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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amherst Meeting, April 14, 2009

Tonight was a long and very productive meeting -- the first Amherst meeting with our new School Committee members Irv and Steve. Here is my best summary:

1. We held elections for officers (because it was the first meeting with the new board). I nominated Andy for chair, Steve seconded it, and he was unanimously elected. Andy then nominated me for vice-chair, Steve seconded, then Kathleen nominated Irv, who seconded his own nomination. We voted, and I won -- with votes from me, Andy, and Steve.

2. We had public comment - this largely consisted of Marks Meadow parents discussing the school and the reasons to keep it open. There was also a preview of the new "Amherstopoly" game (created jointly by the elementary school PGOs and on sale now!) and a plea to maintain the Cambodian culture class afterschool at Fort River.

3. We then turned to the superintendent's update, which included mention of several awards/prizes/plays by various Amherst kids, generous community donations to AEF, and an upcoming announcement of the selection of the 6th grade math curriculum (she's leaning towards Impact 1 -- the first book in the three-book series, and Impact 2 and 3 are now used in 7th and 8th -- but will make a decision soon about whether to go with this book versus our current curriculum, which is a combination of CMP and Scott Foresman; she hopes to announce the decision on April 28th).

4. Rob Detweiler then presented a very depressing budget update ... which basically says that (a) the economy is even worse than anticipated, and (b) the economic stimulus money from the federal government isn't going to come through for this year. The reality is, that means we are very likely at Level 3 budgets -- and potentially something even worse than Level 3. This is very, very depressing news, as you can imagine. The governor's budget is released tomorrow (April 15th), which will tell more, but no one is expecting that the news will be good.

The committee then discussed this news a bit -- in particular, I asked whether this poor economic climate was likely to be very brief (answer was no -- we should anticipate a recession at least for a few years) and whether the level of impact on our schools at Level 3 would merit closing Marks Meadow at the end of this year (answer was pretty uncertain ... I think we will know more in 2 weeks). Andy then noted that the chairs of various town departments are meeting this Friday to work on creating a 3-year plan to meet the expected budget short-falls based on projected revenues.

5. We then heard an update from interim superintendent Maria Geryk on the planned forums regarding my motion to close Marks Meadow and redistrict into three equitable schools. She is preparing the following information: current and projected enrollments, class sizes under a three-school model, percentage of kids in various groups under a three-school model (e.g., on free/reduced lunch, of color, limited English proficient, special ed, etc.), number of students impacted, and financial implications. She also will prepare answers to "frequently asked questions" (so send those to her: GerykM@arps.org). The School Committee and principals will see a draft of the presentation later this week, and it should be posted on the web early next week (more than a week before the first presentations). There will also be opportunities at each of the forums to provide feedback about the plan.

I will again encourage everyone to attend one of the forums (it doesn't matter which one you go to -- they will all present the same information): Monday, April 27th, 5 pm (Marks Meadow); Wednesday, April 29th, noon (Wildwood); Wednesday, April 29th, 5 pm (Fort River); Thursday, April 30th, 5 pm (Crocker Farm); Tuesday, May 5th, 7 pm (Middle School auditorium). Again, you can also look at the information on the web and provide feedback to School Committee members based on that information.

We then had a long discussion about the types of information committee members wanted to have included in the presentation. Irv was interested in having a line by line budget for all the schools (and/or per pupil costs by each school), but that information is not readily available (it is not how the budget office currently keeps track of expenditures), nor did other committee members share his interest in having this information. I expressed my interest in having information on not just how the schools would look like if Marks Meadow CLOSED, but also how all the schools would look if we continued to have four schools (because again, we'd still have to cut staff -- meaning class sizes would increase and other things would be cut, such as instrumental music). The vote on whether to close Marks Meadow at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, and to redistrict into three equitable schools, will take place at the May 19th Amherst School Committee meeting.

