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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teacher contract negotiations near an end

THE DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE
by Nick Grabbe
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

AMHERST - Negotiations over teacher contract givebacks, which could play a role in the March 23 override vote, are nearing a turning point.

The Amherst Pelham Education Association, the union representing the teachers offered the School Committee a proposal, to which the committee made a counter-proposal, said president Timothy Sheehan.

A meeting set for Thursday will "continue the discussion," he said.

The union represents 550 school employees. The fiscal year beginning July 1 is the final one of the current contract, and union members are due to receive 3 percent cost-of-living raises. Some are also due to receive "step" increases.

Combining these two increases, the raises average 5 percent for the regional schools and 4 percent for the elementary schools. The cost to next year's budget is $1.3 million.

The current average teacher salaries in Amherst are $57,877 in the elementary schools and $56,603 on the regional level, according to Kathryn Mazur, the human resources director.

136 comments:

Ed said...

This is good pay for a teacher.

I am sorry folks, it *IS* good pay...

Anonymous said...

Maybe back in the 50's Ed.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

According to the MA Elementary and Secondary Education web site, the average teacher salary is $62,000. Can you please explain the difference between this "official number" and the "official number" that Ms. Mazur has apparently quoted to the press? This is a big difference.

Anonymous said...

Concerned Taxayer....Maybe she made up her figures to somehow make it all seem right....to somehow make it appear as though Amherst teachers are being paid well....I think it is disgusting that teachers, people who do one of the single most important jobs there is in this world, shaping our future, could even be considered to 'give back' money to balance the books of an administartion that is sitting well!!

Anonymous said...

..oops...Ms. Mazur's figures show Amherst teachers as being paid below the average teacher pay scale...okay this being true then what can they base their expectation of getting a 'giveback' on??? Sorry I misunderstood the figures concerend taxpayer...Either way it is a disgrace for the administration to do this to our teachers!!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the whole need for an override is in the teachers' hands.

Anonymous said...

They are still making, on average, more than our local firefighters/paramedics.

Anonymous said...

$62,000 for 10 months of work is good pay. Period.

Anonymous said...

More like 9 months if you factor in the time off for the winter, February, and April breaks.

Rick said...

On the MA Department of Education site, it shows this for Amherst Elementary:

Amherst 2007 $57,930 ($58,257 State)
Amherst 2008 $59,376 ($64,166 State)

Most of the numbers there only go up to 2008. See here.

(Strange that the state average increased so much in 2008 – is that really correct?)

Kathy Mazur’s number is $57,877, lower than $59,376 shown above.

It continues to be a frustration that there does not seem to be one definitive source for real numbers. We really need to fix that. For the purposes of this post, it may not matter that much. I agree that Amherst and MA teacher pay in general is pretty decent no matter what the exact number is.

But here is the main problem: Prop 2-1/2 gets us around 3.5% increase (as much as 4.5% in really good years) in property tax revenue each year (2.5% + new growth). Therefore, we MUST keep budget growth to at or below around 3.5%. This in turn means all employee contracts (town, not just teachers) need to increase by no more than 3.5% (lower if other things are going up by more, like health insurance).

That’s simply a fact based on the money we are give to work with. It’s not about what we would like to do; it’s about what we have to do given the circumstances.

The occasional override is OK by me when it’s to cover big cuts in state aid, which is what is happening now (and since 2002); but its not OK to cover pay increases above around 3.5%, especially with inflation as low as it is.

Having said that, one needs to look at more than one year. I believe in the first year of the current contact COLA was 1% not 3%. I believe the 5% for this year is a high point in the current contract and that the average of recent years is lower – it probably still averages above 3.5%, but probably not by 1.5%.

At any rate, sure would be nice if givebacks for next year drop the increase to 3.5% or less.

Ed said...

According to the US Govt's lovely inflation calculator http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl --

My starting salary, for teaching High School English *and* Math, was $22,719.19 plus benefits. That is adjusted to today's dollars, it was quite a bit less than that.

My father's last contract - a senior teacher with advanced degrees - would be $48,342.24 in today's dollars.

Teacher salaries increased dramatically during the GW Bush administration. But I cite two inflation-adjusted examples of the bottom and top of the pay scale (in different districts) of what teacher salaries used to be.

Ed said...

First, define "average" - are we talking mean, median or mode? And how are we calculating it - at base or with supplements?

It is very easy to lie with statistics.

Anonymous said...

Something the teachers might consider is keeping their raises, but delaying their implementation.

That is, they get the money but not until the last pay period of the year -- and then every year going forward.

That not only saves the town the money for next year, while guaranteeing the teachers get their raises, but it allows everyone to budget more rationally while we wait to hear about state aid and the override.

I haven't heard any teachers on this idea. I know a lot of teachers read this blog. So, how about giving up 11 1/2 months of raises, but getting them after that?

Anonymous said...

Ed's right. The administration's refusal to publish the sort of budget Noho publishes makes it almost impossible to get a real handle on teacher salaries.

A lot of us feel as though the administration hides a lot of information from the town.

jmcgowan said...

I don't begrudge the teachers their salaries and, at this moment, it's a side issue.

The issue right now is whether the teachers will give back or delay their salary increases in a very difficult economic time. I'm glad they are talking about this and just hope that the givebacks are big enough to get us through these horrible years when so many others face no salary increases, cuts in hours and layoffs. All over the area and in our town, public employees have given up salary increases to help out.

I think it will be hard to sell an override to fund 3 to 5% salary increases. Good, bad or ugly, it is just the truth.

Anonymous said...

I believe the Amherst teachers' negotiated, contracted raises came after a period of slow- to no-growth in pay, and that the increase was meant to make up some lost ground.
I think they should be paid more, not less.
No, I'm not a teacher.

Anonymous said...

The Amherst teachers make what they make because for several decades, at least, the town, through its representatives on the school committee, and the teachers union, have TOGETHER negotiated contracts.

If any of you don't like it, then you should run for school committee and get yourselves on that negotiating team.

The teachers did not determine their own salary. Like every other person, a teacher is going to try to get the highest pay they can. The town negotiates the other way, to try to get the teachers to settle for as little as possible.

The current salary schedule for teachers is a direct result of these negotiations.

Don't blame or belitte teachers for what the town agreed to pay them.

Would the town agree to give teachers more money, in the middle of a contract if times were flush? I doubt it. In fact, the town would laugh in the teacher's faces, with incredulous looks, thinking that the teachers must have lost their minds. Who in their right mind would simply give the teachers more money because times were good and they asked for more.

As ridiculous as that sounds, we are now asking teachers to give money back. Why shouldn't the teachers have the same response the town would have if the teachers asked for more money?

