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, March 5, 2009

Hampshire Gazette Article on Dr. Alberto Rodriguez

Amherst schools pick says he's ready for pressure

AMHERST - Alberto Rodriguez, the Amherst Regional School Committee's pick for superintendent, was amused by some of the questions people asked when he visited district last week.

One was why he would consider leaving Florida for New England.

Rodriguez, who is still in negotiations with the district about financial terms, said he is attracted to Massachusetts because it has historically been a state in the forefront of educational reform.

"It can't all be about weather."

Florida, he said, has gotten bogged down with FCAT, the equivalent of the MCAS educational assessment system in this state. "There's been an overdependence, an overreliance, too much focus on it," Rodriguez said.

Another question is whether he is tough enough for Amherst.

"You guys really have no idea how tough it is down here," he said by telephone from Florida, in response to concerns some parents have raised about whether a principal in the country's fourth-largest school district would be able to navigate the small-town politics of Amherst.

"We play hard, hard, hardball down here," he said of Miami.

Assuming he takes the job, Rodriguez, 48, said people would find he does not shy away from pressure. "I'm going to be tested, and you guys will see that it's not about that," he said. "I have the mettle to take that fire."

In his experience, the best way to assure a community that decisions are being made fairly is to arrive at them transparently in an open process, Rodriguez said.

"The whole concept of unanimity is not a real concept," he said. "You're not going to have, in any community everybody agree with you about everything. You try to do things based on data, reason. You reach out and you listen. Ultimately, you formulate a plan and you move on. If there is a group that does not agree with it, it's their American, God-given right to disagree."

Rodriguez likely would have to address one of the thorniest school issues in recent years, the closing of Mark's Meadow School, a cost-savings option that could be on the table next year, assuming the school is not closed this year. He said he confronted the possibility of closing Edison Senior High School, the oldest high school in Miami, during his tenure as an assistant superintendent. "We held firm against closing the school," and it is still open today, he said.

Another issue Rodriguez sees Amherst facing is aligning curricula across schools and grades more closely than is done now. "It's not that people aren't working extra hard," he said, "but there needs to be some alignment and some vision in that realm."

Close call

The School Committee almost didn't arrive on a decision about a new superintendent at all, Monday.

Three of nine members, initially, said they did not feel confident enough in any three finalists to cast a vote, with two members saying they favored West Hartford Superintendent David Sklarz, leaving the four members who favored Rodriguez one vote short of a majority. But after a five-minute break, a consensus was reached.

Rodriguez will now be the subject of a background check and school officials will visit his district. Barring any unforeseen hitches, he would succeed Jere Hochman, who left last summer for the same position in Westchester County.

Alton Sprague and Helen Vivian had been serving as interim co-superintendents but resigned last week, citing personal reasons. Maria Geryk, who has been the director of student services for the six years, has been appointed by the School Committee to complete their term ending June 30.

10 comments:

Alison said...

If I recall correctly, consensus was NOT reached. Catherine Sanderson voted for Dr. Sklarz and Tracy Farnham voted to fail the search.

Anonymous said...

With a ton of back and forth from the others before that! How many times were their votes changed?

Rick said...

The decision is done. We need to all get behind this guy now.

Like in a marriage, it's not just who you marry, but how you interact in that marriage that makes it work or not.

Let's all welcome him, interact with him with openness and respect, and hope we get the same in return.

Anonymous said...

We have a decision though. We can't continue to argue over how the decision was made. We have to continue to stand up for our children, our schools and our town. This will involve moving forward with the chosen Superintendent and working on the budget crisis. Catherine put up a great fight and held her ground. We should be proud of her for taking this stand for all of us. She is not just talking about what should be done. She is out there doing it. How many of us are really willing to do this work? how many of us are really willing to step up and face the kind of actions that Catherine is having to endure, while standing up for our town? As far as I can tell, there are three others. The three people running currently for School Committee are the only ones who have the courage to stand up for our town, schools and children. We may not like all the choices that are decided, but we all have a chance to make the effort to be part of the decision, by taking the step to run for this thankless job.

Neil said...

