her stink

is on ~everything~.

I mean




-Squeaky Squeaks

p.s. EOM.

Laura Quilter said...

Anon at 8:01 pm --

Dear me, what noblesse oblige world do you live in in which do public service solely because they are lords and ladies of leisure in need of a high-minded hobby?

Running because you're interested in an issue isn't really so much a "recallable" thing as it is, you know, democracy. Kudos to all the people who ran for election and spent their time at Town Meeting because they cared about the school issue, the library issue, or any other issue.

In short -- find something real to gripe about.

Laura Quilter

Anonymous said...

I would guess that many individuals become involved with town politics (and run for Town Meeting) because of their interest/commitment to an issue.
The attacks on individuals that don't want the school (as designed) needs to stop.
Do you think they will cave in and change their minds because of your badgering?
They have done their research and have made a decision. Respect it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for confirming; defending a little too vigorously

Laura Quilter said...

@Anonymous 11:18 pm -- Thanks for trolling! I'm not embarrassed about running for TM for the schools and to find out about TM. Hell, I put it in my LWV Amherst statement that that's what I was doing and why, and I wasn't shy about telling people my opinion. I'm feeling an Alexander Hamilton / Aaron Burr reference coming on.

Anonymous said...


Total affront? Are you kidding? So now you’re trying to intimidate new TM members like Toni Cunningham for voting against your wishes and demands?

Really, that’s the best you got? It’s revealing that the desperate pro mega school elites have completely abandoned any justification for this project on educational grounds.

They are part of self-proclaimed rich elite in town that appears to want autocratic rule, dictating solutions to Amherst’s unwashed masses in unquestioning obeyance. Unfortunately for them residents and TM members still have a right to vote as we see fit. There are still democratic controls that you are beholden to.

You can huff and trump up and down all you want, but you’ve failed miserably in selling this mega school project to the community.

I thank Toni for her vote, and all those on TM that also voted No.

Yeah, stand out in the cold with your clipboards. Go for that referendum! Lets see how the works out for you.

Anonymous said...

I did not get my script for this play. There is no way this is real. My sense is the kids are watching and herein lies the lesson....there is no such thing as adults anymore...that is why your parents act like and are treated like children. I do not see how after all this thay the schools are an acceptible place to educate your kids....or is this all fake drama aka alt caring. How can there not already be enough money in the budget with no grant, where does all the money go if not?

tom said...

The new school building issue has been divisive for our community to say the least. There’s a real difference in opinion and outlook among many of us here.

I do not support the plan and will vote against it. I’ve come to this decision not because I’m evil, or an idiot, but because I believe it’s not in the best interest of Amherst to move forward with this particular school building plan. I recognize that others hold the opposite view, and that does not make them evil or idiots either.

Both sides of gone endless rounds of calling each other liars, kooks and criminals. I know I have my list.

We can certainly endlessly ramp up our human tendencies for enmity towards the other and continue to bash each other on blogs and social media because we disagree on this school building plan. Scapegoating the other is something we humans are pretty good at, but to what end? I get it, as a species we have some destructive tendencies, and chances are it will led to our eventual extinction if were not careful and smarter then our reptilian hindbrain.

In our recent presidential election some in my family voted for a candidate I found repugnant. I accept that we will never, never agree on who should be running this country. Yet I love them nonetheless, and look forward to having a beer and some laughs with them.

Some day this issue will be settled, in this bifurcated setup one side will win, the other lose, but we’ll still be sharing the same town.

Is it possible to recalibrate the discussion, disagree yes, but tone down the level of outright nastiness and hatred some are expressing on both sides of this issue.

I’m not expecting a trite kumbaya moment, or to change any minds or votes, but can we find a way to disagree that does not render our community further apart?

In ways big and small I know this can be done. A few months ago I witnessed an avowed pro school-building ‘Yes’ advocate hug an avowed ‘No’ advocate.

So anyone out there in need of a beer and a laugh, or a free hug, I’m your man.

-Tom Jamate

Precinct 7, TM member.

Anonymous said...

So many teachers and school personnel who are advocating for this school do not live, vote or pay taxes here. Of course they have probably been pressured to sign petitions and show up at meetings. They want a shiny new building in which to teach BUT let's not forget two important groups, the children of Amherst AND the taxpayers of Amherst.

This project is NOT what is needed right now. Thanks so much to Town Meeting for voting down this megaschool. Please do not give in to those who cannot accept this decision.

Anonymous said...

Griping is what we do best. We like it.

Anonymous said...

Repugnant? You mean Clintonian, of course.

