My Goal in Blogging

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Amherst middle school principal resigns

Hampshire Gazette

AMHERST - After one year on the job, Glenda Cresto resigned Monday as principal of Amherst Regional Middle School because she said she was not a "good fit" for the position, according to schools superintendent Alberto Rodriguez.

"It did catch us off guard a little bit," said Rodriguez, who accepted Cresto's resignation Monday. "She felt she wasn't being as effective as she could be. I sadly accepted her resignation and that's where we are."

Rodriguez, who is himself in his first year on the job, said he hopes to form a search committee and fill the principal position by the end of the school year, with plans to advertise the post in the coming months. In the meantime, high school principal Mark Jackson will take on the additional role of middle school principal. In addition, Michael Hayes, who was interim principal before Cresto's hiring, will put off his work on the mathematics curriculum in the central office to serve as senior assistant principal of the middle school. And teacher Diane Chamberlain will become temporary assistant principal at the high school, while someone else will be assigned to her class, Rodriguez said.

"At this particular time these are the folks that I think need to be in these positions, but this could very well change within a week to two or three weeks," Rodriguez said. "This is not etched in stone."

A 'very challenging year'

Cresto, who was hired in April 2008, had an extraordinary experience in Amherst, according to school officials. She had never been a school principal before, and, upon being hired, she worked with five superintendents in 13 months. She also started the current school year with one assistant principal instead of two due to budget cuts.

"It's been a very challenging year in the Amherst district," said Catherine Sanderson, vice chairwoman of the regional school committee.

Also, since school opened its doors Thursday, seventh- and eighth-grade students have faced glitches in their schedules. Sanderson said the schedule problems would be sorted out "momentarily," possibly by today.

Formerly an educator in Boston, Cresto had numerous bosses in Amherst. Former superintendent Jere Hochman worked with Cresto for a couple of months before he resigned in June 2008. Helen Vivian and Alton Sprague picked up where Hochman left off as interim co- superintendents until the married couple resigned in February 2009. Maria Geryk, who had been director of student services for six years, completed their term ending June 30. Finally, Rodriguez was Cresto's boss July 1 to Aug. 31.

"I think she needed a more consistent mentorship," Sanderson said. Sanderson added she is "regretful" the district didn't provide her more support and guidance during her time here.

She "was a good hire," Sanderson said. "I have a lot of respect for Glenda and the work she did."

Specifically, Sanderson commended Cresto for her commitment to communication, responsiveness and transparency to parents and students. Cresto also aimed to increase English, literacy and writing skills in middle school students, and last year brought in a poet who was well received by students, Sanderson said.

Catherine Baum can be reached at


Anonymous said...

A very sad commentary on the Amherst School System. She will be missed.

Anonymous said...

transparency should start now:
why did she leave?
was it voluntary or requested?

Anonymous said...

12:31 or was it demanded?

Tom G said...

"she said she was not a "good fit" for the position"

It might be instructive for us to understand more about the "fit" which is a perplexing summary statement given the timing of her resignation.

Was "the fit" apparently OK at he end of the school year in June but no longer by August 31? Or was she struggling with the fit last June but figured it out only recently?

If she a big loss who, had we handled it differently, could have stayed and helped implement an improved middle school, then we should know that.

Of course, this conjecture is full of assumptions but that doesn't make the questions less valid. Trust is earned and the new super should take the opportunity to earn it.

Furthermore, the answers to those questions about fit must be addressed because some of them may not have anything to do with the person who resigned.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to believe that Ms. Cresto would leave so suddenly and precipitously without pressure to do so. She was extremely attentive, open, available and helpful to our ARMS student and our family last year. I don't think we are alone in that experience. Last year, Ms. Cresto began her day before 6 a.m. and attended student events in the evenings. She seemed to take to heart the "every student, every day" mission. It doesn't seem logical that she would resign of her own accord....

Because those of us out here in the parent community are not privy to the back story of Ms. Cresto's sudden departure, it is easy to feel loss, frustration, anxiety, and mistrust. Perhaps it isn't practical or appropriate for people outside the administration to know the "real story," but given the little we know, such negative feelings should be expected.

While the problems in the school district identified and underscored by the superintendent's report are serious and important, their solution will take time. Meanwhile, my child is having the only 8th grade year she will have. It would be helpful for the superintendent to offer more concrete, specific, convincing details re: the ways he plans to address the needs of the kids and families who are in the school system right now, during this time of transition and adjustment. Otherwise, it will be tempting to adopt the negative attitude many students possess: that we're just biding time until this is over.

I'm a parent who wants to be engaged and helpful to the school system, and my actions are consistent with that desire. Today's news is deflating and frustrating. I hope future communications from the administration do more to inspire engagement among the parents, students, and community.

Ed said...

I, not knowing the woman, have a vastly different take on this. And I think the part about five different Superintendents is significant and I will toss this out to those who know more:

Could she simply have been pushed so many different ways in so short a time that she simply just had enough? And/or pushed into a position where she had made promises to subordinates based on what she had been told, and resigned rather than breaking these promises because she has honor?

Or was she being told to do something that she didn't want to do? And if so, what? (Remember the "Saturday Night Massacre" in the Nixon Admin where much of the Justice Dept resigned instead of firing the special prosecutor?)

You don't force people out the first week of school, you wait until October to do that sort of thing because people/press doesn't notice it as much. Or you do it over the summer for similar reasons.

