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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009



We are looking forward to the arrival of our new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Alberto Rodriguez on July 1, and we are pleased that contract negotiations with him are settled. Dr. Rodriguez’s FY10 salary will be $158,000.

The School Committee is aware that the superintendent's salary is a matter of great interest and potential controversy, particularly in tight budget times. Unfortunately, we cannot wish away the laws of supply and demand and ignore the realities of the labor market. This is a challenging time in which to hire a superintendent. The pool is limited, and there are many districts seeking leadership – over 50 in Massachusetts alone this year. And our district, while having many positive attributes, also offers challenges that many others do not. All of this means that it’s a “seller’s market” – it’s more difficult and more costly than it used to be to hire a superintendent for our schools, and for most others.

It does not make sense to compare former superintendent Hochman’s FY08 salary to the one negotiated with Dr. Rodriguez two years later – especially since Dr. Hochman did not accept raises during two of the five years he worked in Amherst. While this was a nice gesture, and this is in no way a criticism of Dr. Hochman, it did mean that we faced some “sticker shock” when we went back out into the open market for superintendents. Dr. Hochman was making $135,000 when he left – but he left for a position paying $262,000.

We are actually three distinct districts. In addition to our regional middle and high school district, our superintendent also manages two other, separate districts: Amherst elementary schools and Pelham. So that's three school committees, three budgets to prepare, three accounting systems (fifty eight district employees have their pay divided among two or three separate paychecks because they work for two or three of the districts), four town meetings, and so on. Regional districts take more work, so it is not unusual for their superintendent salaries to be higher: e.g., Acton-Boxboro $175,000, Hamilton-Wenham $175,000, Hampden-Wilbraham $148,000, Hampshire Regional $150,000, Mendon-Upton $151,000, Pentucket $171,000, Whitman-Hanson $158,000. Our academic peer districts pay even more: Brookline pays $198,000, Newton pays $248,000.

When the Committee first met with the search consultant, Jacqueline Roy, she informed us that based on the market, our district needed to plan for a salary of at least $150,000. This amount was reflected in our initial FY10 budget documentation, apportioned as follows: 50% Region, 47% Amherst, 3% Pelham.

In addition to the base salary, an additional benefits package is given to 80% of Massachusetts superintendents (according to MA Superintendents’ Association data); Dr. Rodriguez will have a housing and a travel allowance totaling $15,000, allowances that are not provided beyond FY11. This is about the same dollar amount that Dr. Hochman received in additional benefits, and is significantly lower than packages paid by many other high-achieving districts.

Are we happy about paying this amount of money for a superintendent? No. Are we convinced, based on the pay scales in comparable districts and the specific challenges offered by ours, that this is a fair salary in the current labor market? Yes.

Our district needs leadership to move forward. By all reports from those who have worked with him, Dr. Rodriguez has the skills and temperament to provide it. He will have a great deal of work to do and high expectations to meet when he arrives, and the school committee will work with him to ensure that our schools are continuously improving and in sync with community expectations. We hope the community will join us in welcoming Dr. Rodriguez and working for his – and hence the districts’ – success going forward.

Michael Hussin, Chair, Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee

Andy Churchill, Chair, Amherst School Committee

Kathryn Mazur, HR Director, Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools


LarryK4 said...

So does a $158-K Super provide twice the leadership of a $79-K Principal?

Is Dr. Rodriguez really almost 20% better than the golden boy Jere Hochman who had five years experience in the People's Republic?

Even the Town Manager announced he would not accept his COLA this coming year (and last I looked he makes around $125-K with no Housing Allowance)

The chances of town /school employee unions agreeing to give up their negotiated raises next year just went up in smoke.

Neil said...

When I read statements like this one from the school committee, I am reminded what an excellent group of policy makers we have guiding our school system.

It is reasonable to compare salaries of people in identical jobs/job markets and identical experience. Their salaries should fit within a range, the range of salaries of comparable positions.

It is not reasonable to compare principles and superintendent except for he purposes of internal equity because each position is subject to their own supply and demand factor.

Anonymous said...