Anonymous said...

Bravo Tom, well said!

Anonymous said...

In stead of going to the state, couldn't we just go to a local bank and start building. It should not be tough to convince a local banker that this is a benefit to the community and that the community will pay for it, can afford it.

Vs. all the years folks are talking about working with the state or trying to get grant money we don't really need or quite honestly deserve, my sense is a bank could do financing in say 3 months or less.

I do not see the value of all this debate. Just borrow, build, enjoy and pay back what is borrowed because it is worth it. If self funded, obviously parents would step up and donate if they are able and the project just goes forward.

If this sounds silly, you may want to consider that these projects are not a value to the community at large.

Dr, Ed said...

23 parked buses is a line 1,150 feet long, that's almost a fifth of a mile!

There's no way you are going to get all those buses onto the property at the same time -- forget about the Mommymobiles -- which means chaos.

Perhaps the teachers might want to thing about that.

Anonymous said...

Ed, 3:22 pm

In the new school building plan the buses are doubled up in the pickup/drop off loop. The only limited hard surface play area is then inside this doubled-up bus loop.

I kid you not, this is what the state and town is getting for this $67 million proposed project.

Check out this notated JCJ architect’s slides of the big plan. Note where the 'Hard Surface Play Area' is located:

Anonymous said...

Speaking of going to a bank for funding. Easthampton chose the VP of Easthampton Savings Bank as chair for their building committee (pre K- 8th grade building for approximately 1000 students)
It'll be interesting to follow their progress. I would guess the bank will go above and beyond (utilizing knowledge and contacts) to insure a good financial deal for Easthampton residents.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the shared Middle School "play field"- I'm sure ball teams will be thrilled to have Wildwood students use the field for recess and other outdoor activities.

Anonymous said...

Plan B -- other alternatives to the current Wildwood project with its elementary school grade reconfiguration

In early April of this year, Amherst can submit another SOI (Statement of Interest) to the MSBA (Mass School Building Authority) for Wildwood and Fort River elementary schools. Based on the rating the MSBA gave Wildwood, chances are strong that it will be picked again this year or next. In 2015, 9 of 12 schools with the same MSBA ranking as Wildwood got accepted.

Then, start looking at different options now--or after one school is picked by MSBA. Nothing stops our community, either through the town or schools, from examine different options now.

Some options suggested that keep our K-6 grade configuration include:

a) Renovate/ rebuilding both Wildwood and Fort River (K-6 or preK-6) at their original sites (with MSBA $). This would mean Amherst would have to go one school by one school into MSBA process. All three Amherst elementary schools remain K-6 or slightly change to PreK-6.

Could this happen? See also today's Daily Republican on Easthampton which finished their high school, funded with a 63% MSBA reimbursement in 2013. Then in 2015 their elementary school was accepted by MSBA.

b) Change to 2 elementary schools by rebuild/renovating Wildwood (MSBA $) and expanding Crocker Farm (solely with town money). Crocker Farm remains PreK-6, Wildwood remains K-6 or goes to PreK-6. Fort River would be closed with its students going to either Wildwood or Crocker Farm.

c) Rebuild/renovate Fort River school building (MSBA $) and look at whether the middle school can be expanded with an addition to build a lower elementary school and create a PreK-8 school (town money for middle school changes).

So there are some Plan B options. I am interested in hearing others.

Importantly steps can be taken now to: 1) look at air quality issues at Wildwood and Fort River, 2) change our current busing plan, 3) make the quad classrooms quieter, 4) fund 30 halfday preschool seats next year, 5) fixing the boiler, and 6) make sure the therapeutic rooms in our special education classrooms meet the needs of current students. All of these problems need and can be addressed today.

Plan A, B or C must include an assessment of the healthiness (or lack of it) of the Wildwood and Fort River school buildings. I am not sure why this situation has gone unaddressed for so long and am glad that the Amherst School Committee has finally agreed to look into it. The State has resources for assessing and remedying sick buildings--but there is not data showing that either of these buildings have health problems. (Please, please let's all stop making this claim without hard evidence.)

Plan A,B or C will include the Amherst School Committee looking now into rebalancing the three elementary schools for economic balance, and whether or not to continue busing kids living at the East Hadley Road apartment buildings to 3 different elementary schools. I am glad the school committee has taken up this question and urge them to talk to the parents and hear and respond to their concerns.

Plan A, B or C should include looking at ways to make things more quiet at Wildwood and Fort River schools, fixing the air blowers that did not work in 2003 and continue not to work now, replacing the boiler at Wildwood, etc. If the therapeutic rooms at Fort River are failing to meet the educational needs of students with special needs, that has to by law and morally, be fixed now. Better equipment or moving the program to either the middle school or high school which have extra space seem possible options.