Oh, wait, I know; we are in tough times, that's why. Ok, so that's the ratinonale. As soon as we get back to flush times, then you can expect the teachers to want to break the contract and ask for more money. Remember your position on this when we get there.

Go ahead and flame away.

Anonymous said...

If the average teacher salary in Amherst is $57,877 for 10 months of work (not including the weeks off for winter/spring break plus sick time) then that would come to $69,452.40 as an annual salary. (I hope my math is right. I divided 57,877 by 10 and then multiplied that number by 12.) This number would be even higher if we calculate that $57,877 is for 9 months of work (then it would be an annual salary of $77,169.24. Again, I hope my math is right.)

$69,452.40 as an average annual salary is high! I believe teachers deserve high pay for all that they do for our children and our society.

I also feel that a giveback under this contract would be appropriate under the circumstances. They wouldn't actually be giving back anything they already have in their pockets, and their salaries won't be lowered. Please correct me if I am wrong, but they would be giving back a percentage of a raise that is scheduled but has not taken effect yet? Public school teachers are public servants and unfortunately, our municipalities, states, and the federal government are in serious financial trouble. It would be the right thing for teachers to do as responsible citizens, it would not amount to *that* much for each of them after taxes, and it would send the right message to the parents, taxpayers, and other stakeholders in Amherst. My mom was an elementary school teacher and a very hard working one and I hold teachers in the highest esteem. I have two siblings who are high school teachers.

I urge you all to give cash to your teachers as holiday gifts, even if it is a $5 or $10 gift card because my Mom got a lot of trinkets over the years that couldn't possibly be displayed or enjoyed properly, given the volume of stuff collected. If you can, give A LOT more, teachers deserve it and appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Where's Waldo?


Yeah, THAT Waldo...

Ed said...

UMass salaries are public information on the Boston Herald website. Boston teacher salaries are public information on the Boston Herald website.

Why isn't there a published list of each Amherst teacher and his/her/its salary? It *IS* public information.

Tell us what each is paid each year - total pay, not just base - and then plead poverty. But give us the damn numbers first...

Oh, and BTW, if you average in part-time positions and part-time paras, it brings your average down quite a bit.

An example: Amherst has a per-capita income of about $11K because of all the college students with little/no income....

So I want to see median and mode. I want to see sample size and how it was determined. And most importantly if it is FTE or actual bodies, the latter average being artificially low.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading about some good ways to support our teachers in the most recent comments for the 2/18 post. One of our district goals should be to support and develop our teachers.

Goal #7 in the mission statement of the Administration's policy manual under Foundation and Basic Commitments says: "Hire and retain a high-quality teaching and administrative staff." That is a worthy goal, but we should add, "Hire, retain, and develop a high-quality teaching and administrative staff."

I'd like to see that any new principal in the district (especially the new hire in the middle school) has a plan about how to develop and support teachers. There have to be some concrete ideas out there about how to do that. It is not just about the salaries.

Nina Koch said...

here is a visual aid that I just uploaded to the arps server:

Teacher Salary Schedule

I have shaded in all of the salaries that are above $62,000. As you can see, the shaded area is a relatively small fraction of the chart. It does not seem likely that half of the teachers fall into one of those categories.

Note also that the shaded salaries are mostly in the column for doctorate and MA+45 (that means 45 hours beyond the masters). Most teachers, even experienced ones, are not at that level.

Evidently, the numbers posted on the DESE website include some people who are not on the teacher contract. Perhaps they didn't fit any other category and that is where somebody stuck them. Who knows? In general, there are a lot of problems with the data on the DESE site, which is really unfortunate because I would like to be able to make use of it.

Anonymous said...

Ed at 5:02


Bingo.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher and I would like to share a few calculations with the two anonymous morning posters who spoke about the great pay teachers get for working 9 or 10 months a year. Here's my breakdown:

Our contract has us working 184 days per year.

I work 2 - 3 hours a day after school. If I use the 2 hours estimate and multiply that by 184 working days I get 368 hours of additional work. Divide that by a 7 hour day and that is 52 days added to the 184..

Additionally, I spend about 8 hours every weekend during the year times approximately 36 weeks which gives me 288 more hours of work. Divide that by 7 and you get 41 more days.

184 days + 52 days + 41days = 277 days

A person who works 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year works 250 days. So even though the school year is 9 or 10 months long, I put in the equivalent of 27 more days of work than the person who works 50 weeks a year. I’m not complaining – I love what I do - I just want people to see the whole story.

On top of that I have taken courses most every summer of my career and I am currently on the higher end of the pay scale because I have a Masters degree plus 45 credits. Again, I’m not complaining – I feel professional development is essential to good teaching. But let’s look at the time factor. You need 25 three credit courses to end up where I am on the pay scale. The seat time is approximately 36 hours/ course - 3 hours a week for 12 weeks. Thirty six hours multiplied by 25 courses = 900 hours of seat time. In addition to that, I had to do a great deal of reading, write papers, as well as complete various research and projects. A conservative estimate is that I spent 2 hours a week on homework per course. Twelve class meetings multiplied by 2 hours = 24 hours; Twenty five courses x 24 hours of homework = 600 hours of homework time. 900 hours of seat time + 600 hours of homework = 1,500 total hours on coursework, divided by a 7 hour day = 214 days – more than an extra year of teaching.

In short, and one more time, I’m not complaining, I put in more hours that the average person who works 5 days a week 50 weeks a year, and I’ve spent more than a teaching year on professional development. This is a far cry from working 9 or 10 months a year.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:10:

I hope you know that some of us readers on this blog understand what you are talking about. We know about the enormous sacrifices of time that are required in order to be good at teaching.

And I hope you know that this bad rap about 9-10 months of work follows teachers around like a bad penny.

But those of us who have been teachers and tried to do it well know the truth. And, in my case, I decided to do something else. But the respect lingers.

At the end of the day, you can't fight what people want to believe when they're not listening.

Anonymous said...

All town employee salaries are now available online by name:
http://nomoreoverrides.com/

You can also look at them in order from ARod's nutty pay to folks making nothing. Look at that list and your head will explode.

I looked this over closely. To be honest, and I'm no fan of the override, our teachers don't seem to be making a lot of money.

Let me change that: Our regular classroom teachers don't seem to be making a lot of money.

Some of the ELL and Special Ed people are making crazy money. The list has three Special Ed administrators each (EACH) making over $100,000 per year. The problem is at the top.

Frankly, I should think the average classroom teacher would be livid looking at this list. Check it out and then hug a classroom teacher. They're working hard and getting all the grief for the crazy salaries of the people making $80k on up and doing little or no classroom teaching.

Anonymous said...

OMG!

I just went through the salaries.

The principal at Marks Meadow makes $92,465!

