My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meeting to Select Superintendent

The School Committee will meet at 7:30 pm this Monday, March 2nd, to deliberate and vote during an open meeting for the new superintendent. This meeting will be held in the high school library (and I imagine will also be shown later on ACTV). I'd strongly encourage everyone to attend to learn who our next superintendent will be (assuming the offer is accepted!) -- and to see how all School Committee members vote.

UPDATE: If you would like to learn more about any of the candidates, you can see their resumes on the ARPS website (, and watch the evening sessions online at the ACTV website ( Since this blog actually isn't read (I assume?) by other members of the School Committee, those who would like to convey thoughts about any of the candidates should do so directly by sending an email to: I do believe this is an extremely important time for the Amherst schools, and hope that parents, teachers, and community members will share their impressions of the candidates with all members of the School Committee.


Anonymous said...

Will poster-sized signs proclaiming "WE NEED DR. SKLARZ" be allowed in the library?

Joe said...

I think it is great that the public is involved in the selection process for a new superintendent. However, I have been surprised with the lack of attendance at the meetings that the candidates were introduced. With so much expression of passion about the budget issues at the School Committee meetings or in written forums like this blog, I would think people would be more vocal about a key leadership position for our school system. This year we have seen the importance of selecting an excellent leader/communicator/manager for this position. Clearly the superintendent selection will have both short-term and long-term implications for our school system.

A few questions:

1) Will the deliberation by the School Committee members and the vote be public or will these conversations take place in executive session?

2) For my own purposes, I usually think of decisions within a cost/benefit framework. Having listened to each superintendent candidate I have some idea of the benefits each would bring to the role, but I really don’t understand the cost side of the equation. Is there a specific salary range that the School Committee is considering for this position? Has this range been impacted by the current “budget crisis”? Could the salary offer differ significantly based on the candidate? Would the contract length be the same for each candidate? Personally, I think there is one candidate that is better than the other two at the same cost level, but my opinion could differ if the expected salary cost over the contract would be different for each person.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous: Ummm, I kind of think it will be like election day ... no campaigning within 50 feet of the polling place or whatever?!?

Joe: I agree with your assessment of the small turn-out ... it was particularly striking to me to see 200 people attend a meeting at Marks Meadow to push for keeping that school open and/or saving instrumental music, and then see like 50 people for each of the superintendent visits.

The vote and deliberation will occur entirely in public. However, information about salary is discussed in executive session (since having a candidate be aware of the "top end" sort of ruins the negotiation process!). The School Committee will discuss salary in Executive Session after the meeting on Monday -- and I imagine that will include deciding on a range, top-end, etc., for whichever candidate is chosen.

Alison said...

Dear School Committee members:

After meeting all three candidates for the vacant Superintendent position, my conclusion is that you should either hire Dr. Sklarz or fail the search.

I first met Dr. I. Rodriguez at the Community Breakfast, a forum which, I will admit, allowed me to learn less about her than about the other candidates. My first impressions were "polished, hopeful, inexperienced." Although she was very well-spoken and clearly at ease with the public (and members of the SC present), she failed to communicate any vision for the Amherst schools or any rationale for wanting to leave her own nearby district in its own time of crisis. She did, however, light up when talking about the Special Ed initiatives she has created and Special Ed is clearly her forte, focus, and passion. She lacks, however, the more general experience necessary to take the helm of a more complicated district like our own, especially in a time of crisis. On my recommendation sheet for her I checked "consider" as I had not met the other candidates.

I next met Dr. Sklarz at the evening forum. I can literally say that he blew me away. From his resume, I was expecting an experienced administer, but his interview vastly surpassed my expectations. My impressions were, "energetic, experienced, vital, leader, passionate about children and education, and visionary." This decision to apply to our district was clearly thought-out and he had given his notice to his home district 18 months in advance of his leaving, demonstrating to me both a concern for long-term strategic planning and concern for the well-being of his current district. Dr. Sklarz has personal experience as a non-native English speaker, and administrative experience in districts from urban to rural, from multiple parts of the country, and districts that are diverse with respect to race, class, language, and committment to excellence. His primary vision for schools in general seems to be, "challenge all kids to the full extent of their ability so that all may reach their personal potential." A vision that fits well with Amherst's current mission. Dr. Sklarz demonstrates, to me, the qualities that we need in Amherst at this point. He is a fearless leader, open to criticism, committed to transparency, and experienced at all levels of administration. I checked "hire" for Dr. Sklarz. We really need him.

