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, April 23, 2009

Community Presentation on the Proposal to Close Mark’s Meadow - April 23, 2009

As noted in my blog posting on last week's meeting of the Amherst School Committee, the superintendent's office has now prepared an extensive Community Presentation Proposal to educate the community about the implications of closing Marks Meadow (this is the presentation that will be given at each of the elementary schools next week, and at a community forum in early May). I've pasted most of the proposal here for ease for those who regularly check out my blog and might want to share comments (I've also bolded a few heading/lines for emphasis, since the document is long - those were MY additions!). However, I did NOT include the appendix (which presents two very preliminary redistricting proposals) or the figures (which I couldn't successfully paste in this posting) or the feedback form (nor will I be considering comments on my blog to be "official feedback" for use by the committee in making a decision). But the rest is here -- and you can see the official version (including the figures and redistricting proposals, etc.) on line at: Regardless of your feelings about the motion I made in March to close Mark's Meadow at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, which has led to this presentation, I think you can see that the administrative team, including Maria Geryk, Kathy Mazur, Rob Detweiler, and Doug Slaughter, have worked extremely hard to prepare a thorough and detailed presentation regarding the impact of my motion, and I am very hopeful that this information will help members of the community understand the very hard choices the School Committee is trying to make to preserve the Amherst educational experience during very critical financial times. I'd also encourage all parents, teachers/staff, and community members to come hear the presentation by interim superintendent Maria Geryk -- and ask questions and give feedback -- at any of the following times and locations:
  • Monday, April 27 at 5:00 p.m.: Marks Meadow PGO/MM Community (MM auditorium)

  • Wednesday, April 29th at 12:00 Noon: Wildwood PGO/Wildwood Community (WW location TBA)

  • Wednesday, April 29th at 5:00 p.m.: Fort River PGO/FR Community (FR library)

  • Thursday, April 30th at 5:00 p.m.: Crocker Farm PGO/CF Community (CF library)

  • Tuesday, May 5th at 7:00 p.m.: Community-Wide Forum (Middle School auditorium) .

The State of Our Schools – Enrollment and Economics

We currently educate 1327 children (K to 6) in four elementary schools. The schools range in size from 194 (Mark’s Meadow) to 462 (Fort River). The present enrollment reflects a decrease of approximately 300 students over the ten-year period since 1999. Fifteen years ago, there were approximately 1800 students in the elementary district. For FY10 and FY11, projections estimate elementary enrollment at between 1300 and 1310 students, possibly increasing by 50 students by FY14. Since we are facing serious, multi-year economic and funding issues, consideration has been given to closing an elementary school, and a motion was made at the March 17, 2009 Amherst School Committee meeting to close Mark’s Meadow School no later than June 30, 2010. This motion is scheduled for a vote at the May 19, 2009 School Committee meeting, giving us one year to plan if the motion is approved. Under normal circumstances, which include level funding and stable enrollments, district leaders would not necessarily consider closing a school. Economic circumstances combined with declining district enrollment, have led to the current motion to close Mark’s Meadow School.

Factors to Consider:
· Capacity - Our current buildings, including Mark’s Meadow, have a capacity of 78 classrooms, 19 (not including preschool) at Crocker Farm, 24 at Fort River, 12 at Mark’s Meadow (including the modulars), and 23 at Wildwood. Sixty-nine are presently in use as K-6 classroom space. Our current four-school configuration varies significantly in enrollment and number of classrooms.

· Equity – The schools vary considerably in terms of the percent of children enrolled in the free/reduced price lunch program. At Wildwood, 23% of the children receive free/reduced lunch, compared to 55% of those at Crocker Farm (and 29% at Fort River and 38% at Mark’s Meadow). The number of students receiving free/reduced lunch at Crocker Farm increased by 9 percent for FY09 over FY08 and increased by 17% over the past five years. Over the same period of time – five years – the percentage of students at the other three schools participating in the free/reduced lunch program remained fairly stable, with fluctuations of -4% to +5%. When considering these statistics, it is important to note that the pre-school enrollment at Crocker Farm is not included; this is a district program which serves all eligible students in Amherst.

· Class Sizes – Given our current and anticipated student population, operating four K-6 schools causes class sizes to vary significantly both within and across schools. For example, in the current fifth grade, Crocker Farm has a class of 15, whereas Fort River has a class of 25. Similarly, in the fourth grade, Mark’s Meadow has a class of 25, whereas Fort River has a class of 18.

· Operating Efficiency - As noted above, the current classroom configuration does not provide class-size flexibility, which means we use more classrooms and hire more teachers than we would need to if we could more efficiently distribute our students. With a three-school model, we could distribute the same number of students across 64 classrooms instead of 69 without going beyond current classroom class-size maximum targets. We would have fewer fifteen-student classes because we anticipate having enough students in each school to reduce this type of under enrollment. Because of the historical limit of 10 classrooms, coupled with its traditional kindergarten enrollment of 20 – 25 students, Mark’s Meadow has not been able to accommodate all of the kindergarteners assigned to its geographic area in a single classroom, so “overflow” kindergarteners have been bused to other schools. In subsequent years, those students may return to Mark’s Meadow or may choose to remain at the school to which they were originally assigned. In addition, our current organizational model requires four sets of support staff teams (principal, secretary, nurse, librarian, custodian, etc.). The district has endeavored to hire full-time staff to support the population at Mark’s Meadow, even though the building capacity and enrollment might not warrant such staffing. This has been done to attract and maintain staff over time and to foster a sense of community within the school. Presently, and for many years, Mark’s Meadow utilized all 10 classrooms. Based on projections for FY10, just nine Mark’s Meadow classrooms are needed for the existing and incoming student population.

The State of Our Schools – The Funding Gap

The Facilitation of the Community Choices Committee (FCCC) report from the fall of 2008 concluded that Amherst faces a serious and growing budget gap between projected revenues and the cost of providing the current level of municipal, school, and library services. If State aid remains constant, the budget shortfall is approximately $2.66 million in FY2010, rising to $10.2 million in FY2014. If State aid decreases by 15% next year, as it has in previous economic downturns, then the budget gap will be approximately $5.2 million in FY2010. The full report can be found at the following web address:

Unfortunately, even the grim scenario demonstrated above is better than our present reality. Current expectations are that Amherst faces a $6.3 million dollar gap for next year – FY10 – which is almost $1 million dollars worse than the chart above indicates – with an increasing gap in years beyond FY10.