That's more than the principal at Northampton HS. Unbelievable. It's a tiny school. $92,000 to run a tiny elementary school, no wonder we're broke. I'm disgusted.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:10

Thank you! For thirty plus years I did a good part of what you describe - just ask my spouse about the evenings and weekends.

It's sad that some people are so quick to play that 9-month thing without ever having a grasp of what it takes to provide a high-quality learning environment during the school year. I know I spent those "breaks", and a fair share of my summer, thinking/planning/working to
continually improve the product my students received.

To continue to attempt to measure the value of a teachers average annual pay based on a perceived work day/year (e.g. - "only" so many hours, "only" so many days)
is folly, and insulting.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no problem with the Superintendent's salary. It was offered to him and anyone of the candidates would have accepted it. He deserves it, esp. because of all the transitions and some of the problems we are facing.

But I do have a problem with the ELL teachers' salaries because they do not work with a lot of students and let's face it, their work is easy. My child calls them translators. Specifically, someone at CF is making over $70K in ELL and it is just wrong, esp. compared to the salary that the teacher's aides make-- who work with ALL students.

Anonymous said...

901p Thank you for posting the salaries link.

Can it be structured so that only teachers and school personnel who make over $60,000 are part of the giveback? Would that be something the teachers could agree to?

Anonymous said...

I agree with 1002p. An ELL teacher who makes over $70K, but is not a classroom teacher and only works with a few students (making small talk in Spanish) versus the para in a class who makes $19K or less and is in the classroom all day long and works with every student in the class, of every race, every ethnicity, and with every kind of problem; that is a total misallocation of resources. More than $70,000 a year and the kids weren't even learning English and our MCAS scores are showing it!

No wonder the high-earning ELL teachers were up in arms about ending the language clustering. If you are not back next year, you won't be missed.

Anonymous said...

Agree that Sped Administrators are hauling away too much money. It's one thing if money is spent on direct services for kids. Quite another if they are just a layer of fat. What do they do and why are they paid so much ?

Is money being paid for any outside consultants ? I.e. are these highly paid administrators hiring outside folks to do their work ? This should be looked at but is invisible in this list. Where is the budget ?

Working Parent said...

I do not think that our teachers are overpaid or underpaid. I also don't think they should be forced to give back raises they negotiated (although if they want to save some of their colleagues, they may want to/have to). I do think that in the next round of contract negotiations, raises should only be at the level that the town can sustain within the Prop 2.5% rule. To do anything else is poor fiscal planning.

I do, however, want to point out that yes, our teachers are hardworking and many (most?) spend extra hours in the classroom and/or on weekends/holidays prepping for and thinking about their classes. But what professional among us does not? I am up at 6AM checking my work email and do it most days a week. And for a single mom who is NOT a teacher, it is really hard to manage. My same salary (let's say a round $60K for argument's sake) is for 12 months. I get 15 days vacation. My kids have ten days off at Christmas, five days in February, five in April, five snow days (usually), and things like teacher curriculum days and Martin Luther King day off. Not to mention 13 weeks in the summer.

Clearly, my vacation time is not going to cover all of that--unlike a teacher, I am not able to freely spend that time taking care of my kids. Nor do I get out of work at 3ish when they do (not to mention the early release days on Wednesdays). So out of my $60K salary, I am spending a minimum of $100/week in after school care, for February/April break I am either using my vacation time (between those two, I would use 10 out of my 15 days) or scrambling to get them into something like those LSSE 'vacation camps' for around $300 per week for two kids. Then in the summer, I can take whatever might be left of my vacation time (usually by this time, less than five days) but then need to find 9-5 care for two kids. This costs, on average, if you can even FIND it for all the weeks of the summer, $5,000. So my $60,000 salary has now been reduced to $50,000 in child care costs alone.

This is the lens through which I view these arguments about teachers' salaries. I think teaching is a difficult profession. I don't doubt that they work more than a regular school day. I don't doubt that some spend summers in school to get ahead professionally (which I would love the freedom to be able to do, by the way). But I do think that compared to those who are required to work 12 months out of the year and who do have kids, they are well-paid.

We are already paying some of the largest taxes in our region. Which I would be OK with if we were getting MORE for our money, but it seems like we are getting LESS. I will be voting NO for the override. But I will be perfectly understanding if the teachers don't give back their raises. They did negotiate and earn it.

question about union said...

Does the teacher's union only include teachers or are paras and other school staff, like librarians in the union also?

Anonymous said...

The teacher's union includes librarians because they are teachers. Librarians not only run the libraries, but teach classes throughout the day.

Anonymous said...

The givebacks that we need in this town should be coming from UMass, Amherst College, and Hampshire College. I wish we could find out from other college towns how property tax debts are structured from local colleges and universities. I especially like Prof. Steve Rifkin for looking into this as his expertise in the economics of education gives him the right language to be able to get this dialogue going. We are truly lucky to have people like him on our School Committee.

The list of salaries tells me that our police, fire, and emt personnel are not highly paid. That doesn't seem right. I also am shocked that the paras in the classrooms, even the ELL paras are making nothing, while the people running the programs who are not spending significant classroom time are way overpaid.

No override, no giveback by the teachers. Our administration is new. Give Dr. Rodriguez and the School Committee time to really understand the budget and observe what is going on. Within the next year things will get even clearer and we will really be able to identify what is important (classroom teachers!!!!!! and excellent ones that we help develop and support) and what is not important-- overpaid personnel for programs that serve too few students with too little results.

Anonymous said...

school staff are in the union as well.

Anonymous said...

Working parent:

Don't mean to nitpick, but since this blog is well-read I want to address some of your numbers.
Yes, kids get about 10 days off at Christmas, but those are not all school days. Yes, kids get snow days off during the winter but they have to make them up in June, so that's a wash. Most importantly, it would be 13 weeks in summer IF school closed around June 1st and didn't open again until around Labor Day. Since schools typically close around June 18-22, and open again in late August, I think we are looking at about 10 weeks. I'm a parent too, and I know those 10 weeks can sometimes feel like 13 or more. I'm sure you realize also that most teachers spend several days, at least, after school gets out in June cleaning up and packing up their classrooms, and then are back for several days, at least, in August to set up and unpack before school opens. You will also find teachers working in their buildings during those Feb. and April breaks.
I apreciate your civil tone and recognize your points about the demands facing parents, but want to be sure that the reading public does not take your numbers as an accurate measure of reality.

Anonymous said...

What is going to be done about the inequities in the Sped administrative positions and pay?? I can tell you from first hand knowledge that the aides work every day, with every child, and every situation that arises with the same expertise, degree or no, for a penny to the hundred dollars the administrators are making in that same hour. Seeing it in writing is an eye-opener, but one must know it's been going for years and years...and still is today... Worried

Anonymous said...

