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.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Parent seeks to mediate, bring back Amherst middle school principal

Hampshire Gazette
By NICK GRABBE

AMHERST - A Middle School parent is trying to work out a deal that could get former Principal Glenda Cresto who resigned Aug. 31 back on the job.

Julia Rueschemeyer, an Amherst lawyer and mediator, said she has been talking to Cresto and Superintendent Alberto Rodriguez in an attempt to bring them together to reconsider the resignation. She has offered to mediate such a meeting.

Rueschemeyer said in her conversation with Cresto Sept. 3, she learned that Cresto would like to, as Rueschemeyer put it, "find her way back" to the post.

Rueschemeyer and parent Mary Jo Viederman met privately with Rodriguez Sept. 3. Rueschemeyer then spoke to Cresto and told her Rodriguez said the decision to reconsider was up to her.

"She is interested in sitting down and having a conversation with the four of us," Rueschemeyer wrote in an email message to Rodriguez Sept. 4. "Given what you told us about your vision and how that aligned with her vision, I think that it would be worth it to see if there is enough common ground to repair the damage that has been done."

She read the email message out loud at a School Committee meeting this week.

Rodriguez had said that Cresto resigned because she was not a "good fit" for the position, and acknowledged that criticism of the middle school did not create "ideal working conditions." On Tuesday he announced that a consultant will be hired to study the middle school and come up with a "blueprint of next steps."

Rueschemeyer said the trigger for Cresto's resignation was a massive student scheduling mix-up that came to light just after the middle school opened.

"It has been too many years without consistent leadership at the middle school, and the community needs that stability," she wrote to Rodriguez. "The children are the ones who suffer. Glenda's return to the middle school would allow the whole community to breathe a sigh of relief and continue the important work that she and the teachers started."

On Sept. 7, Rodriguez responded to the email saying that Cresto should contact him, according to a copy of the email provided by Rueschemeyer.

At Tuesday's School Committee meeting, Rueschemeyer said it would be helpful if Rodriguez called Cresto and asked her to come back. Rodriguez responded that Cresto had not contacted him and said he is "uncomfortable talking about personnel."

Rueschemeyer then talked to Cresto again and later said, "She would like to be able to find a way back to the middle school."

"She felt that the superintendent was so upset about the scheduling confusion that there would be no way for the two of them to move forward," she said in an email message to the Gazette Wednesday. "She believes that they had the same vision for the middle school, but that right when the schedule problem happened, executing this vision would have been impossible."

Now Cresto, and perhaps Rodriguez, have more perspective and realize that scheduling is only a small part of the principal's job, Rueschemeyer said.

"I'm sure they are starting to realize that having her leave three days into the job and under such secrecy undermined their shared vision more than any scheduling conflict," she said.

In response to Cresto's resignation, Rodriguez asked high school principal Mark Jackson to assume responsibility over the middle school as well, and named Michael Hayes senior assistant principal.

Rueschemeyer said that for Rodriguez and the School Committee to consult the same attorney about whether to comment on the Cresto resignation represents a conflict of interest. Committee member Catherine Sanderson said she agreed, saying the committee "needs to receive legal advice from its own attorney."

25 comments:

Cathy Eden said...

This is ridiculous to try to negotiate with Ms. Cresto to return. Let's just move forward. Since Mark Jackson is a respected and competent leader, I doubt he would step into the position unless he had confidence in Mike Hayes and thought this arrangement would work for the year. We have hired a new superintendent -- let's allow him to do his job and handle the situation as he sees fit. I think that ACE is overstepping its place by arranging this mediation.

Anonymous said...

From this article is seems that Dr. Rodriguez over-reacted to the scheduling mix-up ("he got upset") and perhaps was very angry. And this may have led Ms. Cresto to think she could not work with him. We will never really know but this article adds some new information to what we previously knew. Now that everyone has calmed down it sounds as if both parties feel like they acted hastily. Yes the beginning of the year was (and perhaps) continues to be chaotic. I am sure everyone's schedules will be straightened out soon and the chaso over schedules will be over.

However, the MS will be in a state of chaos for the entire year and perhaps into next year with the leadership plan Dr. R. has put in place. I think its time for everyone to bite the bullet and reach out to each other , thru this mediator and lets bring Ms. Cresto back, for the sake of the MS students.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Cathy. While we don't know exactly what happened (and maybe some issues here are none of our business), it is not up to the parents to intervene here. If Ms. Cresto decided herself that she is not a "good fit" why should we ignore that fact and ask her to come back.
Will having her back in light of what happened really be better than having the people who are now in place? At least they are clearly commited to being there and "fitting".

Perhaps the question should be "who would best lead the faculty at this point?" given what has occurred.

Anonymous said...