The FCCC report notes that the budget gap for the next five years is of such magnitude that substantial cutbacks and restructuring will be required. Because personnel costs accounted for 86% of Amherst’s spending in fiscal year 2009 (and about 80% of school costs), finding a way to limit the growth in personnel-related costs to a sustainable rate is therefore essential to the overall fiscal stability of the town. The FCCC suggested four methods: a) continuing to make savings on employee health insurance plan design, b) restricting future COLAs, c) reducing staffing, and d) implementing some combination of the previous three. Although the school district will work on both (a) and (b), it is also clear that significant staff reductions will also be necessary in order to limit growth in personnel-related costs to a sustainable rate. In sum, the structural deficit between what we receive from the town (based on taxes and state aid) and what it costs to run our schools is an on-going problem, meaning that we are and will continue to be choosing which programs and services to cut.

A Proposal: Moving to Three Schools

The school committee is currently considering a proposal to address a portion of the immediate and systemic budget problems by closing an elementary school (Mark’s Meadow) and redistricting all elementary children into the remaining three schools. In addition to remediating some of the budgetary issues, this proposal will also address the systemic issue of socioeconomic inequity amongst the schools. This is a challenging endeavor, both in practical and emotional terms. Among the four schools, Mark’s Meadow is the only possible candidate for closure because it is the smallest by eleven classrooms. Mark’s Meadow is also the oldest of the four schools, is not owned by the town, and has higher administrative costs per student than the other three schools, due to its size. Mark’s Meadow is also a successful school, long serving our North Amherst neighborhoods and families from the campus of the University of Massachusetts campus. However difficult it may be, financial constraints and enrollments have forced us to consider closing Mark’s Meadow as an option.

If it is decided by the Amherst School Committee to close Mark’s Meadow School, district administration will immediately work on a detailed plan for this major restructuring, establishing multiple, single-purpose teams to address the following:

· Redistricting – A concrete plan will be developed with consultants to establish new school zones within the next few months. School administrators have run preliminary numbers on this proposed change, and have developed two sample redistricting proposals, which are attached at the end of this report.

· Student Support – District and school leaders will create a plan to support the educational and emotional needs of students making school transitions.

· Staff Support – A district plan will be developed to redesign building staffing to minimize disruption to students making transitions and to thoughtfully reassign Mark’s Meadow staff.

· Moving – A staged, year-long plan for relocation of educational materials, furniture and fixtures to other district locations will be developed and implemented.

In 2007, a demographics study of our schools and their capacity was conducted by NESDEC. While NESDEC does not take a position on local redistricting efforts, their report findings will help guide our process moving forward. Projections are also done annually at the district level, and the NESDEC projections are consistent with what the district projects. However, our enrollments and enrollment projections indicate that educating all K-6 elementary students in a three-building model is feasible for FY11 and beyond and is within the capacity of the schools.

If the motion to close Mark’s Meadow School for FY11 passes, the district will work with consultants to ensure we are moving forward constructively and that we are not overlooking any factors that must be considered. This consultant will analyze and finalize our preliminary work on redistricting to ensure we are doing this work in an educationally sound and equitable manner. The two preliminary plans in the Appendix demonstrate options for redistricting within the parameters established by the motion.

· Equity – The proportion of children receiving free/reduced lunch would be decidedly more balanced amongst the schools. The schools percentage of students on free/reduced lunch would range from 33.8% to 35.7%. This is a significantly smaller gap (1.9% among schools) than our current system (32%). Why balance for equity? Quoting from the Amherst Schools Organization Report from 2008, “The ASOC looked at research on impact of concentrations of poverty on school effectiveness .… majority low-income schools face disproportionate challenges in generating student achievement was seen as compelling.” The Committee noted this issue of equity has relevance for our community in many ways, including the challenges that this type of economic disparity creates when children from such schools are joined together in the middle school for Grade 7. The full report of the ASOC can be found at:

· Class numbers and sizes –Moving to three elementary schools would result in a need for fewer classrooms (because of the efficiencies involved in dividing students across three schools instead of four). We would need an estimated 63 or 64 classrooms rather than the 69 we are using in FY09. Originally we planned on needing 69 classrooms for FY10, however, there are 2 classrooms on the anticipated cut list.

· Financial savings – Moving from four to three schools would result in an initial estimated savings of $532,000 and a reduction in the rate of growth of the budget in subsequent years, thus reducing the slope of the Level Services Expenditures line. These savings would be achieved as follows:

o Reduction in district classrooms from 67 (FY10) to 64 (FY11) $162,000
o Reduction of principal and 2 secretaries $170,000
o 2.5 custodians $55,000
o 1.0 ELL teacher $54,000
o 1.0 Special Education teacher $54,000
o 1.0 Intervention teacher $54,000
o 1.13 paraprofessionals $15,000
o 1.0 LPN $35,000
o 1.0 librarian $54,000
o 1.0 IA paraprofessional $20,000

Total Reductions $673,000

Initial Costs
o Annual transportation increase (an ongoing expense) $16,000
o Moving and packing (a one-time expense) $70,000
o Prep day for all teachers (a one-time expense) $55,000
Total Costs $141,000

Thus, the estimated net Year 1 savings is: $532,000

Notes: There may be further savings achieved by the ability to more efficiently deliver services to Special Education students, English Language Learner students, and others. The estimate above is conservative; there may be an additional savings of $100,000 to $200,000. At this time no determination has been made about the status of the two modular classrooms currently placed at Mark’s Meadow School. Moving of the modulars is estimated to cost $140,000. We project that we will be able to contain all our classrooms within Crocker Farm, Fort River and Wildwood Schools without use of the modulars. If it is decided that the modulars must be moved, the net Year 1 savings will be reduced to approximately $392,000. Consideration may also be given to selling the modulars. Further, if regionalization occurs and if grade six moves to the middle school in a few years, the three remaining schools will have adequate classroom space to contain the K-5 enrollment.

The State of Our Schools – No Change to Current Structure

The choice is not between four schools as we know them and an unknown three-school model. The choice is between four schools with greatly diminished program quality and three schools that preserve $532,000 in educational program offerings through greater efficiencies ($673,000 after the first year.)