Just what market are we talking about here? What are the other communities that would be listed in this so-called "market"? I look around the region and I don't see any town or city that is close to what we're paying, including Longmeadow.

I think that you are now going to hear questions and head-scratching from a new group of people this time, not just the usual anti-taxer grumps like Mr. Gawle and Mr. Kelley.

Statement or no statement, the School Committee has essentially taken itself out of the discussion about shared sacrifice in troubled financial times.

Who is going to take it upon themselves to draw the line on rising costs? Or, this being a college town, is this going to be like the trend line on college tuitions, i.e. no ceiling in sight?

The rock has hit the pond and now we'll see the waves wash up on shore. The SC Chair has dismissed the anticipated flap on this particular salary as similar to the relatively trifling amounts of money that get debated ad infinitum in Town Meeting every year. Let's see how he does with that comparison in coming weeks.

The impression is starting to solidify in Amherst (and I hear it from members of the recent FCCC) that the schools are by far the most wasteful government operations in town.

Anonymous said...

Neil, I appreciate the boiler plate expression of approval. You're a terrific team player. I would love to be stuck in a foxhole with you.

BUT you're missing the point. This jump in salary becomes the tail that wags the dog. For example, what's Larry Shaffer? Chopped liver?

I am not fooled by the School Committee's cherry picking of high superintendent salaries in the Commonwealth, all of them east of the Quabbin. Let's try to remember where WE are: in a region with a political culture dead-set against the kind of development that occurs inside I-495.

The bottom line is: we don't have the money for a renewed wage spiral in municipal and school officials. Does anyone notice that we have a near-depression going on?

Neil said...

"You are missing the point" - Anon

Am I? I'm the hiring manager at company for a staff of 25. They are highly skilled white collar workers. The market for the jobs I hire for is pretty well defined and it changes year to year. There is a salary range for each job. We make offers based on the persons qualifications and experience... that puts their comp at the right place in their range.

I do not find it surprising that we would offer 158K for a top notch superintendent who is capable of helping to shape policy and executing the reform and transformation we desire.

You make claims about an inflated salary but you provide no basis for your argument.

You make claims about my motive but you don't know enough about me or my experience to make those claims.

You post anonymously. Your questions imply that policy makers are acting hastily and without due consideration but mostly your questions reveal that you are under informed and that you could spend some time researching your own questions rather than ranting and questioning everyone else' competence and motive.

Anonymous said...

Neil, many people post anonymously because the worry about backlash, especially if they work for the schools. Your argument about relative salaries is a good one, but that would only explain the salary of $158,000. How is there any possible way to justify the $15,000 housing and travel allowance in this economy? There isn't.

Anonymous said...

I am absolutely not questioning your motives, Neil, just your seemingly blind acceptance that this is OK.

What was the level at which YOU would say that we overpaid? I think that we're at that level now. And I was a big fan of Jere and thought that he was worth what we paid.

Where is the superintendent in Western Mass making this kind of a salary? Enlighten me. What is the market of "supply and demand" (i.e. which set of school systems) that made this salary level necessary for a guy who has never been a school superintendent? At that level, why was an additional housing allowance necessary? I think that these are all legitimate questions.

Posting under the single name "Neil" is not posting anonymously?
Let's not get self-righteous about THAT now.

Anonymous said...

So my question to the SC and Neil is simple. When did the communities we are comparing ourselves to hire their current superintendent and what is their current financial situation? Are they asking for salary concessions, are they laying off.

I ask this because there is always a lag or delay when things happen. Some commumities are affected immediately others can hold things off a while. In my industry we are seeing an uptick in qualified job applicants and an increase in people saying they just want a paying job. Yes I know that a School Superintendent is a little harder to come by then a lab tech or teacher. But if Amherst is the only district looking right now there needs to be some adjustment in our thinking due to this latest (less than 6 months) change in the world economy.

Abbie said...

I cannot believe we are arguing over ~$20,000 increase in the superintendent pay (actually less if you took Hockman's salary when he left and increased it by the typical (in Amherst) 5% yearly increase). The moving/housing money is one off expense and likely is the norm. I got moving money when I got my job (I think it was $10,000 max 7 years ago but only used about $5000).