6. We then turned to a few lingering issues, including school committee goals (to be discussed at a future meeting), subcommittee assignments (to be discussed at a future meeting), calendar review (we will meet in two weeks from 6:30 to 7:30 for the budget review), and items for upcoming agendas. Irv then expressed his view that he'd like more input in terms of issues that appear on the agenda. I echoed this view, and expressed the belief that we could perhaps spend 10 minutes or so at the end of meetings discussing items for future meetings, and to make sure items that the board cared about were included in subsequent agendas. Andy agreed that this made sense. Steve noted that he'd like on a future meeting agenda the topic of teacher evaluation pre-tenure. I noted that I'd like on a future meeting agenda the topic of when School Committee meetings are scheduled (since both Steve and I have conflicts on the first and third Tuesday of each month for Amherst College Faculty Meetings -- which are required). And then we adjorned.

It was a long meeting (we got out at 9:30), but I feel it was a very productive meeting, and Andy did a great job facilitating a number of tricky conversations/ issues. Interim superintendent Maria Geryk continues to do a very thorough and responsive job in preparing for leading her portion of the meetings. It does feel like an important and exciting time for the Amherst schools, and I'm really pleased with our present leadership and direction.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was the salary of the new Superintendent not announced? How long do we have to wait? Are you afraid of public reaction so waiting until school vacation next week? How will that inflated amount possibly fit in with our now tier 3 budget?

Anonymous said...

Will the forum held at the Middle School be recorded by ACTV and available for later viewing on ACTV?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

1. The contract, to the best of my knowledge, has not been finalized, so the salary won't be released until we have that in hand. We heard last week that we would receive it this week -- and when we do, it will be released. However, the salary was included as part of our budget plan at all three levels, since that is a known cost, so it really shouldn't have any impact on the budget.

2. Good question about the forum -- I will ask for this to occur (I don't know if plans have been made for it to already).

Anonymous said...

If we do end up with only 3 elementary schools and we do redistrict, where would the kids from Belechertown go? I know they now go to Fort River. Am I right that they go there because they are closest to that school, but are their also are children from Belechertown at the other schools? Can you tell me how much money does Amherst get for them or does it just go to the school they go to? I am confused because my granchildren live in btown and when I called I was told that they could'nt come to Amherst. But some of there neighbers do, so I don't understand. There not even near the town line We moved to Amherst from there almost 40 years ago so our children could go to Amherst and they all went to Marks Meadow. I take care of my granchildren every day after school and it is hard to arrange. Somebody told me I should they could use our Amherst adress when they sign up. Theirs one the third one is going to kindergarten in Sep. Please somebody out there tell me what we should do. Theres lots of kids in Belechertwon that would like to go to Amherst for the elementary school. Where can we find out how much Amherst gets for these kids? Doesnt that money help? Every little bit helps. Do we get more for children with special education needs? Thanks you very much.

Amh Mom said...

What?

What can this mean, Belchertown kids are going to Amherst schools? When I have been told my kindergartener may not be able to go to her neighborhood school due to overcrowding?

Anonymous said...

Kindergartners have been bussed to other schools for years, this isn't new and they do just fine.
But...is someone just messing around? I thought we didn't accept school choice for elementary.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Me, again:

First, I have arranged for ACTV to tape the forum. Thanks for the good suggestion.

Second, Amherst elementary schools do NOT accept children from other towns. There may be cases in which children are attending Amherst schools who should not be -- and if so, that information should be given to the principal or superintendent.

Anonymous said...

How was the superintendent salary included at all three tiers? If I'm not mistaken I thought we were talking these budget cuts before the candidate was chosen?

Nancy

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Nancy: The SC approved a tentative salary "placeholder" last fall -- because we knew we WOULD have a superintendent and hence would need to budget accordingly (so, it was a projection or an estimate of what we thought we would have to pay). This is similar to when a principal leaves -- we don't know EXACTLY what we'll have to pay to hire a new principal (because we don't know who we will hire and how much he or she will negotiate), but a certain amount is budgeted for that hire. Once a superintendent is hired, his/her salary is contractually obligated, just like the salary of all of our principals, so all those numbers have been included at all levels of the budgets (e.g., we didn't say that at Level 3, we'll just get rid of the superintendent or reduce his salary).