For FY10, the Town of Amherst faces severe reductions in State Aid. Distributing a proportion of State Aid cuts as proposed in the Governor’s budget would require the schools to cut $1.7M. Distributing a proportion of even deeper State Aid cuts as proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee would require the schools to cut $2.1M. Town officials and the Budget Coordinating Group (BCG) are working to identify solutions to the budget gap. Meanwhile, the district is proposing cuts of $1.1M, which includes Central Office and school-based cuts in each of the four schools. These cuts include significant administrative reductions, a decrease of 2 classrooms, cuts to intervention, aesthetics (art, music, physical education), instrumental music, clerical, paraprofessional and custodial staff. These cuts are drastic for our district - still, they do not meet the level of cuts indicated as necessary by the Town of Amherst.

The Amherst Finance Committee recognizes the value to Amherst of the schools’ reducing operating costs by such a reorganization; however, it also recognizes the difficulty of making a change of this magnitude – closing a school - by Fall 2009. The Finance Committee has therefore indicated that it may be willing to recommend to Town Meeting to “fill in” the gap between proposed FY10 elementary cuts and the amount considered affordable by the Town by the use of Reserve Funds, if the School Committee has provided a substantial, sustainable organizational change for FY11. This would enable the district to avoid the additional cuts that would otherwise be necessary for FY10, while providing an appropriate amount of implementation time to make sure the reorganization is done as thoughtfully as possible.


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Marks Meadow parent who has been highly involved in this process, I have to say that I am convinced it is time to close Marks Meadow. I have a long and very strong bond to the school and am very saddened by this, but we can not hold onto a building when it will hurt all of the children in the district. We should work hard to replicate the great things this school has been able to accomplish, in all three of the other schools. We should all work especially hard to make sure that all children are taken care of and treat each other with respect. This will be an extremely difficult time for many families in this town and instead of all the attacking that has happened this year, we need to PULL TOGETHER and support each other!!!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response to Anonymous 8:42 - thank you for your thoughtful post ... I am sure it was hard to write (even anonymously). I think the reality is that keeping MM open ALSO hurts the kids in MM -- the school will NOT be the same if we have to cut $673,000 from the elementary budget (e.g., larger class sizes, no instrumental music, etc.), and I hope that this presentation can help people understand that keeping four schools imposes real and significant costs on kids at all four schools. I hope that the MM parents and teachers and staff will work hard to help bring the strategies used there to achieve success in all of the other schools -- I believe, as I've stated many times, that MM is so successful because of the people, NOT because of the physical space. So, I share your hope that people can pull together and make this transition work well for all the kids at all the schools.

Anonymous said...

But if you do not close Marks Meadow this year, all those things will have to be cut for the 2009-10 school year, right? So all our kids will suffer one year of extreme cutbacks.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

That's a good question ... given that we are at Tier 3 cuts, it seems like closing MM should be on the table for this year ... but I don't know if that is even feasible at this point in time. However, I think we could try to manage for a year, largely because the Finance Committee has indicated that they are willing to consider using reserves to help in cases in which there are transition costs (e.g., from a four school to a three school model). So, it is possible that town reserves could help for a year. It is also possible that we could have a year of larger classes, or reduced/delayed instrumental music, or something like that to make up the difference. The key thing I take from this presentation is that if we don't close MM by the end of next year, we are basically fundamentally changing the scope of the Amherst education.

Anonymous said...

I am a Town Meeting member and would like to hear more about the potential use of our reserve funds to keep Marks Meadows open for another year. How much would it take and where can I find information on this? I didn't see any recommendations for this in the Finance Committee Report we were given. Could this fall into the category they describe as funding for transition to different model of services?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

To Anonymous 9:41 - yes, sorry, that is exactly right. The FC has said that they will consider using reserves ONLY in cases in which there is a transition to a different model of services -- and they in fact give the example of reorganization of schools as part of this. I have no idea how much money they could recommend using ... but I think the key thing is that they will totally not use ANY reserves if the vote is to continue with four schools. They may use SOME funds if the vote is to close MM (even in a year), to help cover those transition costs.

Anonymous said...

I have two questions. 1.Why is the thought that if "poor" children are mixed with "rich" children, as will be accomplished in this redistricting notion, they will somehow benefit? 2. Is the Building Blocks program being investigated for (past) misconduct by confining students in a padded closet for hours at a time, and if so by whom?

Jocelyn said...

Why are you holding "public forums" when it appears that you are really not considering any viable alternatives? It was clear at the meeting last night that the closing of Mark's Meadow School is essentially a done deal in the view of at last three members of the School Committee and the acting superintendent. I understand the budget crisis and do not have to be reminded about it. In the end, Mark's Meadow may have to close but it seems like the only alternatives that were put on the table were options that cost more money, and were therefore, not viable alternatives. It might be a good idea to hire somebody from the outside to look at this along with redistricting and regionalization so that we have a long range plan for the future and don't have to go through this every year. If you can find money to hire yet another administrator, there are other creative solutions, but it does not matter if people come up with creative solutions if nobody is listening. I agree with the earlier anonymous poster-are the disadvantaged kids going to improve educationally and socially through osmosis by being in close proximity to the more affluent children or are there going to be real programs put into place to help all children? All I can say, it is very interesting, from an equity and social justice viewpoint to see which children will be going to the smallest, newest school. I know that there are different plans out there, but it seems like certain communities' voices are not being really considered in any of this. For example, the school that will be affected the most, and it is inarguable that it will be since it will probably close, is Mark's Meadow School. I know that ultimately all schools will be affected, but not in the same was as a school not being there any more. It was unfair to working parents and students to schedule a meeting at 5:00 p.m. and although I applaud th panelists for being there, many voices are not being heard. Why not schedule meetings in the evenings in the community rooms at the apartment complexes? I know that in the end, my children will be fine, since I will make sure that they will be, but every child does not hav an involved parent, for many different reasons. Luckily, my older children will be going to 7th grade next year (one ARMS, one PVPA) and my youngest, who thrives in a small school and needs that type of setting, will be in second grade next year. I just hope that the discussion continues in a respectful tone with minimal divisiveness. It is not true that most Mark's Meadow parents want the school to remain open at any cost, and even if the school closes, we will lose programs, teachers, and staff. My biggest concern is large class sizes and space issues. Even if I do not agree with you some of the time, Catherine, I do appreciate that you get the information out there and people are definitely talking about the school and budget issues in Amherst a lot more! I just hope that the dialogue remains constructive instead of divisive and destructive.