GET REAL FOLKS!!! Don't you follow the news? Mass is *now* looking at one BILLION LESS in tax revenue than predicted.

We are going to hit tier 3 cuts and you are quibbling about $20,000 to fill a position that we NEED filled. Have you got someone else in mind to do the job?

Let's give the new Sup a break and hope that he does a great job!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Abbie, for being a voice of reason. I totally agree with everything you said.

Anonymous said...

"But if Amherst is the only district looking right now ...."

Perhaps your analysis is based on the this faulty assumption.

Neil said...

Given the fact that the already highly priced housing values in Amherst have risen while housing values continue to decline elsewhere, and given the fact that the new superintendent is relocating from Florida to Amherst, I'm not surprised at the housing allowance.

All you need to do is look at the cost of a mortgage for a home there and here. If it's 15K more per year net (mortgage payment, taxes, heating oil, etc.) for comparable housing stock then he made the argument and they bought it, and I would have too.

People will not take a big job with lots of responsibility and finance the differential in housing costs out of their salary increase.

Anonymous said...

Abbie, I do have someone else in mind. Maria Geryk. If nothing else, she certainly wouldn't have required a housing allowance! (Which I still think is inappropriate. A few thousand dollars to cover moving expenses is typical but not subsidizing a highly-paid employee's mortgage! He knows the cost of living in Ameherst. If he did not want to take on that responsibility, he shouldn't have taken the job!) Since Maria Geryk took over as superintendent, a lot more has gotten done, information flow has greatly improved, and she is already very familiar with our district. Not to mention certified as a superintendent! I wish she had been our interim since the moment Jere left.

Abbie said...

Anon @1035:

I agree Maria Geryk has done a great job. Too bad she didn't apply for the position, hopefully she will be interested next time we have an opening. It is my hope that she will be mentored for such a position.

However, we have HIRED someone else for the position. All of us will have to live with it. I hate the useless attitude of "how things could have been"...

Let's move on to how we are going to provide the best possible education for all Amherst kids with MUCH fewer resources for MANY years to come.

Anonymous said...

amen abbie and neil

Anonymous said...

"The chances of town /school employee unions agreeing to give up their negotiated raises next year just went up in smoke."

What do you think the chances were for that happening to begin with?

I've got an idea, let's tax all small busniess owners above and beyond what we're already taxing them.

Let's tax every school child an additional $2,000. That way only the people with kids in school will be paying the burden. Why tax everyone?

Let's create a special tax only for teachers. That is what taking a negotiated raise away would do.

Taking the raise away from teachers is creating a special tax for a group that does not rank very high in the American pay scale.

I don't hear any of the school committee members volunteering to take their raise and donate it to the town? And what about the rest of you? Time to pony up.

Come on, if we can get teachers to pay more tax then you should all be able to do the same.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Me, finally:

At the outset, let me say that the statement I posted was written and agreed to by the board as a whole. Individual members of the board may not agree with any/all aspects of the statement, but it is a statement by the board, and I'm on the board.

LarryK - sadly, I agree that this contract will make it less likely that town/school employees will give up their raises.

Neil - thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous 10:37 - I agree that it is difficult to know what kinds of comparisons to make ... certainly our superintendent is getting paid more than Hadley/South Hadley/Northampton, and less (appropriately) than Boston-area suburbs. But I do think being a regional district creates more headaches. I believe the schools have a real responsibility to be fiscally responsible, and I'm going to push for that in multiple ways (some would see, for example, my proposed closing of MM as an example of this fiscal restraint).

(I'm not going to get in the middle of the Neil/Anonymous debates!).

Anonymous 8:08 - I don't know the answer to this question -- although I do know that in a sense, the market remains very strong for superintendents ... one of the reasons why regionalization may help decrease costs is it means there will be more a "buyers market" and less of a "sellers market" for such jobs when there are fewer superintendent jobs in MA!

Abbie - I agree that in the scheme of things, the salary isn't a big issue ... and it was accounted for in our budget all along.

Anonymous 10:35/Abbie - I agree that Maria Geryk is doing a great job!

