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, October 27, 2009

Map #5 Was Selected

I will summarize the meeting more tomorrow -- but Map #5 was selected by a 4 to 1 vote (Churchill, Rhodes, Rivkin, Sanderson voted in favor, Anderson voted no and preferred Map #6). Thanks to all of those who sent email/letters to the School Committee expressing their thoughts. It was a difficult decision, and I'm very glad that the vote is over, and that we can now move on to focus on how to make all three of the schools work well for all children.


Ed said...

I would like to clarify three things.

First, the Brook is now condos and has been for some time, many are rented but they are condos, not apartments.

Second, I never said anything about intellegence tonight. What I said - and we have been saying this all the way back to LBJ and the "Great Society" (if not earlier) is that parental attitude toward education has a direct relationship to student educational outcome. Parental educational attainment has a direct relationship to parental attitude toward education.

IN OTHER WORDS, if Mommy and Daddy both have doctorates (or another form of 'terminal' degree) then they respected education enough to get these degrees - and these values likely will be shared with the children.

HOWEVER, if mommy got pregnant at 16, father is long gone and the children have a new adult male role model every 17 months (the average tenure of a live-in boyfriend with a single mother per a Pioneer Institute study), if the boyfriend hasn't been to college either, then what do you have for modeling of scholastic interest?

I have gone into homes and found children (of parents who value learning) trailing all kinds of books and assorted reading material. I have gone into other homes and there isn't a single thing for the child to read. Which child do you think is going to do better in school?


And one child of modest means has one or two parents working on their own schoolwork and another doesn't, which is going to see schoolwork as an important thing that adults do?


And I don't even remember using the word "intelligence" tonight, at all. Someone check the tape please but I don't think I used that word...

And third, Amherst really should distinguish between "free lunch" low income and *no* income. Those who live in the Section 705 duplexes tend to have some income, those who live in Southpoint/Boulders/Mill Valley & sometimes New Hollister (with Sect 8 vouchers) often have no income at all. At least on paper.

Anonymous said...

Get a grip Ed.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the SB.

Has our super spelled out the priority list? Where are we? What does the list look like?

I assume there are two critical paths, SB's and implementation directed by the super.

Anonymous said...

Ed's points are excellent. Of course the modeling by the parents and the parents' lifestyles influence the children in significant ways. Any parent knows that. There *is* a big difference between low income and no income. There is also a big difference between low income with good prospects and low income with few or no prospects. All of us need to get real. The PC era in this country did not serve us well at all. People have become more concerned with perfunctory language than with true meaning. Lets keep thinking and lets continue this dialogue in meaningful ways.

Congratulations to all Amherst residents with children in the elementary schools. *All* of our children have a better chance now under Map #5. Thank you, SC and Dr. Rodriguez.

Anonymous said...

Let's all make the new plan work for all the kids!

Anonymous said...

The difference regarding the demeanor of the SC (compared with say 1-2 years ago) is astounding. It's great to see SC members stay firm in their goals and not be swayed by the liberal equivalent of neo-cons who continually try to thwart any efforts to make reasonable changes in our town.

The threats of mass exodus from town schools is a little silly as people have been opting out for years due to inadequate curriculum and standards at the elem level and socioeconomic inequities at CF.

In regard to an override - who knows what will happen - but I'm much more likely to vote for one now that leaders are making an effort to reign in costs by closing an elem school.

I was taken aback by the Sonia Nieto disciples in the audience. Do they realize that they seem a little scary?

My child attended FR and I think that school's downfall has been due to the devotional following of her ideals at the expense of having a real curriculum.

Thank you SC and ARPS staff and Dr Rodriguez for staying focused and making a decision in a timely manner -- so that we can continue to move forward toward a district that challenges all students to achieve the most that they are capable of achieving and prepares them well to compete in a global society.

Anonymous said...

Who or what is Sonia Nieto? What does she have to do with the curriculum at FR?

And yes - for once, I agree with everything Ed said. Very good points! But give us the background for those who were not at the meeting last night - what were you advocating for, Ed? Were you pro or anti-redistricting or suggesting a specific map or what?

And what was the overall mood last night at the meeting? Was there a lot of anger/protesting or was there a sense of we need to move on together as a community or both?

Anonymous said...

I thought the meeting moved along pretty well with a few exceptions. Comments from the public were fairly brief and reasonable in number. The Sonia Nieto comment was in regard to some ELL teachers at CF who read a letter from her (she was a UMass Educ prof of multiculturalism). The teachers were speaking in favor of keeping the culture clusters together based on SN's philosophies. It was just a little weird how the commenter spoke of her as some kind of divine being who sent us her words of wisdom from afar. Many of the multicultural ideals SN promotes are based on how schools were 30 years ago when only the dominant white Anglo culture was acknowledged. I'm not saying that there is no longer cultural insensitivity -- but schools today are a far cry from schools of the past -- and teachers are much more sensitive to student differences (culturally, racially, economically, etc). Anyway, watch the meeting on ACTV or online...

Ed said...

Who or what is Sonia Nieto? What does she have to do with the curriculum at FR?