FYI: I am a teacher in this system and the no more overrides wesbite has me making 72K. That is patently false. I know what I get paid since I read my paystub every other week.

Don't know where the website got this information but it's false. These are not the real teacher's salaries posted.

I'm guessing that every salary listed there is falsely reported.

If the extra money being reported in every teacher's salary on this website is supposed to be part of the health insurance that the town pays for the individual, then the website should state that. If that is the case, then the list would be reporting salaries and benefits, not just salaries.

Stop lying about the salaries teachers are paid in order to try to convince the town not to pass an override. At least have the decency to tell the truth.

-Teacher afraid of losing job if cover of anonymity is lost.

help! said...

The last post brings up the continued difficulty in getting good numbers from the schools. People relying on one set of numbers given out by the schools or the state are later told the numbers are wrong. What are the real numbers? Why am I to believe one set of numbers over another? Are there any numbers? Why is this so complicated?

Anonymous said...

My name is on the list and I know the amount is correct. I also know that many of my coworkers amounts are correct. I know I am posting anon. but I guess that makes me as credible as the next guy....or the last guy as the case may be.

Anonymous said...

My name is on the list and the amount is not correct. It has me making $5000 more than I do. I even pulled out the contract that I signed to check. I was talking with coworkers today and they said their salaries weren't correct either. (The list was overestimating.)

Anon 3:12 - Do you and your coworkers get health insurance through the district? Perhaps the difference is something to do with insurance, like anon 2:48 said.

Anonymous said...

Ah, this is the result of a district that's been hiding information from the public for so long.

The Northampton budget that's on the web is exactly what each building administrator has to turn in to the district. The only difference being that instead of "Joe Blow, Third Grade Teacher," it just says "Third Grade Teacher," and then has the exact salary listed. It's the budget the district works with not something gotten through an open records request that might include some other costs associated with a position.

The central administration has been lying the the SC and lying to the community claiming it doesn't have the staff to release the real budgets with line by line salaries and other costs like the Noho budget.

This is what you get for lying. Teachers upset about inaccurate information, taxpayers angry at runaway spending, and a general sense of anger and disbelief.

There is an identifiable group of villains here: It's Andy Churchill, who has dug in to protect the status quo while pleading for an override. It's Elaine Brighty who told us we had to pay a fortune for a guy who had no experience as superintendent even though area superintendents (by definition, people with experience) are paid substantially less than our new super. It's Alberto Rodriguez who is the highest paid public employee "in town," but refuses to work with parents and taxpayers on the budget and won't release a Noho-style line-by-line budget. It's everyone in the system who said that the ES principals were so underpaid that they needed raises last year -- when it turns out the MM principal makes even more than the Northampton HS principal.

Real people made really bad decisions that have bankrupted us. Some of those very same people now want more of our money. I don't trust them with the money we've already given them. I wouldn't give them a dime more.

The shame of it is that we have people like Nina Koch and a host of other classroom teachers, WHO ARE CLEARLY NOT OVERPAID, carrying a lot of water for a group of administrators making $80,000-$160,000.

After looking at classroom teacher salaries, I can't say that they're overpaid in any way. The ELL and Special Ed leaders and administrators, vice principals and principals, and central office staff could all take 20-50% cuts and still be overpaid.

Maybe a new group of administrators could fix these problems at a lot lower salaries. Young, hungry, and smart sure beats what we have running things now.

Anonymous said...

Why so much discrepancy in salary between a high school science/english teachers in the range of 40 K (sounds too low to me) to a Kindergarten teacher in 70K range (sounds very high to me for a 200 days school year).

Some of the Special ed people are getting 70K.

Can someone explain why so much of a range difference?

Anonymous said...

Everyone chill on the teacher salaries on the No Override site.

The answer to the discrepancies seems to be that the teacher salaries include the contractual raises for 2011.

So, to all you anon teachers posting, those appear to be your raises, you know, just all of us in town each giving you the equivalent of a cup of coffee a day. That's a lot of coffee to get you a $6,000 raise.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if the district had been transparent all along, people could have asked these questions at SC meetings and other forums, not on a blog.

Anonymous said...

High school, middle school and upper elementary teachers should get paid more than the K- 3 grade teachers. They don't have as much of after school grading/preparation as older grade teachers do. I feel that 40K range for a high school teacher is very very low.

Anonymous said...

I guess some of the salary info is accurate and some isn't.

I'm still on the list even though I no longer work in the district! And my salary was stated as 15% higher than my contract (I just pulled it out & checked). I might have stayed if my salary was actually as high as the website says!

--Baffled

Anonymous said...

Catherine,
I'm waiting to see if you're going to make good on your promise to delete posts that name and defame. Anon. 3:59 has clearly ventured into that territory.

Anonymous said...

What is the post is untrue?

If anything, they "defamed" themselves.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 4:43.

To defame someone you have to lie.

Andy Churchill set a lot of policies and is pro-override.

Elaine Brighty is on record as Alberto's biggest supporter and she negotiated the contract.

Alberto has refused to release a line-by-line budget.

Those are facts. They did those things, they have to live with people's anger about them.

Anonymous said...

4:06, if these figures include the raises for 2011 then why am I on the list? I don't even work there anymore. I think each mistake has its own reasons.

I wouldn't take the salary list as anything more than a general indication, since obviously it is not accurate across a number of factors.

And some people aren't full time (FTE) and that isn't shown so it looks like someone makes $40K but actually that's pro-rated from the FTE salary.

Pay is based on a complex formula having to do with years of service in the district, experience upon hiring and education. I'm assuming that someone doing reading support who makes as much as a principal has a doctorate and many years of service or may have been hired in at a high salary due to being a highly desirable candidate fielding other offers.

But I'm also looking at some new teachers to the district who make more than starting salaries and obviously there is some wiggle room when offering teachers a starting salary based on their prior experience. So, like any job, you try to maximize your starting salary.

There's a lot that doesn't make sense even to someone who used to work there. Another call for better transparency.

Anonymous said...

If you check your thesaurus, defame also means to insult, vilify, disparage and offend. And the post I referenced falls into that category. ie: "There is an identifiable group of villains here..." followed by names.

Catherine, in her post of Feb. 24 wrote, "The benefit of this blog is to have open discussion and debate, and posts that are personal and at times inappropriate detract from my goals in doing this blog, so I'm going to start deleting them (so I'd really prefer if people could just not write them)."

I'm asking if she's going to make good on that promise. Or better yet, if people could heed her request and start better policing themselves, there wouldn't be the need.

Linda L. said...