Anonymous 1:58 - two things for the record: First, I get ZERO pay as a School Committee member, and this year, my employer, Amherst College, has already decided faculty get ZERO raise (and may still get a pay cut). My husband works for the state of Massachusetts -- his raise will also be ZERO (interestingly, the same amount as his raise last year). So, I am one who is not having a pay raise to donate to the schools or the town (and one who is wishing she has become a superintendent instead of a professor). Second, I've NEVER said the teachers should give back their raises -- go through every blog entry and comment I've made. I think the raises were negotiated in good faith, and we have a responsibility to live up to our end of the bargain. The reality, in a time of budget crisis, means that some teachers/staff will lose their jobs -- and more will do so if others take their raises than if others don't. But that is a decision left, in my opinion, entirely to the teachers' union to decide. I don't feel it is my role or my place to ask this of them.

Anonymous said...

Abbie says, "All of us will have to live with it."

Now there's a model for democracy, and the free expression of ideas.

The point I'm making is that it's not just about $20K. It's about a wage spiral in a time when others, in and out of the public sector, are trying to hold onto their jobs, and trying to decide whether they need to accept less for themselves to protect other people's jobs. (Perhaps Ms. Jensen is insulated from this.)

And this kind of unheard of salary for Western Mass is the tail that wags the dog when it comes to a much needed override for Amherst. If this guy leaves in three years, will we be looking at a similarly outsized increase yet again for his successor? Where does it stop?

There's a group of folks in town known as "Sustainable Amherst" that includes SC member Mr. Churchill. What's "sustainable" about this? It's not the addition that I'm worried about; it's the multiplication!

I think reasonable people can disagree about this, and I respect Ms. Jensen. But she is not THE voice of reason here; she's just a reasonable voice. And here I think that she's defending the same logic that has led to bizarre salary levels in other walks of life, like Wall Street and pro sports. All because this Superintendent job supposedly involves such a higher degree of difficulty than Longmeadow or Holyoke or Northampton? Did anyone factor in that this was an enormous opportunity for the candidate himself, given that Mr. Hochman deservedly made a name for himself and left from here for twice the salary?

But wait and see: I think that you will find the pushback this time will be far more mainstream than on past occasions of perceived Amherst extravagance, and it won't be just the usual carping suspects in the local debate

This is an absolute killer for those of us who were looking for new revenues for our schools, especially to retain some highly regarded teachers, and our Town. In the wake of this, there's simply no way to go out and ask one's neighbors to vote to reach deeper into their collective pockets to fund much needed priorities. You'll get laughed off the block.

So despite their hard-nosed admonitions to quit whining and "GET REAL", Abbie and Neil seem to me to be simply arguing past the political, fiscal reverberations of this decison by the School Committee. THAT'S the elephant in the room here: it's not just about $20K.

Rich Morse

Abbie said...

a rhetorical question for you- if you had been negotiating with Rodriguez and he said he wouldn't take the job for less than $158K, what would you have done? Very doubtful, the next guy down the list would have taken the job for less than $158K and it seemed that the Sup from Northampton didn't generate much enthusiasm.

Would you have us go through the CRITICAL coming year(s) with an interim Sup? No guarantees that Maria Geryk would continue to do it and even if she wanted to she could negotiate for a bigger salary then Hockman's. Look how our previous interim(s) performed. Is that what you would trade $20K for?

Anonymous said...

Abbie is not insulated from the economic situation. UMass employees, like Abbie, me, and many other Amherst residents, are state employees. We have had no raises since the summer of 2007 (right, not a step increase, not a COLA, nothing), and will see only very small raises in the future. In addition, the state is planning to increase the portion of health care costs paid by employees -- that's about a $2500/year tax on state employees with family coverage.

I think it's fair to say that we all want to reign in expenses. I also think that the ink is dry on that contract, so we can talk til we're blue in the face about how unreasonable the salary is, and all of that will be wasted time. Why don't we instead focus our energy on things we can actually do something about?

Anonymous said...


In my line of work, when the negotiations break down, we go to trial. If the opposing attorney knows that you're afraid to go to trial, the negotiations go badly for you.

