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.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meeting Updates

The Amherst School Committee Meeting for Tuesday, February 23rd, has been cancelled.

There will be a joint Amherst-Regional School Committee Meeting on Monday, March 1st, at the high school at 6:30 pm. This meeting will NOT be shown live, but will be available later on ACTV.


Anonymous said...

Why has it been cancelled? Seems like you have a lot to deal with between giveback negotiations (as reported by Nina) and the superintendent's extensive time off.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 1:24 - the meeting that was cancelled was an AMHERST meeting, not a REGIONAL meeting, and both of the issues you reference would be addressed at the regional level. In addition, both of the issues you address would likely be discussed in executive session (since they would involve contract negotiations and/or personnel) and hence wouldn't be on an agenda at either meeting.

Anonymous said...

Do you know when next years start date will be decided? I have searched for it on the ARPS site without luck.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 4:12 - this topic is on the next agenda (March 1st) -- so you will know soon! The different options that are under consideration are supposed to be posted on the website, but I'm not sure that has happened. I will check and try to get them posted.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Catherine. Is the start date purely determined by what the teachers would like or can there be any parent input? I would love it if we could actually start on a Monday this year. Going for a couple of days in August and then having a weekend really messes up schedules. We have been grumbling about this for the past few years.

Anonymous said...

School staff (not just teachers) get to vote for Opening Day (as it were). I don't know just how much weight those votes carry.

The advantage of starting early is that if there are many snow days (as happened in 2008-9), the year doesn't drag on and on long into the warmer weather, distrupting summer plans and causing everyone to droop with fatigue.

Not everyone goes away for Labor Day, either.

Whether it's in August or Sept, the start date is going to bother some folks.

Anonymous said...

For the past few years, the central office has solicited parental input (via the arps website) about school start dates. I always felt my voice was heard on this issue. But, the date should be decided soon, because some folks (me included) make plans for the kids to be watched by grandparents or other relatives, and we have to set that up now.

Anonymous said...

Superintendant's time off should be brought up.
Can someone explain to me why if I (a high school senior) miss 8 days of school, my parents and I need to attend a meeting with mr. jackson, and need to get a waiver just to get credit for that trimester, yet the superintendent can miss 40 days and still gets paid over $150,000 plus a $10,000 housing stipend and $5,000 in travel expenses, and still has his job. All of this with several teachers (who have never missed 40 days) and classes from my school getting cut.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:47, you are way too clear headed for this system. Please do not ask such reasonable questions. Tho I must admit, it is refreshing!

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, funny thing is the Super gets the same "benefits" package as the Principals, and according to the 'School Committee Benefits Policy For Principals': "The Principal is entitled to twenty-two (22) days of vacation annually to be scheduled through and subject to approval by the Superintendent."

Hmmm...So the Super has to approve any and all vacation time taken by Principals, but he can just casually toss a memo/spreadsheet to the Regional School Committee (his boss) TELLING them what he's doing with his sick time.

Ed said...

Hmmm...So the Super has to approve any and all vacation time taken by Principals, but he can just casually toss a memo/spreadsheet to the Regional School Committee (his boss) TELLING them what he's doing with his sick time.

Reminds me of the Executive Director of the Amherst Housing Authority. Who got in trouble with the (toothless) State Auditor for the stunts she was pulling.

And as they asked of Plato, who guards the guardians? Seriously, who will guard *them*?

Anonymous said...

Just so we are clear about who is running the schools here is an excerpt from the contract. Who wrote this and why?

Apparently we need to get our kids to school in August but the teachers may not have to be there !

Section A. School Year
A school year is defined as that part of the year during which all teachers are to be
present for duty and will mean no more than 184 working days plus two (2) new teacher days,
with no more than 184 days for students. Veteran teachers will not be required to be present for
duty before September 1.

LarryK4 said...

Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the word "veteran."

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their, errr, town.

Anonymous said...

I am hoping that they will not start any earlier than the last Monday in August, the 30th. To have a couple of days the week before would be very disruptive to most families. This date gives plenty of time for snow days without going to far into June.

Ed said...

In fairness - and I do try to be fair - the school committee meetings ought be also broadcast on UMass' HSCN Cable as North Village doesn't have the ACTV. And this is as simple as someone taking a DVD and broadcast rights over to Housing Services.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why the superintendent's compensation package is being second-guessed right now. Is there a reason?