LarryK4 said...

How can $158-K plus $15-K in housing/transportation NOT have an impact on the school budget?

That extra $38-K would come in handy somewhere!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

LarryK - I'm not going to talk about numbers regarding the superintendent's salary until that information is officially released -- which I believe will be very soon (we were told last week at the School Committee that it would be announced mid-this week ... which is where we are). When the information is released about the salary, I will post it on this blog.

Anonymous said...

The only information that I know about Belchertown kids going to Amherst schools happened about 7 or 8 years ago so it may not be importantt now but maybe it is. There was a teacher at Crocker Farm who lived in Belchertown, Brett Nelson and his kids went to the Amherst preschool when it was at Fort River and also when it was at Crocker Farm and I did not think this was fair because there was not any room for my kids there and I lived in Amherst. They told me there was a lottery and only room for a few kids and most kids did not get to go. So maybe there was school choice for preschhol back then but it still didn't seem fair to me. I also knew that at Crockrer Farm Mrs. Garyk the new superintendent and Mr. Torriago the school counselor their kids went to Amherst preschool at Crocker Farm and I wondered if they won the lottery or if teachers get first choice for their kids before the rest of people. Thank you for reading this.

Anonymous said...

I'm fairly certain there is a child in my son's class who lives in Belchertown. How could the principal not know? Parents know. I did not know it was not an approved practice and I doubt other parents in our community are aware of that. I don't think it's something new. Are you sure it is not permissable? Are there special circumstances? If so, what are they? Is the interim superintendent aware? This raises so many questions. We also chose to live in Amherst in order to attend Amherst schools. One final, very important question, what about the children? If they are not supposed to be here, do they know it? Oh, dear.

Anonymous said...

I work in the schools and can tell you that there are kids from out of district (Belchertown included) who attend the Amherst schools. Parents give an Amherst address and then provide transportation. And, yes, some of the kids know they are not supposed to be there and are told to lie about where they live. Also, in some cases these children require extra help either through special ed. or with intervention teachers.

Anonymous said...

Pssst! It's a not-well-kept secret that out-of-town kids have been going to Crocker Farm for years. Anonymous above has the way it's done absolutely right. There are School Committee members who know the allegations about this, including Mr. Churchill.

This was done under the previous principal at Crocker for years.

Anonymous said...

There are kids in other elementary schools that live in other towns. Fort River has kids from Belchertown and Munson attending that I know of. Probably other towns as well. This practice should be eliminated before any other cuts are made to our schools. Especially if we are reducing to three schools which may then be somewhat crowded. If you want to use the Amehrst school system, you should be willing to pay Amherst-level taxes! If Mr. Churchill knows about this, why doesn't he speak up and do something?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Catherine! I am very appreciative of your service and am hoping that, as vice-chair (that sounds interesting) of the SC, you will be able to better facilitate that committee's ability to effectively serve the needs of both our children and our community.
I also hope I can expect your vigilance in determining which positions in the Amherst-Pelham budget are most critical to preserve. I encourage you to obtain real information and get hard data when it comes to which programs have direct impact on the most students. Please do not rely on the recommendations of school officials, who unfortunately all too often prioritize cuts based on their needs. As a parent of two elementary age children and one secondary, I am constantly reminded of the fact that the principal's agenda does not often line up with the thinkibg of the parent population. We get lip service, nothing more. I hope you will value parent input; I do believe our experiences with our children's education is due genuine consideration.
Please probe; are the teachers who see all children each period of the day (classroom, music, art, physical education, library) vital? Absolutely. ALL CHILDREN BENEFIT. Is every administrative position as critical? Do all children benefit? Absolutely not. Really, it is mostly the principal who does? Yes. Certainly not students; not even parents. that last part is admittedly personal, but I suspect it's not unique.