If there is no number at which you are willing to walk away, it's not really a negotiation.

So in answer to your question, at some point, I would have been willing to walk away, and I'm hearing some very bad things about how the discussion went when that was suggested.

My number was $145K, a considerable number above Dr. Hochman's salary, but what do I know? What I think I know is what the political fallout is going to be. Unlike some in town,I have always believed in "overpaying" relative to the region for the honchos in town, but there's got to be a limit. I view myself as a moderate on this issue, albeit a vocal one.

I guess that we agree that this is a CRITICAL year, but I guess we disagree on how that should affect this decision. I think that it meant that we should not allow ourselves to get rolled by a candidate. Yes, we would have been able to hobble along with Ms. Geryk, who seems to be turning out to be mighty capable.

Once again, I believe that this announcement almost completely shuts down politically and symbolically a lot of other avenues out of our current mess, UNTIL Dr. Rodriguez shows himself to be a smashing success, which will take a few years at best. If I'm wrong, I'll be happy to admit it.

I want this candidate to work out, and I believe that we should reserve judgement for a year or two. But for the politics of FY10 and maybe even FY11, this salary is a preemptive strike on the spirit of shared sacrifice in Amherst. Forget about it: those appeals are no longer an option.

Rich Morse

AJ said...

This plays very badly, especially since the offer was made when economic forecasts were looking particularly bleak. At level 3 cuts, we don't have enough money now even to keep all our teachers. An override is out of the question, so we're looking at stafff cuts or wage/benefit concessions throughout the town. A salary jump at a time like this, for an unproven, new superintendent, makes concessions much harder to get. It also creates big resentment among squeezed Amherst taxpayers. And I'm sorry, but I think you're kidding yourself if you believe that house prices aren't softening here, too. Maybe less than in other parts of the country, but it's happening.

Just for kicks, I did a quick Zillow search on houses in the Miami are-- 4BR, 2 BA, built since 1980. To my eye, the range of prices could be Amherst's-- lows around $250K, a very few over a million. Plenty in the half-million area. Yeah, this "unscientific" and seat of the pants. But it tells me that the cost of housing here does not justify any special bonus.

And let's be honest about the salary comparisons within Mass. This is his first job as a superintendent and he's still unproven. (I hope he is terrific, but that is yet unknown). Nobody is going to move to Amherst just for the money. They'd do it largely because it's a good place to live. It's rural yet not a cultural wasteland. Anyone coming here prefers that environment to somewhere inside 495. Competing on salary with Brookline or Newton is foolhardy. We can't pretend to be able to afford that kind of money right now.

My fantasy: if Mr Rodriguez announced a voluntary pay cut (or at a minimum gave up the housing "allowance") he would gain enormous goodwill, and immediately gain respect from everyone now griping about the "only" $20K. He would also be in a much stronger position to ask for some concessions from the union and reduce the scale of the inevitable layoffs. Otherwise, it's going to be a very hard first year.

Anonymous said...

Reading about the superintendent receiving more than Jere Hochman (an h Abbie, not a k)and hearing it over the radio is confusing to say the least. I thought we were struggling with shortfalls in the schools' budget. How anyone can speak of 20 thousand dollars as 'only' is just incredible! It would take me a whole year, no that isn't right, a year and a half, to earn this much money.
The last house Mr. Hochman lived in was newly built and could house a small army! What on earth is going on here??
And the children further suffer the mistakes of the adults... Somebody needs to put a stop to this nonsense. How can a system close a school and scream about a 'structural deficit' on the one hand, and then offer a package to a newcomer(it is correct he has NO experience as a superintendent?) of this astronomical amount? Is the 15K part of his yearly salary?

Anonymous said...

"this salary is a preemptive strike on the spirit of shared sacrifice in Amherst"

That's a pretty theoretical perspective on a job offer made for a position everyone agrees we need to fill.

I don't recall a single person proposing we should spend, for example, $120K or less and get what we get. No. Everyone wanted a top notch superintendent.

Negotiations for plea agreements in criminal law or negotiation in business litigation may not be the best model for salary negotiations for highly paid positions in school administration.