We need to resolve the problems in our schools now for the kids who go there now.

Janet McGowan

Anonymous said...

So Anon 213 you want the town to foot the bill for two new schools all by itself? Without the state paying for half of it? Well as an Amherst tax payer I would prefer to have money from the state help pay for the new school (s)

Anonymous said...

Janet in case you haven’t noticed we already have a School Committee and Superintendent to decide these issues, thank you.

I’m not going to comment and your Plan B’s because WE ALREADY HAVE a Plan A.

Everyone is so negative and I’m sick and tired of it. You need to support the decisions of the School Committee. THEY ARE THE EXPERTS HERE!

No plan is going to be perfect. In case you haven’t noticed the world is NOT a perfect place!

I’m also just sick of hearing about the bus loop. With just a little thinking outside the box we can make it work by asking the architects and construction workers to build a SKY WALKWAY to connect the concrete play pad inside the bus loop to the front entrance. We could then fence in the play areas to make them safe and secure and to keep kids out of the roadway. This could be done with MINIMAL changes to the existing plan.

The Sky Walkway could also serve as an aerial Maker Space. The Walkway would become a signature design element for these co-schools that the kids would LOVE. With just a few tweaks like this walkway the current plan would be CLOSE to perfect. What more do you people expect?

But go ahead with your endless negativity that threatens this well designed plan from being built here. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.

Anonymous said...

We all want someone else to pay, that is not a conclusion, that is the building block that creates this mess. But, yes, of course you want others to pay, everyone knows that about just about everyone and that most of what government does at this point.

Taxpayer and pride in paying your own way if you are not needy do not have to be mutually exclusive, in fact that is where honor lies.

Anonymous said...

Janet, after considering and kicking around your post I believe you present a viable and much needed way forward for this town. Thank you.

I know the School leadership is clinging to the current plan. It’s hard to admit you’re wrong, but it's time to let it go.

Anonymous said...

A sky walkway? You mean a covered bridge?! A million here, a million there: pretty soon it adds up to real monet!

Anonymous said...

Anon 757 is so pitch perfect I can't tell if it's really a BOLD booster or a parody of them.

Anonymous said...

Is this sky walkway really an option? It would solve the bus loop playground problem in the design. Have the architects discussed this?

Anonymous said...

To the 92 Amherst neighbors who voted against new elementary schools at tonight's Town Meeting:

The clock starts ticking now.

You insisted that we could do better, and that you could do it quickly, so that our children and our teachers didn't have to wait much longer to teach and learn in good schools.

You won. You prevented us from beginning construction right away. You prevented us from getting $34 million from the state. And you did it because you know there is a better way. I respect that level of confidence -- you know better than the School Building Committee, the School Committee, the Select Board, the Finance Board, the Superintendent, 187 of our educators, and the voters in a general election.

I hardly have that level of wisdom and confidence, so more power to you. Off you go. Please come back to us soon with a plan that replaces Fort River and Wildwood (or dramatically renovates them so that they are top-notch places to learn), achieves an integration of races and classes that the proposed plan did, gives us new early education spots, and does so at the same cost or less. And don't forget to include in your calculations the roughly $2 million additional it will cost with each year of delay. No cheating, friends!

And when you do, I will gladly offer my thanks, my vote, my undying respect. I really will.

But in the meantime, while we can be friendly and respectful, please don't call on us to "work together." I already did that. I read the reports, I talked to people on the various committees, I weighed in. Town committees voted. Then we the people voted. Volunteers "worked together" for thousands of hours and produced a plan we liked. But you knew better.

So, good luck. Be well. Come back with that glorious plan you've promised us. May the force be with you.

Anonymous said...

+1 to Max Page quote above

Dr. Ed said...

In the new school building plan the buses are doubled up in the pickup/drop off loop.

School bus pivots on rear axle with everything behind it swinging in the other direction. Dual tires fight with each other when turning as one must travel further than the other.

There is no way in h*ll that they are going to have a double row of buses going around a curve. After they demolish the second or third one -- on the first day -- they'll realize you can't do this.

Folks, this is the same thing as trying to get a truck under the railroad bridge, it ain't gonna happen.

The only limited hard surface play area is then inside this doubled-up bus loop.

Insanity. Sheer insanity.

Not to mention the shared Middle School "play field"- I'm sure ball teams will be thrilled to have Wildwood students use the field for recess and other outdoor activities.