The calls for better transparency because of the salary list posted on the no overrides website, makes it seem like the list is the central office problem. to my knowledge, its the no overrides website problem. did they fact check their document before posting? where did they get it from? it's not even clear if it came from the central office or if has been doctored.

the call for transparency rests at the threshold of the person/blog who posted it. the fact that they have not posted any comment -or source- on it makes me think they were deliberately trying to cause some trouble. It certainly doesn't bode well for their credibility...

Nina Koch said...

I agree that the school district could do a better job of presenting information to the public.

The call for transparency should also apply to the people who have posted the no more override site. Here is the misleading text placed at the top of their document:

"Salaries listed below are based on official lists received from the Town and Schools in Oct. 2009.
There maybe some changes in the salaries due to Town official actions since Oct. 2009."

Here is what it doesn't say:
"These are not the current salaries. These are the salaries that would go into effect next year if the the raises go through."

Now, since people in that organization explicitly requested the information, they surely knew what they were requesting. They know they asked for next year's salary list. And yet they did not label it as such. In fact, the text at the top mentions the date 2009 in two places, which leaves an impression that the data applies to the current year. If I wanted to impute motive, I would say that the text is deliberately misleading, as opposed to neglectfully misleading.

And finally, given that the teachers have volunteered to renegotiate the raises, I feel the text at the top of the list should read:

"This is what the teachers would have made next year if they weren't donating part of their salary to the students of Amherst Regional Public Schools."

I hope that the members of the community are also willing to share the burden.

Anonymous said...

Adios, ELL Administrator parasites.

Anonymous said...

Nina

"This is what the teachers would have made.."

Are you saying a deal has been made? Has the teachers association voted to accept a renegotiated contract?

Anonymous said...

Regarding the colleges and university in town. They are non-profits, they don't pay property taxes. If they have a huge endowment, it is money DONATED by alumni to the COLLEGE. Not to the Town. To the College. Get it? You don't have any right to any of their donated money. Get a life.

Anonymous said...

"Catherine,
I'm waiting to see if you're going to make good on your promise to delete posts that name and defame. Anon. 3:59 has clearly ventured into that territory.

February 26, 2010 4:17 PM"


Waa waa waa...


Save the drama for your mama.

Nina Koch said...

No, there is no deal in place yet. Even after something is accepted by the school committee, it would need to be voted on by the membership.

And just as a strategy note to those who are hoping for a giveback, you might want to encourage people to be a little nicer in their comments. I was an early supporter of the giveback because I really don't want to lose some of the wonderful programs in our school. And yet, every time I hear some little snipe, it pushes me in the opposite direction. And I am not one of the borderline voters. So even if you feel like you have a right to say something nasty, reconsider it from a strategy point of view. Just a suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nina for stopping in.


Byeeee nowwww....

Anonymous said...

My, how the threats of Make Nice Nina are getting tiresome on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Anybody notice that the people willing to sign their own names to comments have completely disappeared from this blog?

Why do you suppose that is?

See much reviled Sanderson and Rivkin column referencing groupthink and conformity of Bush era. After all the gasping in indignation about that analogy has passed, the fact is they were right.

Anonymous said...

This blog has degenerated into a place where nothing but people bashing each other and others occurs. Its as useless as Larry's blog.

Anonymous said...

Oh by the way, does anyone care where our Superintendent of Schools is? And if and when he'll return to the job? Just asking.

Rick said...

I heard he was in a hospital in Miami for some procedure that originally was planned for later but thought best to do it now. Heard he is likely back on Tuesday.

The details of this is none of our business, but a simple post on the ARPS website saying simply this would have been a nice idea.

Anonymous said...

I have seen some good information on this blog lately.

There has been some valuable feedback about how to support our teachers more. (another thread on Feb. 18)

Through a link to another site, we have gotten a list of salaries. Although some of the numbers are off, I have spoken directly with at least four school employees who confirmed their salaries were correct and felt that their colleagues' salaries were right. It's more than we've seen before. And it lets us know that our classroom teachers are working very, very hard and not earning as much money as we thought they were.

There has been some talk about whether a giveback by the school personnel could be structured so that the individuals who are earning the most could be the ones to participate (perhaps those employees who earn more than $60,000?)

I agree that the offensive remarks get tiresome. And I am grateful for the contributions by Nina and anyone else who is willing to try to either provide useful information or analyze it or weigh in in a productive way.

The few who post offensive remarks really don't represent any parents that I have come across in my children's school. It is obvious to me that the Superintendent and the SC and our teachers are working extremely hard to improve our schools. I feel optimistic.

Does anyone know if teachers have been surveyed in our district about their morale and how to improve it, ways they would like to be supported by the administration and the parents, ways they feel unsupported, and programs or ideas they have that would improve our schools. In my experience, people on the front lines have a lot of good ideas for changes that are needed.

Rick said...

“In my experience, people on the front lines have a lot of good ideas for changes that are needed.”

Yes! But I would make sure to include parents and students in “people on the front lines”.

In my view what we need is to get these people together: teachers, parents, students and administration to work on problems together. Why does this have to be “us and them”? It should be “us”. I know for some that will sound like a cliché, but it makes sense and it’s doable.

Anonymous said...

One funny thing I've noticed on this blog is that people who are positive and supportive (of Catherine, of the administration, of the teachers, of an SC candidate, etc.) get berated sometimes more than the ones who are posting personal attacks!

It's easy to keep bringing up past mistakes, or past decisions that you disagreed with, but can't you agree that we are moving in the right direction-- more transparency, cuts that make sense and are meaningful and significant, some excellent principals in place who are making huge strides in a short amount of time (Mike Morris comes to mind), and a new Superintendent who is really working hard and collaborating on many big changes and transitions that are going to improve our district. Try to give these new people in place the time, courtesy,and cooperation that you would hope for if you were in their position. It's as simple as that.

Let's get back to basics in Amherst: excellent manners and excellent schools that focus on supporting and developing excellent teachers and students who excel in reading, writing, and arithmetic. So that when our kids are living through a recession, they could write well enough, and have enough skills that matter so that they could still find jobs. That's what it's about people!!! An excellent education means employability in the future, that's the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Rick, I agree!

Rick said...

Anon 8:30 I agree!

Anonymous said...

Why are there soooo many teachers assistants?? Yikes. Our town has small class sizes, do they really need all those helpers?

Anonymous said...

So, lets make the teachers make all their own copies, get rid of all the class room assistants, increase class size and do away with the teachers raises.

Now, lets count how many teachers will want to continue to work in Amherst.

Anonymous said...

"Let's get back to basics in Amherst: excellent manners and excellent schools that focus on supporting and developing excellent teachers and students who excel in reading, writing, and arithmetic. So that when our kids are living through a recession, they could write well enough, and have enough skills that matter so that they could still find jobs. That's what it's about people!!! An excellent education means employability in the future, that's the bottom line."


LOL.