Anonymous said...

As for students from outside the district coming to our schools? No secret. Fort River's past and present principal are complicit. Central office must be, too. I agree with the previous poster about trusting recommendations from school administrators. Has anyone ever thought of those most affected by such decisions? Both parents and teachers are where the action is. One further point. I have learned from other parents that the position of the math intervention teacher at Fort River is not primarily used for intervention. It was explained to some parents as really being a math coach, whose responsibility was to work with students 20%of the time and "coach" teachers the remaining 80% of the time. That information is appalling and it begs the question: Why are we hiring TEACHERS who need coaches? Which reminds me, Mr. Rivkin, may you prevail in getting on top of the teacher evaluation process, Please hold principals to their responsibility of ensuring that only the best remain in our employ. Also, please ask the principals to distripute staffing positions so that teaching positions are allocated to classrooms in order to prevent classes with high numbers. In such difficult budgetary times, with the exception of special education and reading programs,we do not have the luxury of having teachers available for only small numbers of students.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Me, again:

First, I am NOT aware of any kids that are attending Amherst schools who do not live in Amherst, but of course this practice is unfair to Amherst taxpayers (and our teachers and principals and other kids), since these kids get an Amherst education and don't contribute taxes. However, this is something the district cares about and tries to look into when they are told (I know personally of families in which kids have had to leave the district once it became apparent this is not where they actually lived). If you know of kids currently who attend the Amherst elementary schools (there is school choice for 7th to 12th), you should contact the principal at that school AND the superintendent. I'm sure that can be done anonymously. If people have questions about this, they can also contact me privately and confidentially (casanderson@amherst.edu). It shouldn't be happening, and yes, in tight budget times, it is even more of a problem in terms of how we allocate our resources. As others have outlined, it happens because parents present inaccurate information at registration (e.g., a tax or utilities bill from a relative) OR when families move to a new community and don't tell the school.

Second, and to Anonymous 1:10 specifically, Andy Churchill has proposed an annual survey go to each parent (and teacher/staff person) at each school, so that we can get parent input as well as teacher/staff input. I think that is a very good idea, and I'm hoping we will be able to implement this as early as this spring. I will continue to push for numbers in terms of how staff are allocated, and to make sure that we are doing our best with limited resources. These are very difficult financial times, so we do need to be vigilant in terms of how we are using limited resources.

Anonymous said...

Why should it be on the backs of individual parents to report violators of the elementary school Amherst-only rule?! Isn't that what administrators are for? If someone submits a tax bill and/or utility bill from Amherst it someone else's name, shouldn't they have to provide back-up information to prove that they, too, live in that home? I would like to see this policy instituted TODAY. Even at the middle and high schools, were there is school choice, there are still violators. Those are more difficult for parents to detect because if they have a non-Amherst address, parents just assume they are there on school choice. Not always the case. Administrators at ALL schools in town should be cracking down on this.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 2:16 - I am not saying it is OK -- it is a violation of policy, and when people become aware of it (e.g., principals), those kids/families are asked to stop attending the school. The issue is that sometimes people have legitimate bills -- so, perhaps their mother-in-law lives in a condo that they own in Amherst, so the utility bill is in their name, but their residence is in another town. Or they own a rental property that they pay taxes on in Amherst and use the bills (e.g., mortgage statement) from that property to register a child. Or they do live in Amherst when they register their child, but then a year later they move, and never notify the district. Those are all things that occur, and they are hard for administrators to figure out -- there are 1300 kids in the district, and the vast majority do live in Amherst ... so it would be very, very time-consuming to investigate each and every child to figure out whether he/she actually lived at the address reported. Again, I know of cases in which families have been asked to leave when it was learned that they didn't live in Amherst, but that typically occurs when someone (another parent, a teacher, etc.) lets someone in authority know. Again, if people contact me privately with information, I will be glad to get it to the appropriate person.

Anonymous said...