I have three concerns about the three members who felt that none of the three candidates were satisfactory. 1) How do we get so late in a process before this comes up? 2) What did they hear in the meeting that changed their minds from 're-search' to Rodriguez? 3) And if this was a single member that would be one thing but 1/3 of our school board doesn't have the presence of mind to deal with this search engaged and proactive, and at the same time, in the course of one night, changed from voting for zero of the three candidates to the one of the candidates that was favored by 4/9ths of the members. Wow. I would like to know more about their decision-making process, wouldn't you?

I'm sure the City of Miami public school system and the town of Amherst public school system have a lot of the same issues.... For example, what's the AP program like in the city of Miami. If we were to compare the top five education issues in the two school systems, how would they match up?

Who are the board co-chairs and were they both "yes" for Rodriguez on the first hand vote?

Neil said...

Also, I appreciate all the comments about moving forward with Rodriguez and I agree whole-heatedly but that does not preclude reviewing OUR decision making process and working toward improving it.

Abbie said...

I believe there was a "consensus"

definition: an opinion held by all or MOST, general agreement, esp in opinion

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Quick responses:

Alison/Abbie: Consensus is majority. Rodriguez had it.

Anonymous: Only one vote changed (Andy). Katz and Hussin didn't support, then did (or vice versa). I was consistent (Sklarz), as was Tracy (abstain).

Rick: Agreed. He is our superintendent, and we all need to work well with him to move our schools forward.

Anonymous: I just did a blog on the three candidates -- start getting informed!

Will respond to the others soon!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

OK, my last response to Neil:

1) How do we get so late in a process before this comes up?

I WOULD SAY THAT SOMETIMES INFORMATION COMES UP DURING THE INTERVIEW PROCESS THAT INFLUENCES PEOPLE'S VIEWS ABOUT THE FIT OF A GIVEN PERSON FOR OUR COMMUNITY. THAT MIGHT NOT BE CLEAR EARLIER IN THE PROCESS.

2) What did they hear in the meeting that changed their minds from 're-search' to Rodriguez?

THIS ACTUALLY CONCERNED ME -- I BELIEVE PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE LOBBIED THE RE-SEARCH PEOPLE TO JUST VOTE FOR SOMEONE TO HAVE THE PROCESS OVER DURING THE BREAK. AND THAT IS ACTUALLY PROBLEMATIC, SINCE THE SC WAS STILL IN SESSION AND SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING THE VOTING DURING A BREAK.

3) And if this was a single member that would be one thing but 1/3 of our school board doesn't have the presence of mind to deal with this search engaged and proactive, and at the same time, in the course of one night, changed from voting for zero of the three candidates to the one of the candidates that was favored by 4/9ths of the members. Wow. I would like to know more about their decision-making process, wouldn't you?

IN BRIEF, I THINK IT BECAME CLEAR THAT THE ONLY CANDIDATE WHO HAD SUPPORT FROM INITIALLY 5 PEOPLE, ALTHOUGH THEN 4 (SINCE KATZ INITIALLY VOTED FOR, THEN SAID NO ONE, THEN WENT BACK TO FOR) WAS RODRIGUEZ. THEN PEOPLE LOBBIED THE SC TO CHOOSE SOMEONE, AND ANDY AND HUSSIN AND KATZ WENT ALONG WITH THOSE PREFERENCES.

I'm sure the City of Miami public school system and the town of Amherst public school system have a lot of the same issues.... For example, what's the AP program like in the city of Miami. If we were to compare the top five education issues in the two school systems, how would they match up?

GOOD QUESTION -- AND I DO NOT KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS.

Who are the board co-chairs and were they both "yes" for Rodriguez on the first hand vote?

BOARD CHAIRS ARE ANDY IN AMHERST (VOTED FOR SKLARZ FIRST), MICHAEL HUSSIN IN REGIONAL (VOTED TO RE-OPEN SEARCH INITIALLY), TRACY FARNHAM IN PELHAM (VOTED TO RE-OPEN SEARCH CONSISTENTLY). AGAIN, I FIND THIS CONCERNING, BUT YES, WE NOW NEED TO MOVE ON AND SUPPORT OUR NEW SUPERINTENDENT.

ed said...

I don't like his negative comments about the Florida assessment exam....

Could be a serious warning sign...