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.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thank You, Blog Readers

I am still out of town on a business trip so this will be short -- I've been in meetings all day and thus have had little time to respond to any of the many posts that have been made in the last 24 hours. But I've just read them all, and I want to really, really thank EVERYONE who responded today with such polite and respectful tones towards me and others (even when there was disagreement or concerns about my goals, closing Marks Meadow, etc.). I think this blog can be really, really useful if a lot of voices can be heard in a constructive and respectful way, and I want to thank everyone who posted today -- I literally saw not a single nasty comment about me or anyone else, and I appreciate that.

I know there are going to be areas of disagreement about our town and our schools -- about what courses we teach and when, how to spend our limited dollars, whether to support an override, etc. But I fully believe that everyone shares a common goal -- and that is to make this town and our schools be as good as they can be for all kids. We might have different priorities and strategies -- but the goal is really the same, and that is important to remember. I promise to respond individually to each post later tonight sometime, and thanks again for the very thoughtful and positive words you all have chosen to use today.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was kinda tired today so...

Anonymous said...

It IS nice to see reasonable people like Larry Kelly posting such respectful posts. And so very frequently! He's even gone so far as to approve of annonymous posts. This is a great indicator of where the tone of the blog is going.

LarryK4 said...

Did you learn satire from Max Karson?

Anonymous said...

I was kinda tired today so...

The woman has a full time job - professor at a place (unlike UMass) you are actually supposed to teach, is starting a semester, has three young children and some business travel commitment as well.

What exactly do you want from your VOLUNTEER public servants? Would we still have a Superintendent if we only paid him the wage of the lowest paid teacher in the school?

Anonymous said...

"The woman has a full time job - professor at a place (unlike UMass) you are actually supposed to teach, is starting a semester, has three young children and some business travel commitment as well."


Huh? I was making a joke about ME being too tired to post negative comments...

Chill.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Let's remember the goal of a new and positive tone on this blog ... and that sarcasm doesn't translate well in writing!

Ed said...

"Amherst Exceptionalism."

I am in the process of writing a grant right now, and part of my argument is that the exact same thing happens (collectively) in the State of Maine.

Maine is "better" than Massachusetts, facts be damned. Anything in Maine is better, and often that means upstate Maine. Hence you have people refusing to go to Boston (or Portland) for needed tests even though the local hospitals simply don't have the same equipment.

I suggest that the same is true of Amherst. Because you consider Amherst to be "better" than Hadley or Hamp or B'Town (or West Springfield or wherever) you are no more willing to concede that other towns (not as good) might actually be doing specific things better than you.

Same thing here -- it took me a LONG time to concede that the Mass MCAS were superior to the Maine State Assessments and I personally knew the people who *wrote* much of the MCAS....

A broken clock can be right twice a day, and Northampton may have better ideas toward teaching. And the second customer, never forget, is the taxpayer....

Ed said...

Globe on Math Teachers

http://www.boston.com/news/education/k_12/articles/2009/05/19/aspiring_teachers_fall_short_on_math/

Old, yes, I know -- but note how they link elementary teachers to mid/high school math success. Interesting.....

Anonymous said...

Please enlighten us as to which depts at UM do NOT require teaching, as well as research and public service....

Many many UM's would love to know.

Thanks!

H.T.

Anonymous said...

Why the dig about U Mass on this forum - and why didn't Catherine delete it?

Anonymous said...

Dear Catherine,

Thank you for asking the hard questions. For asking why we do something and is there a better way to do it. Change is hard and most people will resist it with every fiber of their being.

The high school regularly pats themselves on the back for the high selective colleges that “their” student gain entrance to. They fail to recognize that they are starting with great student potential. We do live in the Five College Area. They are educating many of the offspring of highly educated parents’ who value education and welcome partnering with the schools in their children’s education.

The blind arrogance that I have personally experienced with the Amherst School Distinct is disarming and distressing. It saddens me that less informed, financially strapped parents must endure this treatment as well. The bright lights, the teachers who make a difference in my children’s life are in the minority. I do not feel listened to nor supported as a parent of a child in the Amherst school system.

It would be nice to have teacher and course evaluations to be gathered at the completion of the trimesters for immediate feedback to the school as a measure of how things are going. Colleges and Universities regularly do this to improve courses and teaching. My children regularly go to school sick because they are afraid to miss school, because of the draconian attendance policy.

There are many parents who are afraid to voice their concerns to the school because you and your child do suffer. I am sorry that you and your family are so publicly experiencing this now. To avoid this treatment we and many others express ourselves anonymously by not supporting school tax overrides and breathe a huge sigh of relief when our child graduates from high school. I am looking forward to that day.

Signed,
Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel

Ed said...

Please enlighten us as to which depts at UM do NOT require teaching,

To compare the undergraduate experience at Amherst to UMass is to compare a Porche to a PVTA Bus -- both are motor vehicles that transport people but they are very different.

And this analogy perhaps describes the issues with the ARSD. The bus drivers (teachers) are saying "hey I am a good bus driver", the parents want a chauffeur, and people like me are saying that the bus routes aren't where they need to be and we could provide better service with fewer busses.

We could -- we MUST! And the drivers likely won't be happy...

curious observer said...

I thought it was interesting how so many commentators in the Bulletin almost fell over each other in launching personal attacks against Catherine Sanderson and Steve Rivkin -- all in response to their essay on stifling dissent by attacking the dissenter. Then, many commentators went on to defend school programs and courses -- not with data -- but with opinions and anecdotes! I guess on some level, it's funny but it did seem pretty clueless.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, the editorial page editor must have been napping when that page was put together.

Or maybe they used an intern from the ARHS Graphic that week.

Anonymous said...

I found the articles interesting and thoughtful, particularly from Ms. Bode. She quoted extensively from the Open Meeting Laws and I really had no idea of potential problems with those laws and this blog. I liked hearing the opinions of others in the community, with or without the requisite data.

Ken said...

Curious Observer--It's dueling ironies then, because I find many of the negative attacks about our schools and programs on this blog, and sometimes even in Steve and Catherine's columns, devoid of data, or a chainsaw as opposed to scalpel approach to analyzing the data, or anecdotes/opinions masquerading as data, or simply stopping the conversation when data is laid out that contradicts the negativity (and starting it up again later in a new place).

Yes LarryK4, I'm sure editors are only wide awake when they agree with your point of view. And that sarcastic comment about the Graphic intern is exactly the kind of thing that Catherine asked everyone to refrain from on this blog.

now a really curious observer said...

Ms. Bode's piece was the least sensible. Claiming a possible violation of the Open Meeting Law because other school board members might be posting anonymously on a blog and discussing issues currently in front of the School Committee? Any facts to substantiate this?

Does she think Catherine Sanderson knows ahead of time who the anonymous posters/school board members are so it's a secret meeting hiding out in the open on a blog? (Why not just talk to one another on a secret phone conference call?) How many anonymous school board posters would have to be involved? Do they all have to be on-line at the same time to be having a meeting?

What if school board members were posting and Catherine Sanderson didn't know? Is it a meeting if she doesn't know she's having one?

Does Catherine Sanderson seem like someone who would do this -- and not just say what she thinks in a school board meeting? Are the other school board members afraid to state their ideas publicly and using her blog to have a meeting with her that she actually doesn't know she's having?

What the heck!

Please, Ms. Bode do a little more homework (facts, data) before writing your next piece. You can check in with the district attorney or the state attorney general's since they administer the Open Meeting Law statute. The Commonwealth's website has an entire section devoted to the Open Meeting Law in easy to read language. Then think it through a bit.

Or you can just launch some more infammatory, half-thought out ideas into the public sphere.