To Anon April 15, 2009 1:08 PM - I've heard about the kid from Monson (~4th grade, I presume), my son says that the kid's dad lives in Monson (so he is on that town's soccer team) but the mom lives in Amherst.

About the others though - I have heard directly from a Fort River teacher that she knows of kid(s) (more than 1) in her class who live in Belchertown, but use a relative's address in Amherst and give out cell phone numbers as their contact info. My guess is that this is not new info to the principal of Fort River.

In these times of financial difficulty, the last we need are cheaters.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that out of town kids are here with the complicity of school employees. It's been going on for years, and it's justified as providing an opportunity for the kid in question.

How do you throw the kid out once he/she has settled in to a classroom? On a human level, once you've got your kid in the door, you're in.

They've been here from as far away as Springfield.

Anonymous said...

Did I read that right? On a human level? We are talking about teaching children it is advantageous to lie. Is anyone else concerned by the lack of integrity on the part of responsible parties. There are many vicitms here and very few heroes. Can't fault teachers for this one. They are powerless. Just wondering - do they have a "whistle blower's" provision in their contract?
Thank you, Ms. Sanderson,for providing this forum for taxpayers. It is most informative and necessary.

Anonymous said...

If so many students are trying to come to the Amherst Elementary schools why don't we open up for School Choice so that they can come and we can get paid for it?

a concerned parent said...

Is it too hard to focus on the difficulty and hardship of the Level 3 cuts -- so it's easier to go on tangents? It seems the School Board has been stuck at looking at Level 1 cuts, even though there never has been enough money to limit the cuts to this level.

Override, school closings, more money from Town Meeting or the Finance Committee?

Let's focus on the big picture, it's dire and we need to work together to help our children.

Budget vs State Avg said...

Let’s focus on the big picture here… how are we going to come up the cuts we need to make? Are there alternatives to the Tier 1, 2 and 3 that are currently proposed?

Here’s the quick summary of what I have found:

Over the past nine years (2000-2009), we have increased the budget in Amherst-Pelham (AP) by $4.3 M and Amherst (A) by $4.2 M for the Specialists (teachers), the Paraprofs/instructional assistants, the guidance/adjustment counselors, HR, and health insurance/benefits. At the same time, we overspend the per pupil state average for ELL, Special Ed, and Health Insurance by $4.6M for AP and $4 M for Amherst. This suggests that the money we have ADDED to the budget over the past 9 years have put our spending on a per pupil basis above state average by THAT SAME AMOUNT.

That suggests that the cuts we need to make now should bring us closer to the baseline where we were 9 years ago, and closer to the baseline of state average.

Data source: per pupil expenditures comes from http://finance1.doe.mass.edu/schfin/statistics/function08_detail.aspx
and the budget info is on the arps.org website (look at FY09 budgets).

More details below...

Budget Increases 2000-2009 said...

More details about how I arrived at the numbers listed above.

I’ve looked at the increase in the budget for Amherst (A) and Amherst-Pelham Regional (AP) from 2000-2009. For A, the budget has increased by $7 million and for AP, it has increased $10 million. In what areas of public educations were the increases in the budget added to?

For Amherst: For reference, regular ed has added almost half a million ($476K) or 16%. to its budget to reach $5.7 M in 2009.

Special ed added $1.6 M (72%) to $2.8 million (2000) to reach current levels of $4.4 M
Health insurance added $2 M (190%, cost goes from $1.2 M to $3.3 M)
Operations & Others added $630K ($300 to$940K)
Facilities added $460K (65%, from $900K to $1.4M)
ELL added $300K (66%, go from $500K to $850K)
Transportation added $400K (225%, from $185K to $590K)
School admin and Central Admin did not add much ($120K and $155K, respectively, ~25%)

That takes care of about $6 million of the $7 M added in the last 9 nine years.


On the regional budget, we see the following changes. You’ll love this – regular ed has added just $285K to its current budget of $6.9M (4% increase).