No. There are some very good developmental (and behavioral) reasons why we segregate younger and older children -- I can't think of any district that still runs combined K-12 school buses. I don't know if it's an actual DESE reg or just common sense, but middle schools don't share playgrounds with elementary schools.

If WW uses that field, the MS will be banned -- all the time -- from the field.
Parents will insist on it. As would any competent elementary school principal.

Folks, this is insane...

Anonymous said...

+1 to anon 10:32

Anonymous said...

10:32 PM / Max Page?

You’re joking right? Are you suggesting the 92 who thankfully voted down this flawed plan just implement their own? You must know that this is impossible. While any group of community members, teachers and parents can add input and give feedback, they cannot legally build a public school.

As we all know only the town’s school leadership, the school committee and superintendent can legally propose and submit plans to the MSBA.

This delay is entirely their failure.

They pushed the least popular plan and ignored critical feedback from the community.

Have you looked closely at the membership of the School Committee and School Building Committee that came up with this plan?

It consisted of Kathy Mazur’ and Maria Geryk’ hand picked cronies, while the School Committee was, and is dominated by the astroturfed ‘Amherst for All’ group (see: fake grassroots groups ) handlers of Appy, Hazzard, Ordonez. They created an echo-chamber that insisted on the least popular plan and then mocked any community feedback that pointed out the plans many flaws.

Have you look closely at the signers of the 187 petition? Yes it does include some teachers who were highly ‘encouraged’ to sign as well as kitchen staff, ground keepers, part time workers and school interims. But not the former Fort River principal who spoke against the plan at TM.

You say the plan would ‘gives us new early education spots’. This is just not true. Not one cent of the plan’ $67 million would go to create the much touted early education center or the extensive bathroom renovations needed at Crocker to make that happen. Or has that funding been magically identified? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Yes, the clock is ticking for the school administration to come up with a new plan supported by the community that is not an echo chamber of sycophants. Any refusal on the part of the school admins to not ‘work together’ as you’re calling for will only cause further delay to address the school building problems.

I look forward to working together with those who are willing to move forward from this deeply divisive building plan...though I must admit that sky bridge does sound kind of cool.

Anonymous said...

yes, just need to add an elevator to skywalk so all the kids have equal access. What were you thinking!

Anonymous said...

+1 to Anon 6.52!

Anonymous said...

No teachers or staff from Crocker Farm signed the petition--why not? Any consequences for the people who illegally circulated the petition during school hours?

Anonymous said...

I did a survey of my factory employees, you know, this is the place that public schools were developed for, to train factory employees to move by the bell. They also wanted machinery and equipment upgrades like the school cooks. I told them that, like this school upgrade, that someone, in fact many people would uave to sacrifice to pay for it, layoffs etc. They all assumed it would not be them sacrificing and asked for the upgrades.

Rinse, repeat, pay attention. There must be sacrifice to get a 100 million dollar gift that you want but dont need.

Anonymous said...

Here's the ARPS link to the
School Building Committee Members

It does appear to be heavily weighted towards School and Town administrators.

Only 2 parents out of 22 on this key committee? I know Maria Geryk wanted her friends on it, but that came at a heavy price of community engagement and a bad case of
groupthink .

Anonymous said...

Larry, you should do an overlay image of the proposed plan and the current WW site. It nicely shows how tiny the new play area is (to accommodate nearly twice as many kids). There isn't enough time during recess to possibly get kids down to the MS fields (even IF they could use them) and back up, and what about the kids with disabilities left behind. This is just one of the problems with the proposed plan that the BOLD folks didn't want to talk about...

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:52 "It consisted of Kathy Mazur’ and Maria Geryk’ hand picked cronies, while the School Committee was, and is dominated by the astroturfed ‘Amherst for All’ group (see: fake grassroots groups ) handlers of Appy, Hazzard, Ordonez. They created an echo-chamber that insisted on the least popular plan and then mocked any community feedback that pointed out the plans many flaws."

That explains why the ordonez/kent/amherst for all had one joint victory party with appy in attendance.

Only one sky bridge seems to lack ambition. Let's have an entire concrete playground. Bring back brutalist architecture!

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:57, A "SKY WALKWAY" (in all caps no less) what on earth are you smoking?!
And anon 10:32' is it really an option? No it is not! it is just about the most ludicrous thing I have read regarding this mega school fiasco. What is this, Disney World?

Anonymous said...

But they can legally start a better private school or homeschool.....for far less money.