Here the purpose is to find a price where both parties are happy. Hardball "no meat left on the bone" negotiation tends to sour working relationships between the employee and the employer. So I reject your claims of mishandling this hire due to cost. Next time, you ought to go to the board with a proposal saying we must make this hire a milestone in "the spirit of shared sacrifice in Amherst" and thus offer pay in the range of X to Y.

Anonymous said...

Nominated as the most subtle distinction over which to argue a point...

"I respect Ms. Jensen. But she is not THE voice of reason here; she's just a reasonable voice."

Anonymous said...

"This plays very badly, especially since the offer was made when economic forecasts were looking particularly bleak."

Plays badly 'in the news'? Is there some popular polling? Or do you mean that you think it looks bad? A groundswell? Or popular uprising?

At what salary would this "play well" and why didn't all the people who are so upset about this take it up with the SC when the search was being done, at a time when your input might have made a difference? Hey everybody, look! the horse is out of the barn.

Rick said...

Rich nailed the real problem: “If there is no number at which you are willing to walk away, it's not really a negotiation.”

It’s not just the outcome that is bad, since $158k is apparently in the range of what Supers of districts our size make. It’s that many people have no faith that the SC did a good job in negotiating. I’m not sure there is a governmental body anywhere that does a good job of negotiating, but still people don’t like to see it. It would be interesting to know if he asked for more and the SC negotiated him down and if so, by how much.

While I agree with Abbie that what’s done is done, Rich is probably right about this: “…this announcement almost completely shuts down politically and symbolically a lot of other avenues out of our current mess…”.

Could the SC could have had more foresight and done a better job of is prepping the public for this? Just sticking a number ($150k) in the budget that hardly anyone is looking at is not being particularly up front about it. They could have announced at the beginning, in writing, preferably in a newspaper: “Hey, just so you know we are not going to get a new Super for what we were paying Jere Hochman, it’s going to be at least $150k. You want us for go forward or not?” (Maybe they did that and I don’t know it.)

Then again this is all hindsight. Did any of us approach the SC before the fact and say “Hey you better negotiate a good deal because we’re not going to like it if you don’t”. It was kind of silent wasn’t it? With everyone kind of assuming the guy wouldn’t get much more that Hochman? I know I assumed that.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

I, for one, did raise the issue of salary with at least two School Committee members ahead of time. I felt that given Dr. Rodriguez's relative inexperience as a superintendent, complete lack of experience in a district outside Miami-Dade, and our serious budget crisis, they should negotiate for a the lowest reasonable salary possible (i.e. near the level of Dr. Hochman's) or walk away from the table.

Anonymous said...

Discussion about how the negotiation was conducted and whether those who handled it did a professional job is pure conjecture.

I hope people's reaction to their sticker shock does not compel them to make unfair and inaccurate assumptions and statements about how the negotiation was conducted.

It may be fair to assume that the new Super would be interested in the position if it meant a new challenge, new opportunity and an increase in real income. Beyond that, I'm not sure why so many commenters are willing to assume the negotiation was botched.

If you want to analyze compensation, start with the salary range for the position based on market data. Then see where the person falls within that range and decide if their experience and productivity warrants that placement in the range.

Rick said...

I agree it’s not good to assume the SC may have done a bad job negotiating, so sorry to have done that – I hate it when people assume things when they don’t really know.

The second part of what I said though about perhaps being more aware of how the public might react to this and prepping them – thoughts on that?

AJ said...

"-- Plays badly 'in the news'? Is there some popular polling? Or do you mean that you think it looks bad? A groundswell? Or popular uprising?"Are you serious? How about "It plays badly with parents being asked to accept larger class sizes because of budget constraints."
Or "It plays badly with anyone whose elementary school kids won't have instrumental music or art?" Or "It plays badly with anyone who is struggling to live in Amherst because of the property taxes." Please, don't be picayune.

"--At what salary would this "play well" and why didn't all the people who are so upset about this take it up with the SC when the search was being done, at a time when your input might have made a difference?"Personally I'd have liked a salary no more than what Jere Hochman was making. I'd have accepted maybe up to $140K. Certainly no "housing allowance" The need for fiscal restraint in salary negotiations now is obvious-- the budget is painfully tight, and not spending even more on administrative salaries is commonsensical. This salary sets a tone for other negotiations, and this tone is not one of shared sacrifice.