Right now everyone is looking at the schools in a way they won't until next fall, and the type of Machavellian administrator who would force someone out would know this and not want people asking the very questions that they are.

Nervous Parent said...

Catherine, is there any new information on the resignation? Our family is still in shock and our middle-schooler reports that the teachers seem to be in shock too.

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope Mark Jackson is receiving both his and Ms Cresto's pay while he is serving in both positions. Don't burn out a wonderful High School Principal!

Anonymous said...

Catherine, I second "nervous parent's" post. Glenda's departure and the plan to overwork Mark Jackson, Mike Hayes and others seems like a poorly conceived strategy. What's REALLY going on?!?!

Anonymous said...

Glenda engaged in an email exchange with my wife and me at 10:30 on Monday morning. She was engaged and concered about an issue we had raised, not earth-shattering or life-threatening, but one of concern to us and our daughter. This is NOT the act of someone about to throw in the towel. The leadership vacuum at ARMS that preceeded her, the profound lack of mentorship from senior leadership within the school system and this dramatic change at the START of the school year means that the clock has been reset on change of any kind. By the time someone is hired and gets his/her "sea legs," another 3-4 years will have gone by.

For those of us who've suffered through the mediocrity of the elementary schools (and they are mediocre at best) and then have to grit our teeth to suffer through the equally mediocre middle school, we've been told that we'll one day reach the promised land: the high school. But that, too, is rapidly becoming sub-standard.

A-Rod's mini-assessment of the school system is spot on. However, is he planning to plunge the entire system into chaos to achieve some some higher goal? Sadly, he comes across as an insensitive autocrat. I guarantee that he is driving the entire school community - students, parents, teachers - away.

So, unless he corrects his course and gets a grip, he will basically trash the entire thing, making the bad worse and compromising the good, and when his contract is up, he'll be gone and we'll start all over again. Woe for those whose kids are just starting school, since this reckless, arbitrary, and counter-productive beginning of the A-Rod years combined with the last five years of gutting things due to shrinking budgets means a big mess that will take 5-10 years to rectify IF we get a better leader and more money. Ha.

Amherst is SO full of itself, so convinced it's "special." Bottom line is that it's educational system is so ordinary.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses (to the best of my ability):

Anonymous 12:27 - I share you feeling of sadness, and agree that Glenda will be missed.

Anonymous 12:31 - these are questions I am hearing from many. I share your interest in more transparency. As you might imagine, I don't know as much as I would like to know about this situation, and if I receive information confidentially, I am not able to share it.

Anonymous 12:50 - see my response to 12:31.

Tom G - You raise many important and thoughtful points. I am trying to get these questions answered for myself -- though am not sure how fully they will be able to be answered for me, let alone for the entire community (given the inherent issue of keeping personnel issues confidential).

Anonymous 5:03 - I share your feeling that Glenda's departure, for whatever reason, is a loss to our community. I am hopeful that the superintendent will develop some clear and specific plans in the days/weeks ahead to make sure that this year goes smoothly in the MS for all kids.

Ed - I don't know the answers to your questions ... other than to say that the timing is very, very unfortunate, and that working for five superintendents in a 13-month period also seems very, very unfortunate. As I am quoted saying in the paper, I feel regretful about the tumultuous year Glenda experienced in Amherst.

Nervous Parent - I am not sure if new information on the resignation wlil be coming. However, I do think more concrete plans for the functioning of the MS will be coming in the days/weeks ahead -- and hopefully that information will be reassuring to parents, teachers, and kids.

Anonymous 5:46 - I believe asking Mark to take on two more grades is asking a lot ... I am hoping he is getting a lot of support in the MS and in the HS.

Anonymous 8:35 - I don't know much and even if I did, I can't talk about stuff I learn in a confidential way. But I trust the superintendent's statement that more concrete plans for how the MS (and HS) will function this year in as good a way as possible will be forthcoming -- hopefully soon.

Anonymous 10:06 - as you point out, the MS lacked a permanent leader for two years, and I believe the entire community hoped Glenda would be that leader for the foreseeable future. I believe last year (the combination of the 5 superintendents and the massive budget crisis) was cruel and unusual punishment for any new principal, and I believe Glenda did as well as she could have done in the circumstances. I am personally sorry that she has left the district, and I hope the superintendent will get a plan in place for moving the MS along in a good way ASAP -- because we really don't have 3 or 4 years to waste.

Rick said...

Probably there is some legal/contractual reason why the Superintendent cannot talk about why she resigned. I hate it when that happens as people really need to know and it just gives the feeling that ARPS is hiding something when in fact maybe they have to [legally] in this case. I guess we just have to live with that for now – maybe someday we will find out.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, I am not looking for your response but I just want to say that you were so "right on" in your position during the selection process for super.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone considered that perhaps Ms. Cresto just got sick and tired of all the trashing that has been going on about the Middle School, most notably on this blog, and just decided to throw in the towel rather than facing another year of constant negativity and the deflated staff morale that goes with it?

Anonymous said...

heavy sigh. The middle school has had two years of "acting" principals, a learning year for Glenda, 1/3? of Mark Jackson's time this year, and by the time another principal is hired and ready to act, it will likely be FIVE YEARS of a leadership vacuum.

While the grownups try to clean up another mess in the Amherst schools, the children (and teachers) will suffer.