Anonymous said...

yo max page:

"Please come back to us soon with a plan that replaces Fort River and Wildwood (or dramatically renovates them so that they are top-notch places to learn), achieves an integration of races and classes that the proposed plan did, gives us new early education spots, and does so at the same cost or less. And don't forget to include in your calculations the roughly $2 million additional it will cost with each year of delay. No cheating, friends!"

Please let us ordinary working parents have some say in the next school-committee ordained process that you think was so participatory. I'm sorry, were you at any of those meetings?

Is anybody else surprised that Max Page turns out to be buddies with the Appy crowd? Check out the timing: Max is never seen on the "Wildwood Building Project" issue, but argues for opting out of testing; then School Committee signs off on the "opt out of testing" letter, and suddenly Dr. Page is all over the building project like a cheap suit. Local politics strikes again.

We don't need to get rid of Town Meeting. We just need to bodycam the elected officials.

Anonymous said...

You don't need a sky walk way. The kids won't be playing on the hard top near the busses while the busses are dropping off or picking up. The kids will instead either be getting off the bus and going into school or walking out of the school and getting on the bus.

Anonymous said...

Are they really going to add this sky walkway feature?

Hope it doesn't turn out like this

Anonymous said...

The MSBA has rules about who is supposed to be on the SBC. Not specifically the names of people but the town offices or positions. Again people speaking out their arses about stuff they don't bother to learn about.

Anonymous said...

Have just heard over a 1000 signatures were submitted to town hall earlier today. To the school committee and Mike M, I supported this project in the end (reluctantly), but please don't lose another year by taking this to a foolhardy referendum.

Laura Quilter said...

anon 1208 - Actually, the MSBA is pretty flexible about these things and lets towns develop their own proposals for what's appropriate.

There are eight categories and only one of them says "minimum of one". Presumably, the others could all be zero or twenty, and there is an "other" category. Locally, our officials elected to stack the committee with staff and closely-affiliated people; leave off parents from Wildwood (the school originally named); not request any kind of liaising between the School Building Committee and the community at large.

That looked bad when it was brought to the attention (on facebook) by a member of the public, so Laura Kent, who as a new parent of a WW kindergartener, was quickly designated to serve on the committee as the "Wildwood parent" briefly before going on to the School Committee. She didn't connect with the PGO, the School Governance Council, the class parents list, or any other communication outlet to actually brief anybody about the project. I've heard the same of Crocker Farm. No wonder people at Wildwood & Crocker were utterly surprised when the proposal came out last fall. Fort River affiliates had stronger participation and presumably greater awareness in their community of the proposal, which probably goes some way to explaining their relatively higher support for the proposal.

While I recognize that many people came in to this issue in the last few months and were shown a long list of public meetings to document "an inclusive public process", I hope that people realize that is not actually what democratic theorists mean when they talk about an inclusive, participatory process. An inclusive, participatory process is one in which relevant parties are informed BEFORE decisions are made, and brought into the process WHILE decisions are being made, and there is TWO WAY (at least) communications and input from the community into the substantive decision-making.

In this process, the substantive decision (consolidate to a K1 / 2-6 model) was made well before even the first public forum, and never varied after that no matter how many members of the public complained at public meetings and in feedback to the school district.

Dr. Ed said...

The kids won't be playing on the hard top near the busses while the busses are dropping off or picking up.

No, they'll be playing there while other vehicles drive through there. Unless you intend to have vehicle barriers like they do in DC, and I doubt the AFD would approve of that.

Even if you could exclude all vehicles, AFD and APD need to have immediate access to the school -- there isn't the 10-15 minutes to make sure all the children have gone back into the building first.

And where are all the children going when the fire alarm sounds???

AFD, you're the folks who are going to have to tell the parents that you ran over their child -- the time to prevent that is NOW.

The kids will instead either be getting off the bus and going into school or walking out of the school and getting on the bus.

Or under a bus looking for a lost toy, etc. Young children aren't developmentally able to distinguish circumstances which is why you say "never play there."

Anonymous said...

12:03 PM said: You don't need a sky walk way. The kids won't be playing on the hard top near the buses while the buses are dropping off or picking up. The kids will instead either be getting off the bus and going into school or walking out of the school and getting on the bus.

So where would the kids congregate while the other buses and parents are dropping off before the bell rings? In the front the entrance? I know at Fort River they’re out playing basketball or on the fields.

Anonymous said...

As someone who attended the early "visioning" meetings with teachers, administrators, school committee members, and the builders, I can attest to Laura Quilter's assertion: Though we were told there were three potential options to pursue, only a consolidated approach (merging students from more than one school) was seriously discussed or considered in those earliest meetings. Grade reconfiguration was not explicitly pushed in the two earliest meetings (Fall 2015), but there was never substantive discussion of renovation or other options for addressing the needs of both schools other than some kind of mega-school.