Stan Gawles says... said...

Stan Gawles at nomoreoverides.com says...

The School Committee and the Superintendent need next year to evaluate school spending so that education is more effective for the students and is more cost efficient for taxpayers.

In a recent post Amherst School Committee member Catherine Sanderson stated, “we really need to evaluate what we are doing now, how we could do it better and what do we lose by making particular cuts”.

Other community concerns have recently arisen. Why does it cost Amherst $12,344,000 more
to educate our students than Northampton?


For those who are regular followers of Catherine and her hard work to make Amherst schools better for everyone, we understand that many of the questions that Stan raises have been answered, such as how Northampton schools' employee costs are hidden in the City budget and the financial advantages of keeping students in-district at Smith Voc.

Yet Stan continues to quote Catherine out of context.

Why, Stan?

email:gawles@verizon.net

Why?

Anonymous said...

How does Rick Hood know where Alberto is???


Looks like Cap'n Crunch's got some conections...

Rick said...

I was at the central office yesterday and just asked. It's amazing what you can find out by just asking.

LarryK4 said...

It sure is Ricky Boy.

BUT, did you persue why the sudden change in plans? After all, according to the memo/spreadsheet A-Rod casually tossed to the Regional School Committee on 2/9 he was not supposed to take his "sick" days for a--according to the venerable DH Gazette--"medical procedure" until April.

And gee, the weather in the People's Republic turns rather nice in April, but at the moment is rather lousy.

Kind of a nice time to be hanging out in Miami wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

another unwelcome, not constructive, personally insulting, superfluous, none of your business, deliberately distracting, post by larryk.

Yours anonymously.

Anonymous said...

"I was at the central office yesterday and just asked. It's amazing what you can find out by just asking."


Just happened to there, eh, cap'n?

Anonymous said...

And like they're going to tell you such private information?

So you can blah blah blab?


Amazing.

Stays crunchy in milk, that's for sure.

Rick said...

Hey Larry Boy,

Read again: ”I heard he was in a hospital in Miami for some procedure that originally was planned for later but thought best to do it now.”

No I did not pursue why he had to do a medical procedure early – none of my business.

So you are assuming he’s there for the weather and not for the medical procedure? Real nice.

Rick said...

"Just happened to there..."

Nope, there for a meeting.

Anonymous said...

Why does the school district need 150 paraprofessional/teaching assistants?? What on earth are they all doing? I agree, we have small class sizes, does every SPED kid need their own personal handler???

Anonymous said...

Rick,

Don't get pulled into this.

Just walk away.

It's not a level playing field with Mr. Kelley.

No offense to Catherine, but eventually the responsible folks flee the blogs.

Rick said...

Good advice; will do.

Anonymous said...

Rick, folding up the tent already?


You think you have what it takes to be a SC member?

Doesn't look good, Popeye.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Larry's band of dysfunctional minions have followed him over to these here parts. And they've brought with them their sad sack of insults and absolutely no substance to speak of. Talk about terrible viruses that can invade your computer!

Anonymous said...

Rick you have my vote and my wife's vote and the only things we know about you, we learned from this blog. I agree with whomever posted earlier, don't even engage with the ones who post the inflammatory comments. And no need to respond to this either, lest someone accuses you of using the blog to campaign!

Nina Koch said...

I am going to attempt to respond to 12:51 and perhaps some of the people who are interested in an adult conversation will join in.

It is true that most of the paraprofessionals work with special education students. This does not mean that every special education student has a one-on-one para. After all there are far more than 150 special education students in the system. In fact, there are more than that in the high school alone.

I think sometimes people are comparing current educational practices to what they were aware of when they were in school themselves. So, someone who went to school twenty or thirty years ago might be thinking, "hey I never saw paras around when I was in school. How come we need them now?" I could say the same thing. I don't remember any paraprofessionals at my school in the 1970s. But I also don't remember any special education students being included in my classroom. I was largely oblivious to the presence of special education students in the school at all.

I would say that expectations have changed during the time that I have worked for the school system. For example, when I started here in the 1980s, we had a series of math courses that were not considered to be college preparatory courses. The students who took these courses would not be qualified to apply for admission to four-year colleges. It was not a large number of students, but nonetheless the "track" existed. We no longer have a general math track at the high school. Instead, all students are expected to learn algebra, to pass the MCAS, and to prepare for college. They may differ in when they learn algebra, or how they learn algebra, but they learn it nonetheless. The schools from twenty or thirty years ago may not have had that expectation.

Now, not only are all students expected to learn algebra, they are expected to do so by engaging in higher-order thinking. Even in our pre-algebra courses, students are presented with challenging problems that require analysis and explanation. Students must present an argument as to why something must be true. The cognitive level of the work goes far beyond simple rote memorization. And they can do it. I'm really impressed by the work that they do. What makes it especially impressive is that they do it in the face of adversity; they have to overcome obstacles that the other students do not. So there they are, working twice as hard to achieve the same goal, and they need support to do it. The high cognitive level can also entail a high level of frustration and the kids need adults to help them get past that.

So, yes, we could run certain classes with fewer adults, but it would mean changing the nature of the class. It would mean demanding less of the students. To me, that doesn't seem fair.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nina. I get it that these kids are main-streamed now. It still seems extremely high, and I know you'll hate me saying this, but Northampton only has 103. Yikes! Is every one of them needed?

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:07

You're actually the one quoting a discussion out of context. What Catherine uncovered, I believe, is that something like $800-$1000 for the $5000 difference between Noho and Amherst per pupil spending is about how the two town account for benefits.

That is, there is still something like a $4000 difference between what Noho spends per pupil and what we do.

The Noho schools budget doesn't show a lot of highly paid administrators. Amherst has 3 Special Ed. Administrators at over $100,000 each.

Anonymous said...

And Noho is in the process of hiring more SPED administrators because the amount of work there is to do is more that the one (or more?) that they now have can do. Anyone been reading the newspapers in the last few months? The Noho schools are not in compliance with SPED mandates!!!!

Maybe that is how they are doing things so much more cheaply than Amherst.

Anonymous said...

Here's the Springfield Republican story from a couple of weeks ago:

'Hamp flunks school review

Thursday, February 11, 2010

By FRED CONTRADA

fcontrada@repub.com

NORTHAMPTON - The School Department is scurrying to rectify dozens of shortcomings identified by the state in its special education and English language programs, but the superintendent said the long-term solution might be to increase class sizes.

In a report issued in November, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, formerly the state Department of Education, found that the Northampton public schools failed to fully implement 43 of 92 requirements in special education, civil rights and English language learning. Some parents have expressed outrage over the poor score on the review, which the state conducts every five years.