I understand that a lot of work needed to be done this year. And a lot of work has gotten done from what I have seen and learned on this blog. Give the man some credit. I do not know the superintendent, but as a parent, I have interacted with him via email and he has been extremely responsive and thorough. In addition, I have observed him and the SC over the year, and my impression is that everybody has been doing above and beyond to get much done in a district that is undergoing many changes and facing some problems.

Are you implying that the superintendent, when offered the job, should have asked for less money and/or less vacation time and sick time? Who does that?

I think that despite the few posters on this blog who disagree (are you some of his employees?), most parents really like Dr. Rodriguez and feel happy that he is here. At least I can say that anecdotally, I have talked to many parents about him and have not heard one complaint. He is the boss and it seems like some people are displeased about that, but I think some big changes were needed here. And more are coming it seems.

As a parent, I am thoroughly pleased that he is here and I support him wholeheartedly. I am especially happy that he was here when the language clustering and bussing were disbanded, as this was a change that needed to be made, and he was the perfect person to get that done.

I don't think we could recruit competent, hard working people with integrity if we do not pay them competitive wages. And in my view, the superintendent is such a person. And I anticipate that I will of course disagree with him and have some complaints from time to time, but I can see that he cares very deeply about the issues we are facing and isn't afraid to work hard in the process of enacting some much-needed change.

I don't think it is be appropriate for people to disparage personnel on this blog. I have some complaints about specific teachers, and some other school personnel, but I don't think it would be appropriate for me to name them on this blog. I can write my complaints to the principal and the superintendent and the School Committee. But to anonymously disparage them on this blog would be unfair and cowardly, and just not right.

It also bothers me when people disparage Prof Sanderson on this blog, as I believe that she is also a very smart, hard working volunteer who is really trying to improve things in Amherst for all children. And I am just thrilled and very grateful that she is on the SC. Otherwise, my family would be doling out a lot of money for private school next year! I have no problem with disagreeing with Prof Sanderson or anyone else, but I do believe in civility and decency.

Anonymous said...

well said anon 5:37, I completely agree!

LarryK4 said...

Believe it or not Coach Calipari actually caught some criticism for his outlandish salary and benefits package (W-A-Y more than the Umass President or Governor of the state) but he was smart enough to donate $10,000 every year to the Umass Library (and have his PR flack tell everyone about it.)

One of the first things the new Super did in a press interview upon arrival to the People's Republic was to champion an Override (at the time he probably did not even know what they were).

So yeah, if he really cared and really wanted that Override to pass (and get the Teachers Union on board with a giveback) he would have donated some of his outrageous salary back to the Schools that he leads.

After all, it is a tax write-off.

Ed said...

Watch the Central Falls RI School District....

Now *that* is teacher-bashing....

Anonymous said...

I think that you can get dedicated, competent, hard-working people for less than this guy is making. No, he did what he was supposed to do: make as much money as he could. It's the SC rolling over in the negotiations that was the problem.

I also think that the Super's failure to lead by example, by making some sort of gesture regarding his own compensation so that others then would follow, that is a noticeable omission this year.

I don't know that we simply have to accept that potential superintendent candidates are roaming the nation, like college basketball coaches, looking for the best compensation deal. Any bets on when the Doctor is out of here?

And then what will the salary bump up to?

S. said...

I would also like to see the start date sillyness ended. School should start after Labor Day Period, in my opinion. Or at least on a monday. Many people hate it. It disrupts vacation plans, and the weather is quite warm at the end of August as well as in June, so that argument makes no sense.


Anonymous said...

I would respectfully point out that Amherst is not the only school system that starts the week before Labor Day midweek. Actually, most school systems do that. But Amherst parents just love to whine and complain.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, heaven forbid that people's vacation plans would be disrupted! Lets plan the school calendar around people's vacations. Talk about people feeling entitled.

Anonymous said...

Kathryn Mazur, HR director for the Amherst school district, had a lot to say about bullying as a member of the S Hadley school committee 3.5 months before the death of Phoebe Prince... A whole lot (left end):

No wonder so many Amherst school district hires have gone so terribly wrong.

It's time to check into it.

It's cost the town a lot of money just to undo the damage...

Anonymous said...

No wonder so many Amherst school district hires have gone so terribly wrong.

What exactly are you talking about -- terribly wrong? You mean at the admin level?

ARHS Parent said...

Where IS the Superintendent? I was told that Maria Geryk is in charge this week. Catherine, can you fill us in? I didn't see this week as one of his previously-scheduled days off that he just submitted to the School Committee.