SPED has added $1.7 M to its original budget of $3.2M to $4.9M (54%).
Health Insurance has added $2.8 M (from $1.4 M to $2.8M).
Operations & Other has added $2 M to the current level of $2.7 M.
Facilities has added $860K (from $1.3M to $2.2M).
Transportation has increased by $500K to $1.8 M (38%).
School admin added $420K (from $800K to $1.25M)
Central Admin only added $200K (from $500K to $700K)

That takes care of about $9 M of the $10M added in the last 9 years.

Budget vs State avg details said...

So, were all these additions to the budget necessary? A quick way of figuring that out is to compare our expenditures to the state average per pupil. What I did was take the average per pupil amount and the Amherst per pupil amount and multiply each number (individually) by the number of our pupils (1892 in AP and 1453 in Amherst). And then just compare the amounts.

One area that stood out to me was the overspending we do on Teachers, Specialist (vs Teachers,Classroom), Paraprofs/instructional assistants and guidance/adjustment counselors.

On Teachers, Specialists, we spend $1.25M more in AP and $1.4M more in Amherst than the state average would dictate, for a place with an equivalent number of students. (A good reference is to note that for Teachers, Classroom, we UNDERSPEND by half a million for AP, and only spend $250K more than state average for Amherst.

For Non-clerical Paraprofs/Instructional assistants, we spend $490K more for AP and $860K more for Amherst than state average.

For Guidance and Adjustment Counselors, we spend $410K more for AP than state avg.

We spend an abnormally high amount more than state avg on Human Resources and Benefits, presumably to take care of this large body of employees listed above. For HR, AP spends $150K and Amherst spends $85K more than state average – for a total of $235. That doesn’t look like much but it does when you think that state avg per pupil expenditure is $33 on Human Res. whereas we spend $115 or $90 in AP and A, respectively, per pupil.

If you add that up (the specialists, the paras, the assistants, and the counselors), we are spending $2.1 M more for AP and $2.25 M more for Amherst than state average.

Naturally following this high list of employees is our exorbitant Health Insurance costs, which are $2 M (for AP) and $1.85 M (for A) higher than state average. Sure, everyone can say that health insurance has risen in the last 9 years to account for our actual expenditures for AP to increase by $2.8 M and for A to increase by $2 M ($4.8 M total for AP and A). But at the same time, we overspend the state average by almost $4 M! That suggests we have a much higher number of employees per pupil than state avg.

All this points to us having significantly increased the number of employees that help the SPED students and other students needing assistance (ELL, intervention) over the past 9 years. Adding up these categories (specialists, paras, assistants, counselors, HR, and health insurance) this is what we have:

Over the past nine years, we have increased the budget in AP by $4.3 M and A by $4.2 M for the specialists, the paras, the assistants, and the counselors, HR and health insurance/benefits. At the same time, we overspend the state average for ELL, Special Ed, and Health Insurance by $4.6M for AP and $4 M for Amherst.

That suggests to me that the cuts we need to make now should bring us closer to the baseline where we were 9 years ago, and closer to the baseline of state average.

I say that we should NOT make cuts to regular education, since not much money has been added to it (especially at the Amherst-Pelham regional level) over the past 9 years.

Per pupil expenditures are HIGH said...

Per pupil expenditures

Overall, we run expensive schools. Of 319 districts reporting (of 328 total), AP ranks 45th and A ranks 57th in terms of TOTAL expenditures per pupil. But there are a couple of areas where we really rank HIGH (and high means high expenses).

Amherst ranks 23 and AP ranks 28 in terms of highest amount spent per pupil on Insurance, Retirement and other (HR & benefits). We must have more employees per pupil than most.

Amherst ranks 25th (and AP ranks 77th) in terms of most spent on other teaching services (which includes the para/assistants). State avg per pupil for Non-clerical paraprof/instructional assistants is $510 whereas Amherst spends double that ($1106) and AP spends $770 per pupil.