Mark's Meadow parent who lives in Fort River district

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 7:12 - First, lots of research suggests that when a school gets to be over 40% low income kids, those kids suffer as a result. It is not just a question of having more resources to that school -- it is a question of having exposure to kids from different backgrounds, families with resources to contribute (such as time), etc. Richard Kahlenburg has done a lot of this work. So, I am convinced that the inequity in our district is a real and significant problem, and I do hope we are moving on a path towards redistricting to solve this problem. Second, the concerns about the Building Blocks program have been made known to the superintendent. I will therefore assume this is being examined.

Jocelyn - thank you for your questions. I will try to answer all of them. First, the superintendent is a mother of two small kids, and she requested that the meetings occur earlier in the day so that she could spend some evening time with her kids -- which seems totally reasonable to me (remember, she is already out EVERY Tuesday night for SC meetings very late). There is indeed an evening forum (7 pm, Tuesday, May 5th), as well as two forums at 5, and two forums at noon. In addition, people can read the information on line and send comments. Second, there are smart and dedicated people working on our school administration -- three of them were there last night (Maria Geryk, Doug Slaughter, Kathy Mazur). They have been trying and trying and trying to find alternatives -- several were in fact investigated (e.g., moving to the paired schools, moving to three K to 4 school and a 5/6). These people know our schools well, and they know what other schools are trying to solve the budget gap. It is frankly insulting to them when people accuse them of not finding other solutions - many, many have been investigated, and the reality is, they do not save $671,000 a year. These solutions include school choice, charging fees for buses/instrumental music/kindergarten, eliminating all vice principals, reducing "specials" (art, music, PE, computer), etc. The ONLY thing that really would save that much money is increasing class sizes -- and you could indeed save that level of money IF you chose to increase class sizes to 30 or so kids. We could do that -- and if the community wants to rally around that as an idea, I'd love to hear it. But none of the "solutions" I heard last night were realistic at all in terms of saving anything close to $671,000 a year (e.g., having parents volunteer in the schools more, having our colleges/universities pay more, redisticting to four schools, sharing principals). As was said last night, IF the vote goes through, we will hire a consultant to help plot the lines -- that of course will be done. But there are not consultants from out of the district who can come in and tell us how to save this level of money -- the people INSIDE the schools know our budget the best. And they do NOT want to close MM ... as was said last night. But they do want to preserve the educational experience for all kids -- and I think it is pretty clear that many people see closing MM as the best way to accomplish this (I hear this from principals and teachers and parents and community members ALL THE TIME). I have listened and responded to each and every solution that someone has emailed me with or called me with or said at a meeting. And I've been doing this for close to four months now -- and I have YET to hear a solution OTHER THAN RAISING CLASS SIZES that will save anywhere close to the money that closing MM saves. And as I noted previously, lots of research does indeed suggest that disadvantaged kids ARE "going to improve educationally and socially through osmosis by being in close proximity to the more affluent children" -- but even if we didn't redistrict at all (e.g., we could technically close MM and divide those kids into the three other buildings and maintain inequity, which is what Westfield JUST did when they closed a school), closing MM saves money, which allows us to save programs that benefit kids. I also think it is silly to remark on which kids are going to the "smallest, newest" school -- there were two plans presented last night that move different kids into CF ... and it was clearly said that we don't know which kids are going where UNTIL we have done a full redistricting. And although you say that the change is going to affect MM more, I'll say that my kids are NOT going to feel any better knowing that their school (FR) stays open, but they don't get to go to it and they have to leave many of their friends. You say we are not listening to voices, but I've got to say, I don't think many of the MM parents were listening last night. Here is the reality -- we have a GIANT budget crisis. We need to solve it. The superintendent clearly indicated that one way we can dramatically reduce the budget gap is by closing MM, and that if we do NOT close MM, other things in the district will have to change (class size, programs, etc.). I am FINE if the community rallies around and says "we are OK with large class sizes and no instrumental music, etc." But I'm not hearing that -- I'm hearing magical thinking -- push for an override, wait for the stimulus to come, do a 10-year plan, how about capital assests, get parents to volunteer, don't lose our "free" building, etc. NONE of those responses indicate listening and understanding the severity of the budget crisis, and coming up with any alternatives that are feasible. If your biggest concern is class sizes and space issues, you should organize parents to push for moving 6th grade to the MS and closing MM. Those are the two best (by far) ways to solve both of those issues. Finally, thank you for your positive comments about my interest in having the dialogue and getting the information out there. I am trying really hard to do that, and again, I'm ready and willing to hear from the community that people are OK with large class sizes in all four schools or ANY other solution that saves $671,000 a year.

Jocelyn said...

First, I do understand Maria Geryk wanting to spend time with her family and we all want to do that despite our busy schedules. However, my point is that a later meeting should have been scheduled at the school that is pinpointed to be closed so more community members could have attended in their home forum.

I was not insulting the people who were on the panel-they are intelligent, capable people and have clearly worked hard on this issue,but they are not experts on everything. Fresh eyes might be able to come up with other solutions-that's what consultants are for and we also have a lot of talented people in our community who are willing to help come up with those solutions.

If good programs are in place and required services are being provided, disadvantaged children can thrive, but just being with "advantaged" children, without programs in place is not enough. Even when or if Mark's Meadow closes, there will still be cuts in programs that should help these children. Osmosis is not enough and there are good studies on both sides of the issue and when I have time, I will cite some of them.

I must not have been in the same room as you were last night-any time a creative or alternate solution was brought up by parents, it was immediately dismissed. I just wish the rest of School Committee and the administrators just come out and say that they support closing Mark's Meadow, if that is what they believe. At least you come right out and say it! What does the new superintendent think about all of this? I know it is the School Committee's decision but he is going to have to live with whatever decision you make into the future!

Most of us are listening, but listening and communication is a two way street. Most of understand the reality of this situation, but of course, you have to expect some emotional responses. I believe that some excellent points were made by many of the Mark's Meadow parents, staff, and teachers and I did appreciate being able to hear the voices of the community as well as the administrators.