Nina Koch said...

I think 10:43 qualifies as what Larry would call an "anonymous nitwit coward." Nitwit is not ordinarily in my vocabulary, but this person really makes no sense.

The video shows an exchange at a school committee meeting where one school committee member questioned someone who I believe is a school official about the workshop they had in September on bullying. The other school committee members sat and listened to the exchange. Listening is part of a school committee member's job and that is what all of them, including Ms. Mazur, were doing. So what?

The idea that this tells you something about somebody's job performance is ridiculous. Furthermore, hirings are done by committee, not by the Director of Human Resources. If we want to hire an English teacher, say, then there is a committee with the principal, the department head, another teacher, and a parent. The committee conducts the interviews, discusses the results, invites people back to give classroom presentations, deliberates again, and recommends a candidate to be hired. In the case of hiring someone like a principal, there is a long process involving a search committee, meetings with students, parents, teachers and so forth.

10:43, you sound like the same disgruntled former employee who pops up on various forums periodically and says something either about Ron B or Kathy M. It's been several years now, right? Get over it. If you have anything to offer with any merit, you ought to be able to put your name on it. Otherwise, you should just stop.

Everybody would do well to read what 5:27 pm said so effectively yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:59

Wasn't there an ES principal who left not long ago after staff and parents complained about him and after the Bulletin Talk Back page contained comments charging him with bullying behavior? Was Ms Mazur involved in that hiring?

Anonymous said...

Hi 8:35a. I thought the Superintendent did make a gesture regarding his compensation this year by foregoing his raise?

What else do you want him to do?

Is it possible that some teachers do not want to negotiate a giveback at all and are pointing at someone else to justify it?

I know times are tough, but as someone who has moved around quite a bit and started several new jobs over the years, I also know that in the first year and first several years of a demanding job one often works the hardest because it takes extra time to get up to speed on practices, culture, history, etc.

E.L. said...

the entries on this blog are getting MEAN AND OFFENSIVE.

I am talking about the really irresponsible and ANONYMOUS posts against a respected hardworking ethical school employee.

What is the rationale for this blog being used for this kind of character assassination? ... much less from anonymous writers. Even Joe McCarthy -- the King of Character Assassination --used his name.

To continue to allow this blog to be used as a vehicle for this kind of character assassination is something I would hope Catherine would find objectionable.

I urge Catherine to delete those posts. They don't further the conversation, they don't progress the debate, they do nothing to improve the schools. They stain this blog and its discourse.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

Back to the topic of "Meeting Notices," I wanted to post this:

Due to the Snow Day closing of the Amherst Regional Public Schools,
The Budget Advisory Committee meeting scheduled for tonight at 7-9PM at ARMS
Will instead be held
7-9PM in the Community Room of the Amherst Police Station
Our apologies for any inconvenience

fasb rating system said...

I always felt my voice was heard on this issue. But, the date should be decided soon, because some folks me included make plans for the kids to be watched by grandparents or other relatives, and we have to set that up now.

LarryK4 said...

E.L. my man (and only men can be THAT stupid), you are W-A-Y too funny for words. My God, get a clue you Cowardly, Anon, Nitwit.

I just did a Google search for "E.L. Amherst, Mass" and I turned up 1,730,000 hits. that would make you pretty much ANONYMOUS.

Yet you whine about anonymous sources (of which I am not, by the way) picking on poor Dr. Rodriguez, the by far highest paid public employee in town.

And I believe a Bulletin puff piece last year quoted him bragging how they played "hardball" down there in Miami-Dade Florida, so he would have no trouble handling the quirky politics in the People's Republic of Amherst.

He's a BIG boy--or at least he thinks he is; let him fight his own battles. Assuming of course he's back in Amherst from his extended vacation/sick time in Florida.

E.L. said...

What makes you think I'm referring to the superintendent? You are just a coward and a nitwit... with a name. Congratulations.

LarryK4 said...

Because he's the BIG dog.

But ANYONE who's a PUBLIC employee is in the public eye.

Can't handle the heat, get a job elsewhere. Although the private sector is W-A-Y more stressful, with less holidays, less sick time, less personal time, less vacation time, and no extended summer vacation.

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ. I worked (mostly) in the private sector (over 20+ years). My ARPS job was by far the most stressful job I've ever had. I had 25 little customers (and their bosses) in my face 180 days/year. That's not a complaint, just a statement of fact.

The more money I made in the private sector, the less I did!