3 thoughts: Dr. Rodrigues and Ms. Cresto are adults and can decide for themselves whether or not to try to talk thinks out and work together. Principal Jackson was working 10 to 12 hours days at the high school -- adding another school is a lot to ask of him. And it seemed that Ms. Cresto was well-liked by many and was making needed changes to the Middle School.

Rick said...

I think it’s great if a parent with a talent for negotiation can step forward to try rescue a situation that may need it. But to do it so publically is a little odd. Doing it behind the scenes with Cresto and Rodriguez alone seems like a better way to do it. But in any case, getting the parties to talk is always good, so I applaud the effort, whatever the result ends up being.

Abbie said...

To Cathy Eden,

A new Sup was hired and the first big item tickets on his desk are (1) his championing to move the 6th graders to the MS and (2) the loss of the MS principle. Thankfully, he seems to have dropped (at least at the moment) the push to move the 6th graders. The loss of the MS principle is devastating not only to the MS but also the HS who will lose the focus of its effective principle.

I disagree that parents "should allow him to do his job". Should we just sit back and watch our schools get gutted? This is a fiasco of the highest order!

If folks have to eat a little humble pie to FIX the current situation, then they can do it. In my view, embarrassment is highly overrated. Mistakes happen, get over it, and move on. After all thats why they get paid the BIG bucks.

If Ms. Cresko has weaknesses, her strengths outweigh the current proposed solution, which in my view is simply unacceptable. If both she and the Sup thinks she isn't a good fit for our MS then perhaps she should just finish out this year. I wonder what the MS teachers think??

The Sup said Jackson "has a vested interest in having things go well" at the middle school because those students will move on to the high school. Well, Mr. Rodriguez, you have a vested interest in things going well in the MS, HS (and ES), and unlike Mr. Jackson, your job may very well depend upon it...

Anonymous said...

Cathy Eden 11:04: Why bring ACE into this? Attorney/Mediator Julia R. is responding for herself, not representing ACE or any other group that I can see. ACE members are people with kids in the school district and those not in the district, want a high quality challenging education for all students. Are you opposed to that?

Also, please remember that Mr. Hayes was NOT chosen to lead the Middle School after a national search last year. It was deemed he was not the right fit, perhaps because he championed the 7th grade math extensions program, and resisted letting students who were already advanced in math (from summer programs, or prior districts) from moving along further in math. Now, he is an assistant principal again there. That's not exactly a great choice. What changed in the past year was math-ready 7th graders were allowed to enter Algebra, which then required an actual teacher for geometry for these current 8th graders (I believe Mr. Hayes' wife). Previously, Mr. Hayes, then the math department head at ARMS, hired a college student to teach a group of kids geometry in the library. The student did not show up regularly and the students were left on their own.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hayes' wife is teaching the 8th grade geometry class. This is the first time she has taught geometry.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not Ms. Hayes has taught geometry before is really not relevant. Most teachers (including college professors) will teach a new class sooner or later.

Tom G said...

If Ms. Cresto resigned precipitously which by all appearances she did and if Julia Rueschemeyer can bring Ms. Cresto and school administration to the table to discuss issues, and if they can find reasonable terms on which to work extremely well together, than I think this is fine.

I hope Julia Rueschemeyer knows when to bow out of the process, with a debt of gratitude if this process brings about more wholesome resolution.

I miss CS's comments on these threads.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Cathy Eden - two quick things. First, the superintendent said at the last meeting "have Glenda give me a call," which he had put in writing as well. That strikes me as the superintendent doing his job -- not saying he would or would not bring her back, if that was appealing to her, but saying that she could call him to discuss it (which strikes me as his job). I would feel differently if he said "no, she resigned and then that is it." Second, Julia Rueschemeyer's actions in this case were entirely of her own volition ... her meeting with the superintendent was as a parent of a child at the middle school, not as a member of ACE (or as a member of any other group or organization of which she may be a part).

Anonymous 11:25 - my older son's hockey team has a policy in which parents can't talk to the coaches for 48 hours AFTER a game ... clearly to allow tempers to cool (and certainly we can all think about times in which we've acted too hastily -- which could include in this case submitting a resignation and/or accepting a resignation!). I was not at the meeting in which Glenda submitted her resignation, and I have no idea what may or may not have occurred on either side that day (or any other day). I respect both Glenda and the superintendent, and I believe they both want what is best for the kids in our district. If that could include her continuing to work for the district, I would hope that all sides would still be open to discussing that possibility.

Anonymous 11:28 - my understanding of what happened is that two parents met with the superintendent to gain clarity on what happened with the sudden resignation, and that during the course of that meeting, the superintendent indicated that he would be willing to have Glenda return (which I think indicates that he at least believed this was POTENTIALLY a good idea). I have no idea if this would or would not be a good idea -- nor is it my place (or any parent's place) to assume it would be. I think Julia's actions were simply to see if this were a possibility that would be appealing to one or both sides, and it seems to me that early indications suggest that it might be -- if so, that possibility should be explored. I think this is particularly true since the current situation is in fact not ideal (e.g., the high school principal has A LOT on his plate already, pulling Mike Hayes from his curriculum work means that work on aligning the curriculum is NOT going to occur).