Anonymous said...

Dang you Laura Quilter! You're probably the only one who reads that junk on the MSBA website anyway.

I've already made up my mind, don't bother me with the facts.

Anonymous said...

How will school committee vote tonight? Vira D. will vote to withdraw the applicaiton from the MSBA so Amherst can apply this April and move ahead with a new project. Appy, Hazzard and Ordonez will vote against withdrawal. Nakajima also will vote against, since his political support is from the Clare/Baers/Rationalistas/AmherstForAll(Development) folks -- that have brought you Appy, Hazard and Ordonez and Nakajima. They are like a dog chasing its tail in an ever shrinking and dizzying circle. The rest of us? We just pay and pay and so do our children.

Anonymous said...

Please give Eric a little more credit.. He will make up his own mind. Btw the did u know Vira didn't vote for him at the SC replacemeet meeting just because she was afraid if she did Appy wouldn't Eric will follow his own heart at what is best for this town. He is not an Appy follower

Anonymous said...

If it does go to a town wide referendum I will vote NO and work to urge others to do so.

But…throw in that fancy sky walkway and I just might reconsider.

Dr. Ed said...

A floating sky walkway using the latest anti-grav technology.

Because otherwise you'd have to have something at the other end to hold it up, which the buses would fetch up on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 139
The kids at Fort River walk around the school on the sidewalk in the morning while the busses are arriving. They are NOT playing in the fields or on the blacktop. I am a Fort River parent and I know what you said is NOT true.

Laura Kent said...

@Laura Quilter- I have some concerns with your comment at 1:03 pm because it is filled with incomplete facts and deletion of some key points.

When I was approached in the summer of 2015 to join the school building committee (over 8 months before I assumed my seat on school committee), your right, it was in the capacity of the Wildwood Parent Representative. I joined the existing school building committee a little later in the process as a replacement to the previous Wildwood parent representative that left due to time constraints.

I should also disclose that I was a "familiar" face in the district because I volunteered hours with SEPAC and represented families of children with special needs since my kid started preschool and we moved to this town.

The beginning of the fall, I had a meeting with Principal Nick Yaffe about sharing my contact information with any Wildwood parents or teachers since I was appointed to that role.

I was approached by yourself, Catherine Corson, Kurt Wise and Maria Kopicki to discuss the project that Fall. I openly came by myself to Ms. Corson's house one week night before the SC vote on grade reconfiguration and had a robust discussion (for if I remember correctly approaching two hours) about the project, our school building committee meetings, etc. At the end of that discussion, it was apparent we were on two separate sides of the coin.

The community discussion quickly became Wildwood vs Fort River which morphed into Neighborhood schools vs Megaschool.

Once you "outed" me that night from your WW community, how would you expect me to feel a part of that when you and this group I took the time to sit down with, lead this opposition.

And unfortunately with your post continue to draw the line in the sand.

Maybe I could have done more or you could have done better than I, dedicated more time and energy but please don't omit what I did try to do in outreach and disguise the situational shadows this project created on your vision for our public schools.

Most of the issues you have with the project was before my time on the committee. I had no impact on the grade reconfiguration (before my time on SC) and not in my capacity to decide on as a SBC member.

So disappointing in times like today that this is the tone we take when this is the last thing we need, especially here in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

The 750 kids can hang out together on the entry plaza of the new school. Won't that be fun?

Anonymous said...

What happened at tonight's meeting?

Larry Kelley said...

After two hours of nails on chalkboard discussion the School Committee voted 4-1 NOT to withdraw the Mega School from the MSBA program.

Thus guaranteeing we cannot resubmit Statements of Interest this year for a new plan.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone in Amherst buy a 47 year old house in order to tear it down? I know of a lot of 100+-year-old houses in Amherst. People fix them up and live happily in them. New roofs, new mechanicals (including HVAC), new windows and skylights, etc. are all much cheaper than building new.

There has been a lot of "it's not my money" in this plan to build two new schools. And a lot of people seduced by an offer of state money (much like my wife, who buys all sorts of things that have that red "clearance" tag on them at Target, even though we don't need or want the things)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your service, Ms. Kent. I'm sorry you have to deal with this at all. My sincere apologizes.

What kind of community are we cultivating where she feels she has to come on this blog and defend herself?

Laura Quilter said...