Please dont' make thos sweeping generalizations....teaching is cushy, "real jobs" are hard. It just isn't that simple.

LarryK4 said...

My wife, the Babson College Entrepreneurship Professor (and they are ranked #1 among business schools for such stuff) would dub you a "statistical outlier."

Nina Koch said...


Did you see 10:43 am? Do you really think that posting is okay?

I don't.

Marianne said...

I agree with Nina. It' not ok.

Anonymous said...

Nina, you did a fine job of describing a hiring process that is inclusive of all constituencies, is thorough in its research, and is transparent to the community.
That's the ideal!
A hiring process that includes the Super willfully withholding information about the criminal record of a candidate (even if he turns out to be a fine staff member),or a search that fails (chooses?) to uncover problematic behaviors in numerous, previous work sites of a school leader does not inspire confidence.
There are good reasons that some people in the community continue to raise this issue, to be reassured that the past practices will indeed be part of the past.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with 10:43's post? I thought it was the most interesting post on the blog! (Not a comment positive or negative about Kathy Mazur, but just so interesting that bullying's obviously been a huge issue the South Hadley SC has been trying to deal with for at least nine years. And it was personally interesting to me to know that our HR director, Kathy Mazur, is on the SC in S. Hadley.

Is bullying NOT an issue in Amherst? I wonder why there's no mention of it here in Amherst, especially since K.M is clearly aware of all the ins- and outs- of different programs they've been exploring in S. Hadley. And especially since S. H. is so close too home, literally.

The bullying I've heard about at the ES level involves tough boys pushing/hurting other smaller kids (boys and girls) - and the bully just gets a discipline report. And they keep doing it. Sounds like there is almost no way to get them expelled. The kids I am talking about have social-emotional "issues" and have "helpers" with them for parts of the day. But obviously the helpers aren't there at recess when the physical bullying is going on.

LarryK4 said...

The way to counter bad speech is with good speech--not censorship. I'm not a 'Net Nanny', and neither is Catherine (although it sounds like she may become one.)

My rules for deletion are simple: double posts (I take out one), SPAM (and I'm getting an average of 3 per day these days--driving me crazy) and the use of ultra-offensive words of which I can only think of two of them: Yeah, the one Amherst Regional High School allowed a young lady to use and the other,a disgusting pejorative denigrating blacks.

The First Amendment has its limits.

Anonymous said...

And you are certainly the expert on good speech, Larry!!

This blog used to be a place where useful intelligent dialog occurred. Lately it has deteriorated to the point that it closely resembles your blog...a place where nothing of redeeming merit is said.

I am disappointed. And don't worry Catherine...I will no longer be reading this blog. It is a waste of time.

Signed: Cowardly nitwit anon with alot more time on their hands now. :)

Anonymous said...

We had trouble with kids bullying in the elementary school. It was dismissed until I went in and talked to the Vice Principal. He's retired now. He would have no part of the bullying, and stopped it immediately. He literally walked out of the office, got the three offending kids and put them on notice. There is NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE like him in the schools anymore. The kids respected him, they didn't fear him, and he kept everyone in line. Where are you P.G. when we need you?

LarryK4 said...

8:14 AM Well now that you have all that time available, why not start your own blog to demonstrate "good speech."

Notice how well Rick Hood's polite, civil blog is doing. ZZZZZ

FR Parent said...

Oh, our family loved him too!!! He was such a great balance to the principal. The kids all loved and respected him (at least that I saw) even though he was tough with them. We were so sorry when he left.

Anonymous said...

He created a sense of order. And anyone who knows anything about kids, knows they like a routine, they like order, and consistency. He did it all. THings went to hell when he left.

Nina Koch said...

So Larry, I am curious about this. If someone made a false statement about you or your business that would potentially threaten your livelihood, would that be okay? You would just counter it with more speech?

LarryK4 said...

Yes, Nina I would.

Happens a fair amount on my blog as a matter of fact. The web is still somewhat the Wild, Wild West.

And as one of my favorite Democratic Presidents once said, "If you can't stand the heat..."

Anonymous said...

Nina Koch,

Come on babe, wake up. You're not a little girl any-more...


Nina Koch said...

well, I am a big enough girl that I am not afraid to use my name.

Anonymous said...

Great, now start using your brain.


Anonymous said...

I don't know what strikes me worse, the anger or the ignorance imbedded in the string of 10:43's comments. I sure feel sorry for any kids growing up surrounded by that mentality though.