The shortcomings include failure to meet requirements on progress reports, lack of staff training in English language learning areas, failure to promptly identify students who need additional help with English and inadequate involvement of parents and guardians in their children's education.  

School Superintendent Isabelina Rodriguez said Tuesday that the system's poor score was somewhat skewed because it did fully comply in some areas but was not able to communicate its accomplishments to the state. Rodriguez acknowledged, however, that there is a lot of room for improvement.

"We're hearing from parents with concerns we want to address," she said. "I intend on doing that. I'm not going to let any group of students or parents down."

According to Rodriguez, the school system did far better in the previous review but has had trouble keeping up with regulations because of administrative cuts over the last few years.

"Within the last year and a half, we started to feel the pressure and buckle under," she said.

The School Department was forced to make cuts last year in the face of a $3 million budget gap. Because the School Committee has made it a priority to keep class sizes small, many of the cuts were at the administrative level. Rodriguez said the School Committee might have to reconsider its priorities as the budget faces even deeper cuts this year.

Some of the administration has been in transition since the report was done last year. Director of Pupil Services Craig Jurgensen has left, replaced by Interim Specials Education Director Rose Carr. Rodriguez believes that Nancy Athas, now in her second year as Northampton High School principal, will help address a lot of the problems at the high school level.

In the meantime, Rodriguez said, the schools are applying for grants to train teachers in the various areas of concern. In the long run, however, money might have to be shifted around in the School Department budget if the department is to comply with state regulations.

Anonymous said...

Here's the Springfield Republican story from a couple of weeks ago:

'Hamp flunks school review

Thursday, February 11, 2010

By FRED CONTRADA

fcontrada@repub.com

NORTHAMPTON - The School Department is scurrying to rectify dozens of shortcomings identified by the state in its special education and English language programs, but the superintendent said the long-term solution might be to increase class sizes.

In a report issued in November, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, formerly the state Department of Education, found that the Northampton public schools failed to fully implement 43 of 92 requirements in special education, civil rights and English language learning. Some parents have expressed outrage over the poor score on the review, which the state conducts every five years.

The shortcomings include failure to meet requirements on progress reports, lack of staff training in English language learning areas, failure to promptly identify students who need additional help with English and inadequate involvement of parents and guardians in their children's education.

School Superintendent Isabelina Rodriguez said Tuesday that the system's poor score was somewhat skewed because it did fully comply in some areas but was not able to communicate its accomplishments to the state. Rodriguez acknowledged, however, that there is a lot of room for improvement.

"We're hearing from parents with concerns we want to address," she said. "I intend on doing that. I'm not going to let any group of students or parents down."

According to Rodriguez, the school system did far better in the previous review but has had trouble keeping up with regulations because of administrative cuts over the last few years.

"Within the last year and a half, we started to feel the pressure and buckle under," she said.

The School Department was forced to make cuts last year in the face of a $3 million budget gap. Because the School Committee has made it a priority to keep class sizes small, many of the cuts were at the administrative level. Rodriguez said the School Committee might have to reconsider its priorities as the budget faces even deeper cuts this year.

Some of the administration has been in transition since the report was done last year. Director of Pupil Services Craig Jurgensen has left, replaced by Interim Specials Education Director Rose Carr. Rodriguez believes that Nancy Athas, now in her second year as Northampton High School principal, will help address a lot of the problems at the high school level.

In the meantime, Rodriguez said, the schools are applying for grants to train teachers in the various areas of concern. In the long run, however, money might have to be shifted around in the School Department budget if the department is to comply with state regulations.

LarryK4 said...

So Anon 1:01 PM, why exactly is the blogosphere not a "level playing field?"

Last I looked Ricky Boy makes his living doing web development (and I believe the schools contributed just under $5,000 to him last year in a no-bid contract).

I just run a lowly health club.

And one of the many reasons I insist Ricky Boy ran the lousiest political campaign in Amherst history is because he--a webmaster no less-- allowed a back door to stay open to the Overriders cyber war room (which I assume he or possible Baer 'The Turk' Tierkel developed).

So when Alisa Brewer posted a link to my blog lamenting an embarrassing (for them) election morning upload, I was able to waltz into their war room via my sitemeter--which also recently showed A-Rod had visited my blog.

PS: Nice try Nina.

Nina Koch said...

Larry,

Why don't you give it a try and see if you can participate in a discussion that is actually about education? That is a genuine invitation. See if you can drop the persona and just talk about kids and learning.

Abbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abbie said...

Folks, please ignore LarryK4. He is the town's biggest bully, a great example of how our students shouldn't behave. Hopefully, if we all ignore him he will crawl back to his own blog where at least his insults are contained. Larry, go away, you have nothing worth reading wrt to this blog, IMO.

LarryK4 said...

Sure Nina, no problem:

Check out the Crusty Gazette's editorial today extolling the virtue of the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School.

When products compete they get better.

But if Golden Boy Jere Hochman (now l-o-n-g gone) and Elaine Brighty had their way, PVCIC would have been terminated via a partial birth abortion.

LarryK4 said...

Abbie,

I believe you used (well pretty much) the F-bomb on my blog not too long ago.

So you're a great one to blather about being an example for how students should behave.
###############################
Abbie said...

Larry, you are such a F**KING jerk.

I can't imagine what foolishness possessed Rich to give you a private correspondence to publish on your pathetic blog.

February 13, 2010 10:11 AM

Anonymous said...

At least she contained it on your blog Larry. Which, I think, is what she's asking. You know the saying, "When in Rome..."

lise said...

Hi Nina.

I understand what you are saying about a different delivery of SPED than in the past. Certainly no one wants to back to the days of the classroom down the hall isolated from the rest of the school.

However, judging from the number of FTES in SPED it seems that the current method in Amherst is to simply throw more people at the problem. It also does not seem to be working. We appear to have high costs, poor results (MCAS subgroup), and unhappy stakeholders (parents). Hopefully the SPED evaluation will bring to light some better ways to deliver SPED services. Maybe we need curriculum changes, different tools and programs, or modified delivery structures. We clearly need to do something differently. And, we need to keep an open mind - the solution is not always in the student to teacher ratio.

Anonymous said...

"On a related note,
Superintendent Hochman and I hired our first shared Town/Schools Facilities Director, Ron
Bohonowicz, who came to us with extensive private sector experience in energy management,
operations, and facilities capital planning.

Submitted by
John P. Musante
Interim Town Manager (April 1 – June 30, 2006)"

Incredibly and unbelievably, the final two candidates for this brand new $95,000 position, were paraded before employees of the Maintenance/Transportation department (yeah, bus and van drivers essentially) as a part of the selection process.

Employees having ZERO experience with such things (or business, for that matter), were told to listen to each candidate's pitch and the one they ~liked~ the most would be hired (based on a majority vote)!!