I agree that children will be affected from all of the different schools and it is not and should not be the Mark's Meadow community vs. everybody else-the fact is that children, families, and staff from Mark's Meadow will be affected in some ways that are much different than people in the other schools because we will be losing something that we can never get back. All of the other schools will still be there!

I have friends and families in the other schools and I know that there are good teachers and students in all of them. I just hope that we can come up with some solutions that will benefit all of our children in these difficult economic times.
Thanks for your responses, Catherine!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Jocelyn: Thanks for your thoughtful and constructive post. I have three quick things to say.

1. A number of people feel that the MM community has in fact shared their views at MANY evening meetings. This includes a meeting in January at the HS, a meeting in February at MM, two meetings in March (one at the HS, one at the MS), and a meeting in April at the HS. So, that would be 5 meetings ALREADY (all in the evening, one at MM), plus the 5 pm meeting yesterday, and of course the 7 pm meeting next Tuesday. In addition, the information is posted on the web, so anyone can read it and send comments to the SC anytime.

2. I attended the entire meeting. Can you send me 3 or 4 specific ideas that people brought up that would save substantial amounts of money (e.g., half a million)? I took notes -- and honestly, I can't think of a single idea that anyone had that would save that much money -- or anywhere close to that much money! Seriously -- send them to me, on this blog, or my private email ( or call me (256-4977). Believe it or not, it isn't really fun to go to a three-hour meeting in which people repeatedly accuse you of "wanting to close a school." This isn't what I want. It is the only solution that I CAN SEE that saves education in Amherst. If you have ideas that will actually save big amounts of money (and this doesn't mean asking our colleges for money -- Amherst is now freezing all faculty salary, laying off workers, and reducing scholarship aid, and it doesn't mean having parents volunteer more in the schools, and it doesn't mean redistricting to four schools which costs MORE money), I am seriously very, very interested in hearing them. But I've been listening and listening for months now, including last night, and those solutions aren't clear to me at all.

3. It is pretty hard for many non-Marks Meadow parents to hear the criticism of their schools. Maria's kids, Doug's kids, my kids, and Steve's kids, are all at some of the other "bad schools" in town. We like our schools, and our teachers, and our principals, and to hear people talk about how horrible it is to have to have their kids go to these awful schools is insulting. I don't hear those comments from ANY other parents (e.g., my kids are at Wildwood and I really hope they don't have to go to Fort River; my kids are at Fort River and I really hope they don't have to go to Crocker). I believe all the schools are good -- and I think some statement about that from some Marks Meadow parents/teachers sometimes might be appreciated!

Anonymous said...

I have never actually heard any MM parent say "oh, I don't want my child at that horrible school!". I have heard people give reasons why they love MM and want to keep it. Just because many want to stay where they are, does not mean that they think other schools in Amherst are bad. For my family, I appreciate the diversity and small size-I have one child with some special needs and this type of environment is wonderful for him. My older children have been in that school since kindergarten and feel like they are really a part of a community, so even after I moved last year, I drove them across town so that they could finish school with their friends. As a person of color, I enjoy a community that embraces diversity and where my children have thrived! I know that they can and will thrive in another school, and hopefully other school communities will be as welcoming as Mark's Meadow has been for me and other families.

Most MM parents are thoughtful and intelligent individuals. It does not mean that nobody has said anything derogatory about other schools, but I have also heard some people at other schools complain about having to go to school with people from a lower socioeconomic status or ethnic background-most people are not direct about it, but some people are clear in expressing their viewpoints. Most of the people that I know from different parts of town are wonderful, but there are still classists and bigots in Amherst too. Just like in any group of people, you wil have those who denigrate other groups, so we should try not to generalize. I have found that most people that I have dealt with from Amherst are reasonable and intelligent people, as long as one approaches them in a reasonable and intelligent way.

I am not an expert by any means, but if you are willing to listen to some ideas, I will contact you. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I also have to add something in about what I have heard from Mark's Meadow families. I have NOT heard anyone say anything negative about any other school in this town. I have heard people say (over and over) what they like about Mark's Meadow. What MM does for their families or their child.

When you are talking about closing a school, you are talking about closing part of a family's identity. I bet you would hear the same kind of things from any family who was looking at their children's school close. If FR were to be on the table right now, I bet you would be upset Catherine, maybe not say so publicly, but I am sure you would be, as would most other parents from the school.

Then when questions are asked out there like "would you rather lose instruments or keep your school open?" you would feel attacked to some degree. When you hear it over and over again, it becomes an attack.

Parents in Mark's Meadow do not want to keep that school open if it will make all children in this town suffer. They just want to make sure it is done correctly from the start. That we don't go into this and find out a few years from now that we are stuck and need more space. That when we redistrict it is done correctly. No one wants any mistakes to be made in this process.

You can not take away the rights of families being upset over this. I would also include families who may change schools, not just MM families. The difference is that MM families are having to say goodbye permanently to their school. The children will not get to go back and visit as they grow up. The teachers won't be there anymore, the building won't be accessible anymore. There is no going back. This is it. So, should MM parents be upset? Damn straight they should be!!!

They ARE NOT attacking, putting down, insulting or any other negative act against the other schools, or their staff. They are saying what they like about MM, why they chose to go to that school, especially coming from families who opt in.

There is a big difference between saying what you like about one place and saying something negative about another. Just because you like one thing at one school, DOES NOT mean you are putting down another school!!!!

Many people only know their school so they do not have the ability to even compare the other schools.

Now I understand you get frustrated by not hearing ideas that may have great value. They are trying though. You can't fault people for that. Everyone understands that the administration is trying desperately to come up with solutions as well.

It is even more difficult for people to come up with new ideas when they are not clear on what has already been looked into. Is anyone from the public sitting in the rooms with the administration and staff while they are pouring over all the information? Probably not right? Can people make it to all the meetings to be able to follow everything that has already been discussed, again probably not. A lot of people still aren't even aware that this decision is on the table, let alone know how to become involved.

Everyone is working unbelievably hard to make this work. people at all levels need to be respected though. When someone is coming in for the first time and brave enough to stand up and say something, they should be respected. They shouldn't be made to feel that it's MM against the town. That is the feeling coming from almost everyone outside of MM. We know the budget is bad!!! We know the school may have to close. We are trying to deal with that. Getting insulted form everyone else in town DOES NOT HELP!!!