Anonymous 11:37 - yes, yes, and yes. Fully agree with all three points.

Rick - I agree with your view. It is great for any parties (in my opinion) to try to see if there is a good solution that can be reached here, and it is unfortunate that it is playing out in the press. I will hope that the rest of any negotiation here can occur privately, and hopefully quickly, because I do think the community (parents/teachers/staff/kids) needs some closure here.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Abbie - I agree completely. Smart and reasonable people make mistakes all the time, present company included, and if a mistake was made by either/both party (again, I'm not saying it was, but IF it was), then lets take all steps to see if we can undo it. I have to believe that both Glenda and the superintendent want the district to work well for all kids this year, and that includes the middle school kids/parents who had really liked Glenda and the high school kids/parents who are really nervous about having Mark's time divided in this way. I commend Julia for trying to see if there is a workable solution here, even on a temporary basis (e.g., a one year trial?).

Anonymous 1:37 - thanks for pointing out that Julia was NOT acting on behalf of ACE in trying to work out this situation. I also think we should remember that Glenda was chosen by a search committee (of middle school parents and teachers) only 18 months ago (and presumably many, many applications were received), and that ultimately that search committee (and then superintendent Hochman) felt that she was a better fit than Mike Hayes.

Anonymous 1:53 - not sure of the relevance here? Although I will say, it is odd to me that in a school in which we say there is "no tracking," we now have some 8th graders taking geometry, some taking honors algebra, and others taking "regular 8th grade math." Sounds a lot like three tracks to me (though the track that is missing is "regular algebra" which I just do NOT understand)! Similarly, in 7th grade, we have some kids taking honors algebra, others doing math with extensions, and other doing math without extensions (also sounds like 3 tracks).

Anonymous 2:11 - very good point.

Tom G - I agree fully with both of your points ... and hey, here are my comments!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...
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Catherine A. Sanderson said...
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Tom G said...

Thank you Catherine.

This part means a lot to me:

"I respect both Glenda and the superintendent, and I believe they both want what is best for the kids in our district."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:37 said:

"Also, please remember that Mr. Hayes was NOT chosen to lead the Middle School after a national search last year"

I would see that entirely differently than you use it. In fact after a NATIONWIDE search Mr Hayes was one of ONLY two finalists. That is actually a very strong endorsement from a search committee, to be one of only two left standing after a wide search. I think that speaks very well of Mr Hayes, rather than the opposite which I think you are implying.

And since you then offer a "perhaps" as to why he was not ultimately selected I will offer one of my own: Perhaps he was not chosen because the committee thought that the perennial critics might actually give a new person a bit of breathing room to do things at the school...a honeymoon period so to speak. If you were at the two "meet the candidate" nights you might share this impression.

Rick said...

Ditto to what Tom G said.

I wish we could more often give the benefit of the doubt that intentions of people are good, even as we may not agree with the actions of those people.

Caren Rotello said...

Anon 3:46am:

I know nothing about Mike Hayes except what I've read on this blog. I do know something about search/hiring committees, though, having run and served on lots of them (though none for the Amherst SD).

Sometimes people are interviewed, or considered "finalists," who really are NOT strong candidates and who are NOT strongly endorsed by the committee. Sometimes, they are interviewed or become "finalists" because the applicant pool is small and/or weak, or perhaps because there is pressure to insure that the interview/finalist pool is diverse enough. Sometimes they are interviewed because they look good on paper, but end up not delivering in person (in this case, they could still end up a finalist - the best of the bad).

Not having served on the committee that selected Ms. Cresto, I can't say anything at all about whether or not Mr. Hayes was strongly endorsed by the committee. I simply wanted to point out that being a finalist doesn't necessarily mean you (generic, not specific to Mr. Hayes) are a strong candidate.

Anonymous said...

Caren:

Point taken. I would like to add one more sentence to your last paragraph.
You point out that being a finalist does not necessarily mean that one is a strong candidate. I would add: Not being the final one chosen does not necessarily mean that one is a flawed or inferior candidate either.

Anonymous said...

Here's a word for you...RACISM. The only reason the 3 or 4 women involved in this ridiculous ploy of self-promotion is they feel superior to the superintendent. How full of herself must Ms. Julia feel to keep offering to "mediate" to bring a person who resigned back. NO. It would do you a world of good to take no as an answer for once.

Instead of criticizing and trying to make the super's life miserable, consider welcoming him to town. Consider inviting him to dinner. How about temple?

Nina Koch said...

anon 10:01-- what did you mean when you said "How about temple?"