We don't get a lot, if anything, more by paying a larger salary, either. Money is going to constrain just about everything. A large salary comes from Amherst's insecurity about how we stack up to the other "good" localities around here.

Anonymous said...

I respect the level of conversation on this blog and I also understand the reluctance to engage in Monday morning quarterbacking.

But there seems to be some corresponding after-the-fact spinning coming from the School Committee now, like the claim that I did not hear earlier that "nobody wants this job". I'm sorry, I just don't believe that.

In addition, I do not believe for a second that THIS is the compensation package that the School Committee going in wanted to come out of this process with.

I also expect that there is one other aspect of this that will NEVER be frankly addressed publicly: that is, how the fact of a Cuban American bargaining with a School Committee operating under the Dictatorship of the Multiculturals skewed the negotiations. I'm sure that he knew that this was something we wanted very badly, a superintendent of color.

I expect simply raising this aspect will be offensive to some (or at least generate the standard harrumphs of indignation), which is why it will never get discussed.

LarryK4 said...

Hey, I figured it was worth at least $20 to $25-K.

A lot more if he were a she, black, lesbian, and in a wheelchair.

Anonymous said...

I heard there were accusations of racism against committee members who spoke out against the salary package, so you are probably right.

Diana Spurgin said...

You know, Anonymous 4:45, I am not interested in "I heard" this, or "I heard" that. This blog, like all others, is full of that BS. Tell us what YOU heard, and who said it, and then I will believe you. And have the gumption to say who you are and how you happen to be hearing all these wonderfully inflammatory things. Then, if it is true, you will doing a service to the community instead of apparently blowing hot air.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Diana, you're a very savvy person, you didn't just crawl out from under a rock yesterday. You know why Anonymous 4:45 is being circumspect.

So let me say I too heard that the R word came up when opponents of the package spoke up. And it came up for the purpose it usually comes up: to shut people up and shut down debate.

There is nothing else we can say, Diana, and you know that. And this can't be that surprising to you: as one of the more alert people in town, you've watched School Committee in operation for years.

There is a climate of fear that prevents anyone from speaking up against the multiculturalism regime in town.

Anonymous said...

like the claim that I did not hear earlier that "nobody wants this job"I heard a guy say pigs fly. Does that make it so? Evidence and context would make this conversation much more productive. The substantive issue is whether Amherst got the best super for the money and handled the negotiation well. If you have information (which doesn't really include - I heard a guy say...) then share.

Anonymous said...

A large salary comes from Amherst's insecurity about how we stack up to the other "good" localities around here.This is a completely fallacious claim for which you provide no evidence, anecdotal or conclusive. Beyond that can a town have a psychological point of view, one imbued with insecurity? Are you projecting?

Anonymous said...

I also expect that there is one other aspect of this that will NEVER be frankly addressed publicly: that is, how the fact of a Cuban American bargaining with a School Committee operating under the Dictatorship of the Multiculturals skewed the negotiations. I'm sure that he knew that this was something we wanted very badly, a superintendent of color.Feel free to share what you know and how you know it. I don't see anything more than speculation here.

I argued against making one of the qualifications of the new super, multicultural bona fides, and I hope it was not one of the qualifications that was decisive but until someone presents evidence it was, I would refrain from speculation and I would advise others to refrain unless they have specific knowledge.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Me, again:

Rich - I agree with much of what you said. I think it does make it harder for the SC to ask others for assistance (e.g., override), and I think although there are clearly superintendents making this salary in Massachusetts, most of them don't work in Western Massachusetts for a district with 3,000 students. But again, we are where we are ... and I think we all need to be really pulling for Dr. Rodriguez to work out great!

Anonymous 4:36 - Agreed. We need to now move on as best as we can.

AJ - I agree with much of what you said as well. And share your ideal of the fantasy you sketch out(though that seems VERY unlikely).