The average spent per pupil for (Teachers, Specialists) is $480 for the state whereas we spend $1435 in Amherst and $1140 in AP.

For highest amount spent on operations and maintenance, AP ranks 35th and A ranks 80th. I suspect that the high amount per pupil spent for AP on operations/maintenance is due to the fact that we have 4 separate buildings (East Street Alternative School (17 kids), the South Amherst Campus (29 kids) and the main HS and MS) for only 1783 kids. I’m sure there are also a LOT of para/specialist/assistant costs for the 17 and 29 kids in those two buildings too. There are 11 FTE for 29 kids at South Amherst Campus and 7 FTE for 17 kids at the East Street School.

We also spend a lot on professional development (AP ranks 20th) and instructional leadership (AP ranks 31st, A ranks 48th). Our expenditures in instructional leadership includes curriculum directors (supervisory) and school leadership-building,

You’ll like this though – we do not spend much at all on instructional materials, equipment and technology. A ranks 206th while AP ranks 77th.

The avg spent on textbooks is $76 in the state while we spend $11 per pupil in Amherst. State avg for instructional equipment is $32 whereas in Amherst, we spend $6 per pupil. (AP spends the average amount in this category).

We are good on general supplies though! Amherst spends $85 vs the state average of $74. How about fewer general supplies and MORE TEXTBOOKS?

Anonymous said...

To deal with the issue of the illegally registered out-of-district kids (from Belchertown and other places) - when we redistrict (to 3 or 4 schools), part of the process should be a thorough re-vetting of the documents from EVERY KID, perhaps conducted more thoroughly than what is traditionally done in the kindergarten year.

To deal with those using the relative's or grandparents' Amherst address - maybe ask for rent/mortgage AND utility bills as proof, and proof that the child is legally living with that person.

For families who own a house in Amherst but live in B-town - well, they do pay the Amherst taxes, so what can you do?

It sounds like some people are alleging that we actually have kids who have intervention/SPED needs attending Amherst schools from out of town? That is just outrageous (if it is true), when you can see that our SPED costs are skyrocketing.

Anonymous said...

A undocumented child from South America is welcome in Amherst schools but not the kid from Belchertown registered incorrectly as living at an Amherst address.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

For those lost in the numbers of the multiple-poster above, I did a blog entry on per-pupil expenditures last month which contains a summary table that might be easier to digest. That blog entry also contains links to all the original, supporting documentation for these numbers. The multiple-poster is right...the proportion we currently spend on regular education compared to the proportion we spent in 2000 is depressing, considering that most of our students are classified as "regular education."

Anonymous said...

For families who own a house in Amherst but live in B-town - well, they do pay the Amherst taxes, so what can you do?"

Just a few months ago this was an issue in a town nearby, don't recall if it was Ware, Palmer, Monson? A couple of families had property that overlapped the towns and thought they could pick which school. Came down to where the child SLEPT each night, where the house/bedroom was. Can Amherst be this specific?

Diana Spurgin said...

To get to what somebody said a l-o-n-g time ago, can we get back to the real issues? I am generously guesstimating that there are maybe 10 kids in town schools who technically may not belong here. No. 1, nothing is a clear-cut as it seems; No. 2, "cheaters" exist everywhere, it's a fact of life; No. 3, many kids have been discovered and booted out of the system, but again as somebody said earlier, there are always going to be some who slide through the net given the large numbers of students in our schools (and I am guessing the "cheaters" count on that) and No. 4, a handful of "cheaters" is not going to make that much of a difference! Yes, every penny counts, but the work-hours involved in ferreting out those who shouldn't be here takes away from all the other things principals should be doing AND costs money. And I am sure it exists at most if not all schools; why are we singling out Fort River? So what say we all focus on the bigger picture, and leave the "cheaters" to suffer from their own guilt (OK, that's giving them alot of credit, but you know what I mean! They are saddling their own children with the guilt of lying.) We need much less finger-pointing and a lot more supportive ideas!!!