While I did not think that the hotly debated video was anti-Semitic (see earlier thread), your comment makes me distinctly uncomfortable. But perhaps I misunderstand you. So I will ask what you meant by it. Did you want to imply that the critics are all Jewish?

and just so you know, the high school staff did invite Dr. Rodriguez and his wife to dinner. Unfortunately they fell ill on the day of the party and couldn't make it, but we certainly tried to make them feel welcome in town.

Rick said...

Boy this conversation just veered of the road.

Again, other than it being too public (in my opinion) I don’t see anything wrong at all with what’s going on here.

If this part of the article is correct: “Rueschemeyer and parent Mary Jo Viederman met privately with Rodriguez Sept. 3. Rueschemeyer then spoke to Cresto and told her Rodriguez said the decision to reconsider was up to her.”

…then apparently they met with Rodriguez first before meeting with Cresto, which is good. I kind of doubt they would have met with Cresto had Rodriguez said “don’t do it; I don’t want to consider hiring Cresto back” at that meeting.

As mentioned before, the public nature of this is a problem because the publicity could be seen as a way to force the issue. But that will only be a problem if this mediation doesn’t work and yet this keeps getting pushed publicly – and that hasn’t happened yet.

Take away the cloud of opinion and the guessing of people’s motives, and the facts of what is going on here seem good:

a. Cresto may not be perfect – probably none of us knows for sure – but I would guess most would agree that at a minimum it would be better to have her in place for the rest of this year than not.

b. If that’s correct, then any effort to get Cresto back is a good thing, so long as Rodriguez did not already say “no way”, and the article is pretty clear that he didn’t.

I think it speaks well of Rodriguez to be considering this, working with whoever is willing to help, and not just saying “no” or letting his ego get in the way.

Joel said...

Let me throw a bit of a bomb into the charge that the actions of some parents to mediate the situation in the MS is somehow racist.

How on earth is it racist? Both the former MS principal and the superintendent are white. No one is claiming her resignation was caused by sexism -- a category that gets almost no attention in liberal Amherst. Why claim racism?

I met the superintendent and had a long conversation with him about our schools. I like him and wish him the best. I never dreamed of asking how he self-identifies, but he didn't seem any more Afro-Cuban than I am.

Having Cuban heritage is not a racial category. My college roommate, Ulyses Soto, would have looked at you as if you had lost your mind if you told him he wasn't white.

Cuba had a significant Jewish population before the Revolution. Were they not white? Were they not then Cuban? If so, then are American Jews not then American? Are the Argentine and Brazilian populations that trace their heritage to Italy not Latin American? Are Japanese Brazilians not Latin American?

Ever drink a Mexican beer? Those breweries were established by Germans, many of who fled post-1848 violence in Europe. Are Mexicans of German heritage not Mexican? They've been there longer than a lot of Amherst families have been in the US. Are those families not real Americans?

See how Latino is both a wonderful and complex category. Its diversity is misunderstood, but that diversity is fascinating and wonderful.

It's bad enough to throw around truly reckless claims of racism, but when you have no real sense of what race is in Latin America and how white Latin Americans and their American-born children see themselves, you really should keep your ignorance to yourself.

"Hispanic" is an EEOC category to be sure, but it is deeply flawed. Under it, Juan Carlos, the King of Spain, would be an American minority, and not because he have a shortage of kings. The late Augusto Pinochet and the former Argentine military junta are considered Hispanic. I guarantee you that all these people consider themselves white. And, I consider them white as well because that's how they self identify.

So, let's stick to the tin foil hats and charges that Catherine and Steve are trying to steal Crocker Farm school for the privileged of Amherst Woods rather than calling people racists.

Sure this post is harsh, but I'm not accusing people I've never met of being racists or classists. I am pointing out and criticizing demonstrably ignorant rants. And I promise that if you flame me I won't call you an anti-semite no matter how weird your temple reference is.

Joel said...

And another thing:

Rather than accusing the MS parents of being racists, why not call them anti-Republican bigots?

You may recall that our superintendent gave an interview to the Amherst Bulletin in which he said his political hero is Ronald Reagan.

These two women who are seeking to mediate between the super and former MS principal are clearly anti-Republican bigots.

I hope that clears things up.

Anonymous said...

Instead of saying -- I disagree and here's how you are wrong -- a quick accusation of racism is thrown out to shut down all discussion. Even if it is racist, how and why is it racist? Please explain, instead of accusing.

Also, please tell me if there is a race of Hispanics that I've somehow missed noticing. As Joel pointed out, there are a lot of different ethnic groups and nationalities living in Hispanic countries, including many indigenous people who do not consider themselves Hispanics. Is there a race of Jews? Biologically there isn't even a race of blacks, if you want to get scientific. But that would just be talking specifics and facts, not just shutting down the discussion with another tired accusation of race.