Anonymous 8:34 - I think we need to remember that even if Dr. Rodriguez took EXACTLY the same salary as Dr. Hochman, it would add only $20,000 a year ... not exactly enough to save a school. Or even a teacher. The 15K is a two-year deal -- then it ends.

Anonymous 11:57 - I don't think I can comment on your post ... as it involves negotiations which occurred in executive session. But you raise an interesting idea.

Anonymous 12:30 - I think some people didn't realize that the salary would potentially be this high ... or hence the SC might indeed have heard complaints earlier in the process.

Rick - I'm not going to comment on stuff that happens in executive session, but yes, I think the SC, myself included, could have done a better job of "getting out in front" of this number earlier in the process. That would have at least helped people get used to what we might end up paying -- and/or allowed time for people to express thoughts about what might be appropriate and why. That is probably an easier conversation to have earlier in the process than after (as in, when a specific person has been hired).

Allison/Anonymous/Rick - you raise good points. Again, can't comment!

AJ - I have certainly heard from parents (and teachers) who share your view.

Anonymous/LarryK/Anonymous/Diana/Anonymous/Anonymous - not going to comment here!

Anonymous said...

To Anon 6:56,

I appreciate the attempt to debunk what's being said.

But it's on page B1 of the 4/17 Gazette: "'Nobody wants these jobs,' Churchill said, 'It's a very difficult job--especially in a regional district where you've got three school committees, four towns, a very contentious atmosphere, and a lot of people who are very smart and very vocal.'" It's not "a guy"; it's the new Chair of the Amherst School Committee who was spinning, i.e. trying to make this job look like the professional equivalent of cleaning toilets.

I don't believe it for a second: this isn't Oz, but it isn't School Administrator Hell either. There's an enormous opportunity here for an ambitious person to make a name for himself.

In addition, "The law of supply and demand" has been invoked by the School Committee as well, claiming that there's some imaginary "market" known only to them. Well, the law of supply and demand also applies even more favorably to minority candidates. And this one knew how to use it to his advantage.

If he's as good an administrator as he was a negotiator, we'll be fine. But I think that the fair inferences from the outcome is that we got rolled. And the point of all that is that it absolutely, positively cannot happen again, when we're searching again 3-5 years from now.

Anonymous said...

The new superintendent's salary seems to me to be a case of the school committee's inability to walk away when the price tag was out of reach.

For example, my car is on its last legs. I'm presently shopping for its replacement. Sure, it would be nice to buy a brand new car. I could choose the color I want, the options I need, etc. But I don't have the economic means to do this. I - like the school district and most of the country - am receiving a pay cut. So, I am going to get the car I can afford. Hopefully something dependable and gently used.

If Dr. Rodriguez was prepared to walk away for anything less than $158K plus mega benefits, then the school committee needed to have the common sense to say "we can't afford you and your overpriced superintendenting." If the district had walked away, what would happen? Would we be missing out on some amazing $158,000 innovation that will suddenly bring millions of dollars into our schools?

Perhaps Ms. Geryk could have continued? Would that have been such a bad thing? Seems to me that she has stepped up in an amazing way. Does she really need to put on the fancy suit for the fireside chats to be the next logical, sensible and economic choice? Once upon a time, schools (and companies for that matter) ran that way. Hard working dedicated people within the organization could rise up and bring amazing leadership. Leadership that comes from passion, talent and a true investment in their own community. committee, you blew it.

Anonymous said...

The only mistake the SC made was hiring Alberto Rodriquez not David Sklarz but it's done now and so what is in my best interest is to support Rodriquez and help him make our schools the best they can be.

Advocates who think the SC should have negotiated a smaller comp package may forget why we need to replacing the super. He left for a job as a super that pays substantially more than we paid him. Do you remember that number - his new salary? Google it.

If, as part of a hiring process, you negotiate to a bare minimum for salary, you will get in return the same (bare minimum) and no loyalty (the candidate will look for a better opportunity and leave you looking again.) Employment is a two-way street. Treat the employees with respect, value them, and get the same back.

$158 is not extravagant. It's pretty reasonable. If the facts (market facts) support the housing differential then I don't know why everyone's got their shorts in a bunch.