Sonia Nieto is a former (Thank God!) Professor in the UMass School of Education. And anyone who thinks I sometimes take things a little too far needs only to remember that she, not I, is reflective of where the School of MisEducation was during the Bailey Jackson era.

Bailey Jackson also being the person most responsible for the closure of Mark's Meadow but it probably isn't appropriate for me to talk about that scandal...

what were you advocating for, Ed? Were you pro or anti-redistricting or suggesting a specific map or what?

Really none of the above. I really had two points:

First, Mark's Meadow (as of today) is the most segregated school in town.

And second, what constitutes diversity in Amherst in the 21st Century? (Which, of course, answers the first question of how MM is segregated...)

First, I think that we are almost beyond race - we still have racism but this isn't Selma of 1960, or even Amherst of 1960.

Second, I have trouble using income as measured by free lunch criteria. The graduate student with a 40K income and 2 kids (and spouse, who may be also $20K of the $40) is going to qualify for govt benefits and I think at least a reduced lunch. But he is only poor right now, and in a couple years literally could have a six figure income.

This is not the same as the folks punching the cash register at Walmart, who (a) make less and (b) have no expectation of doing better.

And thus there is a big difference between the poor in North Amherst and the poor in South Amherst.

Further, Amherst is a town with 3 colleges, and a book on the town seal. Education is status here.

Seriously, skin color isn't status in Amherst, money really isn't status in Amherst, status in this community is the number of letters after your name.

And thus - I argue - redistricting should be done by parental education. Instead of income or race, we should look to have a mix of parents with doctorates (or working on one) in each school. Only in doing this will we truly give the children most at need the advantage of proper modeling behavior.

My proposed redistricting:

Southpoint and Boulders (i.e. all of Brittany Manor Drive, and the place was built as one complex) would go to Wildwood. There is ideal PVTA service with the bus route ending in Southpoint/Boulders and going within easy walking distance of Wildwood, with a transfer to another (both paid for by UM students) one can be even closer.

Southpoint/Boulders are the most at risk, most poor, etc and hence I would put them where I would find the most parents with doctorates.

Mill Valley and New Hollister I would put in Fort River and the rest I would leave at Crocker Farm.

My goal would not to address either issues of race or income (although I clearly would) but parental education levels. My rationale would be that the greater diversity of parental educational levels, the better.

Anonymous said...


Your insulting tone toward Dr. Nieto expresses your level of intelligence. If you knew the first thing about Dr. Nieto, you would know that she holds rigor, challenge and the serious pursuit of scholarship in the highest regard. Check her publications. She is a giant in the field of Multicultural Education. Are you going to stand there and bash Multicultural Education, too?

How dare you!

I challenge you to speak to the issues or put a sock in it for a while.

You come on way too strong in here, Ed. Your character assassinations are all too transparent and the overseer of this blog is shirking her responsibility while you get away with it. Shame on her, too.

Ms. Nieto herself would never stoop to your level. I can't call it discourse. It's more like mud slinging.

You were a professor? Thank god I wasn't subjected to your derogatory drivel.

Ed, have you noticed how often you weigh in with your overblown opinions in the town. Compare that with how often we hear from Dr. Nieto. She speaks up on issues in which she is expert. Are you expert on everything?

Anonymous said...

If Sonia Nieto is such a "giant of multicultural education," why are our schools – which have been applying her (never empirically tested) philosophies for the last few decades – struggling to educate students of color and students of lower income families?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 502p, I understand that you disagree with Ed and feel upset. It is really great that you can write your words of support for Professor Nieto to counter what Ed wrote.

I feel obliged to write, however, that I don't think it's Professor Sanderson's role to mediate these conflicts or censor individual bloggers. I am in awe of the fact that she has and maintains the blog in the first place, what with everything she is involved in, her obligations to her family, her students, her scholarship, the SC, etc. I think this blog has really allowed a lot of us to keep up with what is going on and to really understand some of what the SC is aiming for. I appreciate it so much. As difficult as it is for some of us to read some of the comments...

I am new to the blog, but I do think that at least Ed is not anonymous and he is willing to personally stand behind what he says. I don't know him or much about him, but I think it does take courage to not be anonymous here. I also commend Joel, and some of the others who identify themselves.

Joel said...

Okay, here's what I find a little off about invoking Professor Sonia Neito here. Apart from the fact that most of us have no idea who she is and upon review it does seem as though she has some pretty controversial ideas, her supporter on the blog refers to her as Dr. Nieto, which she is. I just saw her cv. She holds an Ed D, which is fine from UMass.

Catherine Sanderson holds the PhD, which is a tougher degree than the Ed. D, from Princeton. Steve Rivkin holds a PhD from UCLA, and yet she's Catherine and he's Steve. Irv Rhodes holds a grad degree as well, but I don't know his field or degree. But let's refer to him as Dr. Rhodes as well, I think he earned that.

It may seem like a minor point, but if it's about stature and credentials and authority, I'll take Professors Sanderson and Rivkin any day over Prof. Nieto.

Anonymous said...