No one from MM is trying to insult people in the other schools. Any other school in this situation, would have very upset families as well. I would hope that people would not treat them like people are treating families from MM right now.

All of this does the most damage to the children. How would you to try to stay positive when you have any number of children asking you if their school will be open next year. When they are asking what's going to happen to their teachers?

How do you keep a school's spirit alive when it is about to close. How do you educate those children in a positive fashion when you know there is no next year? When the children have no idea what school they will be in, who the teachers are in their new school, if they will know anyone in the new school, etc? It is not just moving to a new building. It is saying a FOREVER goodbye to the school they have known.

What are your answers to that?

As far as these meetings go, it does feel like they are being done just to pacify the town, but that they won't impact the vote at all. There are CLEARLY 3 votes in favor of closing Mark's Meadow so why bother with these meetings? The SC needs 3 out of 5 votes, they have that. Why bother with this part? Because people asked for it? Really?

It seems very clear that this is a done deal already!!!!

None of this is meant as an insult. I truly love the fact that we can come on here and ask you questions, share ideas, feelings, read what you have to say, etc. Thank you for providing this to us.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response to Anonymous 1:22 and 3:28 (maybe the same person?) - I know that you say it is not criticizing the other schools to say what you like about Marks Meadow, but that is how it appears when some parents and teachers talk about Marks Meadow to those at other schools. There are teachers and staff members and principals at all of the schools who know kids by name -- yet many of the comments about what is great about MM imply that those relationships and connections don't occur at the other schools. The other schools also have diverse populations -- many kids at CF speak Spanish at homoe -- and have kids with special needs -- Wildwood has special programs for special needs kids. Again, there are caring staff/teachers/principals and diverse staff members at all the schools - and that often feels like it gets lost when MM advocate for keeping their school open. And I agree with you -- I think ALL kids and parents will be FINE in whatever new school they attend! My offer to hear ideas is a genuine one -- reach out anytime.

I also think MM families are ignoring the reality that for families that must switch schools, which will happen with redistricting, that is painful for those families EVEN when their school won't close. In some ways, it will be even harder. I'm going to potentially have to explain to my kids why their friends get to stay in "their school" and they must move to a new school. Fort River isn't going to close -- but you are completely wrong if you believe that having my kids move to a new school isn't hard for me or for them. We love Fort River. We bought our house where it is so that my kids could go to that school, and we've spent 6 years in that school. I coordinated the building of a new playground two years ago so my then three-year-old daughter could have a great new playground when she entered the school. Now, it is distinctly possible that she will spend one year at that school, and then move to a new school that she's never even seen before. Is that hard for me and my kids and my family? It is. But this isn't about me and my kids, and I'm certainly not going to advocate for keeping my kids in FR so that they could stay at that school when I understand what the consequences would be for all kids in the district to maintain our structural budget deficit and inequity (and for the record, if we resdistrict into four schools, my kids get to stay at Fort River!).

The reality is that there is a finite amount of money, so we have to choose how to spend it. We can spend it on more administrators (e.g., four elementary school principals, four sets of support staff), or we can spend it in other ways (music, intervention support, small classes, etc.). That is the reality -- we might all answer that question differently, but to pretend that keeping MM open doesn't mean more cuts to OTHER things is false. And the reason why my motion delays the closure for a year is to give appropriate amounts of time to plan the new districts -- that is precisely why I delayed the movement for a year -- so that we won't draw hasty boundaries that might have to be re-done.

You are right that the MM children may not get to go back and see their school, and that is too bad. But the reality is, they can go back and see their teachers (wherever they are), as can all of the children in the district who will have to move to a new school. I continue to think our schools are about people -- teachers, principals, staff, and families. And ALL of those people will still be here -- just in a new building!

I am glad to hear any and all ideas. I've probably heard 100 already -- and NONE of them achieve anything remotely like a significant cost savings. That's just the reality -- but I'm willing to listen to more, and if someone can find or two feasible cost-saving solutions by May 19th, I'll change my vote. Promise. All of the meetings are on TV, and available on ACTV, so you can follow the options that are being discussed and have been raised in public. The staff is smart and highly capable -- they too are looking for solutions!

And please know -- my kids ask me ALL THE TIME if they are going to have to move schools. They are NOT psyched about it. And I say to them that all the schools are excellent, that all the schools have good and caring and dedicated staff, and that they will have friends at whatever school they attend. That isn't so hard. And remember, many, many kids in this town will be saying goodbye to the school they have known.

I don't have any idea if there are three votes in favor of closing MM or not. All I know is my vote -- and I'm going to vote to close it unless I hear solutions that work for all kids that take into account our budget realities. So, send me some ideas -- and I'm going to post one later today so come back and read that!

Anonymous said...

"to pretend that keeping MM open doesn't mean more cuts to OTHER things is false."

No one is saying anything like this. What I have heard is that even if we were to close MM we are still looking at many deep cuts in addition to closing the school. That were are not saving instruments but closing the school, or paras or intervention teachers etc. These are all still possibilities to be cut along with closing the school.

as far as what other people are hearing, they are making assumptions about that. When someone says that people in the school know who you are, that's what they know. There is a fear, I think, about a larger school and parents are speaking that fear. Again, it is not an insult and should not be taken as one. I have to say that when you make the implication that is what people are saying, then that is what more people will hear. Instead of what people are intending on saying. The meaning will get changed. When people are speaking about this, they are coming to you and the committee and administration for help, advice, guidance, support, listening to what they are saying, hearing their fears.

The majority of people in this town who voted, elected you. Part of your role is to help guide us in these kind of decisions. making assumptions on people's intentions, then posting that thought on here, spreads some false information and further causes people to look at MM families in a negative light.

We all should be supporting each other right now. We need your guidance and support as we try to get through this. We don't need to be villianized in the process too. We are not evil people trying make everyone else in this town mad at us. We are a hurting community which should be supported by this town.

Jocelyn said...