@Laura Kent @ 8:27, thanks for fact-checking me, and for writing me offline to engage in constructive dialog. I apologize for being name-specific; that just adds to the toxicity many of us have experienced.

I'll just briefly respond publicly here to LK's substantive comments.

The "Wildwood parent" position on the SBC seat was vacant for some time, at least in the list of members that was available. On October 15, 2015, a neighbor looked at the SBC membership list and the person listed as a WW parent did not actually have children in the school. I take LK's word for it that she was on the SBC since summer, but all that was available online showed a glaring lack of actual WW parents.

LK did come to a house gathering with me and some other people (December 10 by my notes), so that we could to talk about our concerns. We appreciated that then, and I was wrong to not include that in an accounting of LK's personal outreach efforts. If there were more outreach efforts by SBC members to the PGO and SGC, I missed them. It's good to hear that LK gave her information to Nick for parent outreach, and I'm not surprised; but I'm not sure it ever made it out beyond that. At any rate, LK's outreach efforts were certainly more than anyone else's I know, which is why, I think, people were hopeful that there might be some turnaround in the process. But really, as LK says, most of my gripes are about the process PRIOR to LK.

Let me try to restate my process concerns in a non-personal way. Many people very involved with Wildwood -- and certainly many people whose kids simply attended WW -- were really shocked and surprised that the "Wildwood Building Project" turned out to not be about renovating or rebuilding one school but about consolidating all the schools. I believed then and believe now that there were grave problems with the process that developed that recommendation. One problem was how people were selected for the SBC; another problem was that there was little structured relationship between the SBC (or the District) and the parent communities at the schools to share information. So not only was there no real opportunity for open input throughout the process, there was actually also very little communication from the process during the critical decision-making phase, which was all prior to the Sept 29 2015 forum.

That's the gist of what I was trying to say, which I think could have been simply summarized by the last two paragraphs of my original comment:

... a long list of public meetings .... [is not] an inclusive, participatory process. An inclusive, participatory process is one in which relevant parties are informed BEFORE decisions are made, and brought into the process WHILE decisions are being made, and there is TWO WAY (at least) communications and input from the community into the substantive decision-making.

In this process, the substantive decision (consolidate to a K1 / 2-6 model) was made well before even the first public forum, and never varied after that no matter how many members of the public complained at public meetings and in feedback to the school district.

---Anyway, thanks again to LK who reached out to me to talk after my earlier message. I do regret making it about an individual person by name. But something good came out of it, because LK reached out to me to personally and we talked, kindly and openly with one another. We've had at least a couple such interactions over the last year plus, and hopefully will have more. Personally I would love to see more of us do this with one another. We are all neighbors, and allies or potential allies. And we have many (likely most) values in common and similar goals, even if we have different analyses about how to get to the goals. There are bigger, and worse things to deal with, than the possibilities at play here in Amherst with the schools.

Anonymous said...

The 750 kids can hang out together on the entry plaza of the new school. Won't that be fun?

Or push each other out into the path of an oncoming fire truck.

Anonymous said...

Time to have the schools try out the configuration they want this coming school year, if that is what they really want and see how it feels. Move all K and 1st to CF. Expand and provide that 30 extra space in Preschool, half of 2nd to 6th at FR and half to WW. That's the reconfiguration. Town still needs to be divided in two, no matter what.

Anonymous said...

and anon@7:07: also test out what its like putting ~160 kids/recess period onto a surface the size of 4 tennis courts or so...there are so many details that are concerning. Remember, the devil is in the details (which the BOLD folks totally and deliberately overlook). I want new schools for Amherst kids, but this plan is bad

Anonymous said...

Laura Q- One correction- I believe the project was called "Wildwood Renovation Project" - before it was changed to "Wildwood Building Project"
I can see the confusion...From SBC meeting minutes it did seem like Laura K was hand selected to join the SBC to represent WW (when Mike was told another member was not a WW parent)
I sure wish the committee got more community members and business leaders involved-
This is a huge undertaking that goes far beyond the schools!

Anonymous said...

I will accept the outcome of the March Ballot, ideally this vote would have happened last March. I don't know why it was delayed until the Nov ballot, the results of which are hugely complicated by the College student vote. It is impossible to know how the student vote affected the outcome. I hope that both sides of the issue will not attempt to draw in the College vote in March. If 2/3rds of Amherst resident voters support the plan, so be it.

Anonymous said...

Are there physical plans available for the renovation of Crocker Farm to adapt to all preschool, kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms? Will walls need to be moved? Plumbing/pipes lowered? Bathrooms added? Changes to the bus loop to accommodate 23 buses instead of 6 or 7?