Go Map 5! Thank you Dr. Sanderson! Thank you SC! Thank goodness reason prevails.

I am a long time reader, first time poster. Ed and Joel you make great points--thank you for posting.

To the pro-clusterers: it's over now, you should all go home, but before you do, can you please tell me again why you think clustering is so great? Because it seems to me like the "clustering" has been more of a "cluster foxtrot".

Nina Koch said...

so Joel, when you moved from Williams College to UMass, did you suddenly become less erudite or less dedicated to your teaching?

You get upset when people launch accusations of elitism and you reassure us that you mow your own lawn so therefore you surely aren't an elitist. I have always thought of you as simply obnoxious rather than elitist, but when you start telling us that some people have more authority than other people based on where their degree comes from, you are indeed practicing a form of snobbery.

I decide if someone is authoritative based on what that person has done.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Nina......I could go on forever but you are right about Joel....I have never siad anything on this blog before...but always got from the tome of Joel's letter that he held himself high above anyone else ....You are right he is just a snob!!!!!! It does not matter where a person gets there from...Joel you are putting down everyone who you think has gone to a school which you thinbk is inferior......

Anonymous said...

from anon 7:25....sorry about the typos but i only went to a state college...but i cut my own grass

Joel said...

Tone, Nina, tone.

I love UMass and chose to leave a wealthy private school to teach there, so I don't get your point. Are you offering to cut my lawn?

My point was a simple one. A critic of Steve and Catherine's is referred to as "Dr." Nieto. The only time Catherine and Steve's academic standing is mentioned is when someone want to deride them as elitists. Their critics refuse to admit that they have a great deal of expertise on some of these matters. By doing so they can then argue that Catherine and Steve's motives are neither intellectually or ideologically sound; instead, they are simply selfish.

There are many, many references to them and ACE supporters living in Amherst Woods, but almost no recognition that they have a great deal of expertise on these matters. That's why I posted what I did.

Moreover, I didn't refer to Prof. Nieto in a demeaning way or use her first name to deny that she has the EdD or is an emeritus professor at the UMass School of Ed. I simply pointed out that in addition to demeaning Catherine and Steve, some blog posters have elevated certain controversial figures in ways that grant their ideas an authority that is not as broadly recognized in academia as folks affiliated with the School of Ed believe them to be.

Anonymous said...

Joel said: "Tone, Nina, Tone."

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Unbelievable!!!

Enough said.

Joel said...

I don't criticize folks for their tone. I focus on their ideas. I was being sarcastic.

Caren Rotello said...

On tone. I see Joel as merely (and appropriately) pointing out people's hypocricy; it is difficult to do that in a way that will be well-received by the targets of that criticism.

And to return the discussion to the main topic, I am both pleased with the outcome of the redistricting vote and extremely grateful to the SC for making a number of tough choices in the last few years.

Joel said...

To add to Caren's post, I too am grateful for the current SC's actions, as well as those of our new superintendent. They've acted in the face of some very helpful and thoughtful criticism as well as some very hurtful opposition to change of any sort.

Well done!

Anonymous said...

It is wonderful to see how invested some of you are in the musings and dicourse here. Also, it is apparent that so many of you care so deeply about what is going on in Amherst schools. I think Joel's point about the irreverence directed toward the SC cannot be minimized. The disrespect is apparent in this blog at times, although there are more and more people who are voicing support for the SC. It is also apparent at the meetings, which I find to be upsetting and shocking. I marvel at how people are asked to offer their opinions to the committee and then they turn their backs on them, face the crowd, and start berating them. Meanwhile, these volunteers, who are incredibly accomplished and well-meaning, and obviously putting in a lot of extra time, sit there graciously without getting defensive and without just humiliating some of the speakers who are so obviously ill-advised and making points that are either totally irrelevant or just plain wrong. I am not saying that we should all agree with everything the SC says or does, but there is a way to disagree without being undignified or offensive.

Joel's point about giving people due respect is an important one. My feeling is that this is something important that is missing in our schools as well. If we could get back to basics here in Amherst, and focus on good manners in school, a lot of positive things will happen. I think a society that holds *all* teachers in esteem is a society that values learning, education, and respect. And I don't understand why someone who is very accomplished and has taught at a school that has an excellent reputation should be disparaged and called a snob. In my view, any professor or teacher is a generous person by nature who is devoting a life to helping others.

It is unarguable that some schools are better than others. A PhD is clearly a more challenging undertaking than some other types of degrees. That's just the way it is.

I think the real issue about Professor Nieto is that her disciples applied or perhaps misapplied her principles and teachings and ended up with an unintended result-- that is, a program that did not work at CF because the children were just not learning enough. It is obviously not one person's fault or one person's problem. We all stood by for years and allowed ourselves to live in a community with segregated schools and a "poor" school. We all bear responsibility here and the choices we are making now will hopefully remedy the situation.

Joel said...

To Anon 9:18,

Well said, and not just because we agree. Thanks for saying what I tried to say in a much clearer way.

Anonymous said...

My God, I just read this blog. What a bunch of children! All you need is a sandbox. Unbelievable. Have to pour myself a drink.