Sorry, I am Anonymous 1:22 and can not take credit for Anonymous 3:28 or Anonymous 4:33's posts. I edited and hit send too quickly without inputting my name. I do agree that saying positive things about one's school is not the same as saying something negative about somebody else's school. It might be helpful if some of the people from the other elementary schools reached out to the MM community-I know that we are willing to reach out to them to do some community building to support the education of our children. I know that there have been some joint efforts betwen PGGs and the elementary school principals. We need to work at unifying our communities instead of dividing them. How about some fun community building events at some of the Town of Amherst's parks or schools? I would like to meet some of the parents who I don't know from other schools and it would be a way for children from different parts of town to get to know each other. I am concerned about how this is affecting the spirits of all of the children, parents, staff, teachers, and administrators involved in this difficult process.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't anyone looked into the overlaps in administrators and the enormous amounts of money spent on special education and services that many children do not ever receive. I know this is a vulnerable population, but the special education department needs a good looking over. Maria G., our present superintendent, headed this department. Will she return to this position? Is she hiring an evaluator of her choice(as I have read) to evaluate the special education department? This somehow, does not sound right if it is indeed the truth. Why aren't the cuts being made first with overlaps in administrators, I beg for a straight answer!

Molly Watkins said...

Catherine, I'll gladly write something about the teachers at the other schools. As an ELE teacher at MM, I know many teachers from workshops and monthly meetings. I do not lose a minute of sleep worrying about the education "my" students will receive at CF, FR, or WW if MM closes. The teachers at those schools are highly trained, intelligent, and caring. If in the future I must ride my bike to another school, it is heartening to know that I will be welcomed by spirited, motivated, and open-minded staff.

Anonymous said...

If ever there may be negative comments circulating around town about the other 3 elementary schools they have been about the physical structure of the buildings. The air quality in Wildwood was at a dangerous level just a few years back. One teacher (the physical education teacher I beleive) left the building as a result. The quads are nothing more than someone's ridiculous idea of what a teaching environment should be and Catherine it does not matter what research studies you can quote that may say otherwise. Just spend a day in a quad with little ones who must trape through a lesson study to use a lavatory. It's absurd! It disruptive and for the average child trying to learn the xeroxed material in front of them quite distracting. No natural sunlight is another fine feature of these buildings FR and WW. Crocker Farm, although may be newer in its overall design, was reeking of a stench that made kids and staff sick to their stomachs just a few years back and gets quite chilly in the winters when the main heat switch control is in another location! At any rate, we entrust our children's lives in the shortrun to a system who can't seem to balance their own check book. Sad...

Anonymous said...

At the April 28th gathering of the SC and others they quoted a $530,000 savings from closing MM. How did this amount climb to $671,000? Maria Geryk has cut special education costs. Has she cut her own salary? Did she remain at the same salary as superintendent as she received as the sped director? How can the public get these 'line-by-line budget documents so that we can enter this discussion with the same knowledge as the ones who hold these papers?

Anonymous said...

"Can't cut lower than 1.1." (million) direct quote from Superintendent Maria Geryk in her speaking to the town, at the 4/28/09 meeting. Yet the department she runs/ran could cut 1.4 million and solve this whole deficit....curious....very did this happen? Who really benefits from leaving this figure alone? We need to ask these questions and we need to know the real answers. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Yea, lets balance the budget on the backs of the neediest of children in the Amherst Regional School System. Great idea!!

Anonymous said...

That is not what is being said here....Let's balance this deficit mess on the backs of the high paid administrators who oversee programs whose services never reach the students it is supposed to serve!! As their pockets fatten the families needing these serevices come into need even further. It is a vicious cycle of authoritarian abuse. Please, do not misintrepret what you are reading to make such an outrageous statement!!

Anonymous said...

To Anon April 29, 2009 2:45 PM,
please dont spread more rumors. I have been part of the CF family for 12 years and never had issues of a "stench" nor have my children been cold.

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ with you. Ask the 5th grade teacher there about the stench. This is not a rumor, and ask the sped teacher how very cold her room is/has been in the winter months. This is not a rumor either!!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 4:33 - I am sorry if my comments on this blog or elsewhere have been hurtful to MM families. The reality is that many families, teachers, and staff NOT at MM have been offended by comments made in open meetings ABOUT the other schools by MM families. Personally, this week I've heard MM families and staff/teachers say that large schools impersonal, bad for learning, don't care about kids, and increase bullying. Remember, most of our kids in this town are NOW at schools that are over 400 kids (FR and WW together have over 60% of the kids). Those families actually like their schools, and see them as warm, caring, supportive environments. I am trying to provide leadership by pointing that out -- I fully, 100% believe that MM children will be OK in a larger school because we have caring and supportive staff in all of the buildings. I am hearing the concerns raised, and I am trying to respond to these concerns in a rational way. If you have specific suggestions of how I can do this, send them along!

Jocelyn - great idea -- and yes, maybe the PGOs could coordinate this. I know my 2nd grader plays on a soccer team with kids from MM and has become quite friendly with those kids. It would be great to increase interactions -- and maybe the PGOs could coordinate a "joint event" at each school sometime next year to try to bring families/kids together?

Anonymous 7:50 - Maria is hiring an independent evaluator to review the special ed department. The SC will be involved in examining the request that goes out, and I believe this review will be informative. If cuts need to be made in administrators (or other areas), I believe this evaluation will help us determine how positions could be better organized.

Molly Watkins - thank you SO MUCH for your thoughtful post! This is a kind and very constructive comment on all the teachers/staff in our district, and I really appreciate your willingness to make it. Thanks again for posting and using your name!

Anonymous 2:45 - I don't have personal experience with any of the problems you note, and I've had children in Fort River for 6 years - I just haven't noticed the quads being any sort of a problem. But the reality is, 87% of the kids in Amherst schools are at one of the non-MM schools (all of which you are identifying as having real problems!). But even if I agree with your view, as a School Committee member, what should I do? Say that we will keep MM open so that 13% of our kids have a good learning environment, and the other kids will be in a problematic learning environment AND have fewer services/larger classes as a result? I'm just not sure what you are suggesting as a solution?

Anonymous 8:47 - sorry, the numbers differ in that the $532,000 number is the FIRST year savings and the $673,000 is the SECOND AND THEN ON savings. Those numbers are both in the presentation clearly noted. Maria got some small increase in pay to compensate her for taking on extra duties (including many evening meetings). I'm not sure what budget documents you want -- I've seen the same ones you've seen -- what is presented on line and in this presentation.

Anonymous 9:04 - I don't believe we can legally cut all special education costs. Is that what you are suggesting?

Anonymous 10:12 - as I noted earlier, the special ed department is in fact undergoing a review. This will be informative as to where and how costs can be saved.