Finally, I met Dr. A. Rodriguez at the evening forum. My first impressions were, "thoughtful, soft-spoken, tentative, supplicant." He seemed ill-at-ease in front of both the SC and members of the public. Hesitant to talk about his own accomplishments, he simply rattled off a list of his former jobs almost verbatim from his resume. Although he has spent his entire professional career in the Miami-Dade district (and in varied positions, not following the traditional trajectory of increasing responsibility over time which concerns me), he never gave any hint as to why he was now looking to leave and/or why he wanted to come to Amherst, a district that bears little to no resemblance to the one district he has had experience in. Dr. Rodriguez seems like a very caring, child-oriented, thoughtful educator. I have no doubt that he was an excellent classroom teacher and it would not surprise me if he were the favorite among the Amherst teachers--he of the three would appear most like a colleague to them rather than a "boss." However, we are not looking for another teacher; we are looking for a leader with vision. Dr. Rodriguez is not that leader. I checked "no not consider" on his evaluation.

I appreciate the fact that the School Committee has made every effort to solicit public comment on the Superintendent candidates. I only hope that you will pay attention to the feedback you do receive. I look forward to hearing your discussion on Monday night. Good luck with your decision.

...Alison Donta-Venman

Becky said...

I agree with both posts that Dr. Sklarz was very impressive. The night he presented to the public, he was extremely personable and detailed his experience well. I left feeling very hopeful. As the days passed, I became increasingly concerned whether he was a bit too much of a salesman.
Dr Alberto Rodriguez came off less flashy and uncertain of himself in comparison. I was fortunate to be able to speak to him twice before the meeting and a strong feeling that he is sincere, experienced and thoughtful. I think his humble approach was misinterpreted as discomfort. We need a person who cares deeply about our children, our teachers and our community. Having mentioned that his current school district lacks passion for education and how difficult it makes progress, I feel his accomplishments are even more impressive.
I cannot claim to know who would be the best choice as parents are only 1 faction. I hold the opinion of our Principles, Teachers and SC very high being that they spent the most time with the candidates. I trust them to review all stakeholder input and proceed based in the best interest of the ARSD.

Anonymous said...

Abbie says:

sorry I couldn't make the meetings. Had departmental interviews on the same dates...

I did look at the resumes and from that it was clear to me that Sklarz was outstanding and miles above the others...

If he was as good as that in person, I hope the SC offers him the position and he takes it!!

ed said...

My strong suggestion: no one is allowed to bring a stick/pole/tube or similar item into the room, with reasonable exemptions for the blind and disabled. NOTHING to be attached to a stick, no flags, posters, signs, whatever.

No one is allowed to bring in anything bigger than 8.5" x 11" - no posters, banners and the like.

This is a clearly content-neutral and Constitutional restriction on speech to maintain public order. If you don't do this, I would be surprised if various factions don't appear with signs encouraging the candidates to "save" things of import: "Save Mark's Meadow", "Save Music", "Save SPED", etc.

You don't want that, it benefits no one -- and everyone benefits from no one doing this.

Anonymous said...

Ed's comment reminded me of the large banner brought forth by a number of very cute kids and paraded in front of the Marks Meadow auditorium during the Feb 10 School Committee meeting. The banner read, "Save Marks Meadow."

Anonymous said...

Do we really need a superintendent who said, upon announcing his retirement in CT, that "I've been doing this for 30 years. I'm ready to do something else."

Anonymous said...

Sad news:

Anonymous said...

So will the hiring committee visit the school districts of the finalists and ask questions? Lots of concerns in WH (car racing instead of working, puts himself first ($) during a budget crisis and takes recognition away from his teaching staff (he is the reason the kids do well)- Dr Sklarz *retired* from WH (he did not plan to get another position) Do we want someone ready to retire? If so- we will soon be searching again!!!
Is Maria interested- she is *known*

Ed said...

Ed's principle is simple: I don't care if it is the cute children, the cute busty 19-year-old blond bombshells or whomever -- NO ONE get to wave banners so that (hopefully) everyone gets to ask real questions.

Anonymous said...

"Dr Sklarz *retired* from WH (he did not plan to get another position) Do we want someone ready to retire?"

I have to second this thought. Haven't we just learned something from our recent experience with retirees?