Are there cost estimates for those changes? My understanding is that the $67M is only for the Wildwood site. Renovation costs at Crocker Farm are extra.

When will the work be undertaken? Over the summer? Or will swing space be needed to accommodate kids while renovations are done. Are JCJ the architect for Crocker Farm also?

Anonymous said...

One of the most upsetting moments of last night's School Committee meeting for me was hearing Anastasia Ordonez's verbal attacks and belittling of those who oppose the new school project. She has been one of the most ardent supporters of the project and one of most dismissive of those who disagree with her on this, repeatedly questioning their motives, their research, and whether or not they actually have any support. Last night, Ms. Ordonez commented that there were more pro-new school community members in the audience than people against the project.

There is much disagreement in the community about this school. It would be more respectful of Ms. Ordonez to make her arguments in favor of the new school without attacking those who disagree with her.

Anonymous said...

How about no additional tax charge for those taxpayers over 60 or retired? Would the idea of the school still be so popular? How about all TM members who vote for it get an additional assessment to their taxes?

People still cannot agree on how the configuration of this school should look. All the talk about the beginning and end of day routines for children and their families are real. Just go to Wildwood or Fort River at the end of any day now and see the congestion.

What about all the "regular" town expenses? How about the proposals for the library, DPW? Are those "dead" now? All this nonsense while we continue to neglect the need for first responders. With all the "brains" around here, we sure need some "smarts"!

Anonymous said...

APD/ AFD- 24/7, 365 days a year saving lives and property-
A service available to every town resident.

Amherst Elementary Schools- 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 180 days a year.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why an override is needed. Can't the cost of this school be paid by regular capital borrowing by the town? If the town can afford to borrow $30+ million for the DPW building, why not borrow for this school instead? It just means making this school a priority over a dpw building. Taxpayers can't afford all 4 buildings and 2 overrides. Let the town pick and pay for top 2.

Anonymous said...

As far as I can see, there is no money set aside to renovate CF. Supposedly, there will be so much savings from the new school building that they can use that to renovate CF...but when? Plus it was renovated less than twenty years ago.
That's why the schools should try the reconfiguration this coming school year and let the teachers and families who supported this project experience it for real!
Where is the new redistricting line going to be to divide the two schools (2nd through 6th)?
Have the one VP slated with the new configuration travel between WW and FR. And cut the VP at CF to save money.
Start cutting more custodial and kitchen positions at all schools (again) as planned since you are serving fewer students par building.

Anonymous said...

As far as I can see, there is no money set aside to renovate CF. Supposedly, there will be so much savings from the new school building that they can use that to renovate CF...but when? Plus it was renovated less than twenty years ago.
That's why the schools should try the reconfiguration this coming school year and let the teachers and families who supported this project experience it for real!
Where is the new redistricting line going to be to divide the two schools (2nd through 6th)?
Have the one VP slated with the new configuration travel between WW and FR. And cut the VP at CF to save money.
Start cutting more custodial and kitchen positions at all schools (again) as planned since you are serving fewer students par building.

Dr. Ed said...

Has anyone figured out the cost of 23 buses? There is per-mile of the vehicle, driver, fuel, maintenance & insurance. None of this cheap.

Anonymous said...

But CF renovations would need to be complete prior to Fall 2020 when it would become the town's Early Childhood Center and house all preschool, kindergarten and 1st graders.
(Theoretical) Operational savings won't happen until after Fort River is closed and the new setup is fully operational for at least a year.
How can they use future (2021 and later) operational savings to pay for renovations in 2019/2020? Will we need to borrow more money to pay for CF renovations? How much will that be?
There are still many unanswered questions with this plan.

Anonymous said...

Plan does not house all preschool kids. Most kids will still go to other private preschools or to head start and HS preschool. Most kids will go to Crocker for only K and 1st grade.

Anonymous said...

anon 1004 I see your point. It was frustrating to watch someone who has previously seem responsive to the public becoming dismissive.. like she knew better then the person speaking and the persons opinion didn;t matter. Ordonez may know more of the in and outs but common courtesy is expected. This school committee as well as the former and current leadership has generally failed at accepting the public thoughts on this matter. It is very sad. Honestly, the SC has seemed to forget they were elected by the people. Everyone except Vira from what I have seen. Look at the price she has paid being on outcast on SC and their friends discrediting her and trying to make her look crazy. Similar to what the regional SC did to Baptiste. When will our governing bodies begin to function appropriately? When will they actually listen to what the public has to say. I Agree there needs to be a fix now. Not in 4 years or longer..