Anonymous 10:33/12:12 - I think the key here is that different people are bothered/notice different things. Regardless, I'm still not sure how this helps us reach a SOLUTION?

Anonymous said...

Again, people were saying what they had at MM not what the other schools didn't have. Major difference there. I truly believe this is a case of the fear of the unknown. For MM parents who have only had that one school to have any kind of experience with, it is really hard to picture how another school, potentially one twice the size, can be similar to MM.

Instead of just getting upset over how they respond to the idea of the school closing, why not ask what can be done to help. Maybe we should be able to visit- during the school day- the schools where our children may end up.

There is still a lot of fear out there. Fear of the unknown. Fear for our children. There is a lot of unknown still. Will my kid know any of his/her classmates, will they know any of the teachers, with I be learning the same things, will I be able to find my way around the building, will I make new friends, will I lose my friends? (yes these could come from all families in the district)

I could go on and on with the what if's from parents and kids. There are not many answers yet. Parents are really nervous. Cut them some slack!!! Everyone is trying to hold it together in a time of certain chaos.

This is a time when the community needs some real guidance and support. No one needs to be told that they are putting down the rest of the town- majority of the kids/ families- when they are going thru a very real loss in their own families. No one is trying to attack, put down, insult, etc anyone from the other schools. By continuing to push this you are disregarding what is being said and the hurt these families are feeling. For many families this is not just changing a school, but changing an entire way of life. Many of these families walk their children to school, which will end. Many don't have cars which will become problematic getting to their children's new school. These are very real concerns. Please don't dismiss them anymore. Please respect that these families are going to go thru a major loss and will need support, not be made to feel like they are villains.

Their school is closing- no going back. They have to go thru an entire year knowing this next year. This will be extremely difficult. All I am asking is that they stop being attacked and start being supported so we can all move on as ONE COMMUNITY- not 4 separate schools.

Anonymous said...

Who can request that the air quality be checked in a public building? Maybe if these tests were done routinely concerns there might be put to rest. Of course no one is expecting special education services to be cut, only the unwarranted administrative positions. How can you pit children against children like this? " that 13% of our kids have a good learning environment..." All of our kids need a good learning environment and because MM is such a good one you take it away????
I am trying to see the sense in this, but for the life of me I cannot. A school that costs the town nothing in taxes, electricity, and so on... A school that performed highest in the whole state on MCAS scores....A school that greets every child, every day by their name.... Oh yes...these are all reasons to shut down this school. You simpy cannot put out money with one hand and then cry that the other hand is bare. Not when you are taking it out of the same pocket.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 12;45 a.m. "Their school is closing." So you too agree that the decision has already been made. These "meetings" then are nothing more than a farce, a waste of the community's and SC's time. People have been pouring their hearts out publicly for months now in front of the school board and the bottom line is, it has all been in vain.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response:

Anonymous 12:45 - I will just make 3 quick points. First, if the motion passes, of course considerable attention will be paid to making sure all families/kids transition well, including visiting the new schools, moving teachers/staff to other buildings so kids recognize familiar faces, and making sure a sizeable group of kids from a given school are moved together (the superintendent has made all of those points at the meetings). But we can't start working on those things UNTIL we know if MM is going to close. Second, some very vocal MM families/staff have stood up at other schools and at SC meetings and have said things that are certainly negative about the other schools. This is not my fault, and even if it is motivated by fear of the unknown (which I am sure it is), it is hurtful to other people. I know of teachers and staff who feel really bad that the MM families/staff assume they don't know the kids in their rooms, don't care about their kids, tolerate bullying, etc. Words do matter, and I wish that some MM families/staff could have phrased their concerns about other schools and/or joys about MM in a way that wouldn't have felt so attacking to parents/teachers/staff at the other schools. Third, I have no idea if the motion will pass. I know where I stand, and I know where Steve Rivkin stands. I have no idea about anyone else, and I think we will find out on May 19th.

Anonymous 8:39 - I really don't understand your point, in all honesty. It is clear that MM provides a good learning environment. So do the other schools. And I don't believe the MM provides a good learning environment BECAUSE of the building -- I think it is the teachers and the families and the staff -- and all of those will do very well in the other buildings. If you see the numbers, it is clear that keeping MM open leads to many programs being cut ... and taht hurts that educational experience for all kids, including those at MM.

Anonymous 7:52 - I know that barring new information about the fiscal options that don't involve closing MM, my mind is made up. But I have no idea if my motion will pass. However, you tell me what we could have done that would satisfy the community -- you say that the meetings are a farce and a waste of time ... but I am pretty certain that if we didn't have any meetings, that would have been vocally criticized, right? So, you tell me what the right approach to getting community feedback on this motion would have been!

Anonymous said...

I went to one of the meetings at the elementary schools - and in one way, it was great. Maria presented complex information in a very clear manner that made it very easy to understand the fiscal position we are in now, and the choices we have available to the SC to make for the Amherst school budget.

The part that was a waste of time for me was that a large number of MM supporters showed up and each one seemed to have a different point about why MM needs to be saved. No two people stood up to say the same point - it was very choreographed and practically sounded rehearsed. I get that they want to spread their points of view to a larger audience than just MM families, but still!

The parents of the school where the presentations were held were unable to ask our own questions.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:04

The meetings in each school were open to everyone. If you couldn't make one meeting you were invited to go to any of the others. For some people 5PM worked, for others a meeting at noon was better, there is still the meeting at the Middle School Tuesday night.

As far as I could tell, they seemed to have legitimate questions. I might have been at a different meeting than you, but I heard reasonable questions for the most part.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 2:04 - I have heard this comment from several people. I attended all four of the meetings (one at each school), and the Fort River meeting was by far the worse in terms of Fort River parents not getting a chance to ask their own questions. There were indeed Marks Meadow parents at all of the meetings, but only at Fort River did it become somewhat unpleasant, in my experience.

Anonymous 11:14 - again, I'm not sure which meeting you attended, but the meetings had VERY different feelings (applause after comments by most parents/teachers at Marks Meadow urging for that school to stay open, a fair amount of discussion -- sometimes not so pleasant -- between different parents/staff/teachers at Fort River). I thought the "best" meeting in terms of discussion, questions, content, etc. was the last one (Crocker Farm) -- but of course that could be attributed to many different factors.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I was not at the FR meeting. I am very sorry to hear how it went.