Yes Amherst, it happened.

Sadly, these employees were not informed the candidate they would be choosing had already agreed, if asked to do so, to outsource/dissolve the transportation department...essentially, at anytime.

Amazingly, a ~very~ short time after coming on board, the new hire got to work looking to do just that, by his own admission before the entire department.

Like sheep to slaughter...


Enjoy your high salaries.

(and NEVER forget what was done to the lunch ladies... EVER)

Abbie said...

Yes, Larry, I did and it was on YOUR blog and in response to your despicable behavior. Your blog has NOTHING to do with education of children.

A.N.W. said...

what the heck is LarryK4 (3:06pm) talking about? And what does it have to do with fixing and making our town better?

Anonymous said...

5:22pm- I was following your post but then you lost me: "(and NEVER forget what was done to the lunch ladies... EVER)" Are we still there? Can someone please explain what this has to do with the discussion on this blog?

p.s. Are the same people who fought for the lunch ladies fighting against this override? I'd like to know that.

Anonymous said...

To anon 5:22:

Was there a savings gained from outsourcing transportation? I'm genuinely curious, because we are supposed to be cost cutting, right? And did there used to be two facilities directors before this "shared" hire? Was the combined savings brought about by this new hire worth the high salary? Was there a net gain or loss? Does anybody know, or care? Or do we just want to point disgruntled fingers?

LarryK4 said...

It's all blogosphere Abbie, all the same blogosphere.

Heck, I even have Nina using "Cowardly, Anon, Nitwits" on THIS blog.

LarryK4 said...

Anon 5:22 PM

NOBODY championed the lunch ladies more so than Jim Oldam (Letters, Columns, Town Meeting article) and he has a column in last weeks Bully supporting the Override.

Yeah, a tad hypocritical.

Nina Koch said...

Hi Lise,

Can you tell me where you are looking when you say that we appear to have "poor results" for the special education subgroup?

I looked at some math scores for the subgroup and put together this table:

MCAS scores for special education students

This compares our results to Northampton and the state. Now I would not say that I am satisfied with these results, but I do observe that our results are significantly better than Northampton or the state as a whole. So I don't think I would use the word "poor" to describe them. I would agree they can be better.

I think it's a good idea to have a special education review, especially if it looks at a broad range of goals for our students. For example, how are we preparing the students for college or work after high school? How often are the students asked to engage in higher-order thinking? I would be disappointed if the study looks only at test scores to evaluate results.

Anonymous said...

Why hypocritical Larry? It looks to me (from reading his article) like he can disagree with some initiatives of the town/schools, while still agreeing with others (unlike some people who just want to bitch and moan and never stray from their bitter and resentful stance in relation to the world). It also seems like there's a recognition that we lack the money to do the things we might want to do as a town and as a school system. I have a lot of respect for him for being able to hold his disagreements with the system and his aspirations for it apart. That's not always an easy thing to do and I find it admirable.

Anonymous said...

When is this evaluation of the Sped dept. going to be available to the public? And to answer an earlier question about why there are so many aides/paras in special ed....they are needed--every single one of them and more....I don't think any parent would want the safety of their child at risk in a classroom by another student--throwing a desk, flinging a book, swearing profusely, etc.--some behaviors that are known to be part of a sped student's day at school....It's getting tougher and tougher out there to make ends meet for a lot of families and not every head of a family is invested in their child's education as one might like it to be... If anything this system could use an aide in every classroom to relieve the overburdened teachers and help maintain a civil atmosphere throughout the day... If this (school) budget is going to be balanced on the backs of teachers and by closing a high performing elementary school--It really is a sham! Someone needs to step in and stop the nonsense...

Anonymous said...

I am a para in the Amherst school system. We work extremely hard for very low wages. For those that think Education Support Professionals are not needed:

http://www.blip.tv/file/2825833

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the amount of intelligence in the Comments section of any blog is inversely proportional to the amount of public attention that blog gets.

Anonymous said...

As a former SPED para in the district, I worked my ASS off at my $12/hour job. I enjoyed most of it, too, and only left to pursue other opportunities as I obtained more education and credentials.

I can't comment on whether or not Amherst has "too many" paras, but I can say that we all worked incredibly hard trying to help profoundly struggling kids (emotionally, academically). I was always a "group" para, not a one-one-one, and had as many as seven kids at a time (not ideal, BTW).

Sadly, there are children in the schools who cannot learn without a helper, whoever that is, at their side. This is called having a disability and is why they have IEPs.

As has been said here before, an IEP is a legal contract between the district and the family. The IEP mandates delivery of services and even specifically says with whom, eg Reading Specialist, Para, SPED Teacher, OT, etc.

There can be as many as six or eight kids in one classroom on IEPs. Some have simple learning disalibilities and no behavioral issues, but the majority need some behavioral support as well (if only help staying on task).

Quite honestly, before I went back to school to study Special Education I had no idea what was going on either and might have asked the same question: why so many paras? After having worked in the field I now understand.

And Northampton has been cutting corners like mad and as a result is way out of compliance.

Amherst should be PROUD that they do well and to the letter of the law by their kids. Perhaps those highly-paid SPED admins are making sure of that. I really don't know what they do, but I assume the high salaries are due to a) that's the industry norm in comparable school districts, and b) they have advanced degrees and many years of service.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:40

I was right there with you until you ended up with the "perhaps ...." I too was a para but I do know that the Amherst system has way too many Chiefs in the Special Ed department. Trust me, I do know that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:55, I did feel that there was a need for more oversight at the building level.


Maybe the issue is not "too many chiefs" but rather how they are deployed. More time in the buildings, less time in the office?

Or maybe a different system for keeping track of where everyone is and what they are doing and with whom.

Anonymous said...

"NOBODY championed the lunch ladies more so than Jim Oldam (Letters, Columns, Town Meeting article)..."

I remember that, fondly.


"... and he has a column in last weeks Bully supporting the Override. "


Jim,


------>?????????!<-------



Yours,

5:22

Confused Parent said...

Catherine, can you specifically address the status of the Superintendent? I have been trying to reach him for a timely matter involving my child and my emails go unanswered. But I am not getting any "not in office, please contact Maria Geryk instead" reply. Because of this and because there was no announcement that the Superintendent was NOT here, I assumed he was in and just ignoring my emails. There are so many rumors flying around. Can you please clarify? Or better yet, can an announcement from the School Committee be posted on the ARPS home page? Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Dear Confused parent... I am sorry but you do not seem that resourceful. Why don't you call the central office yourself? I am not sure why you think it is necessary to post someone's sick or vacation schedule on the district website? You sent an email, it went unanswered. Then call the office. It's as simple as that. With your line of reasoning, we should be posting that kind of schedule for all the administration? Do you want to know when your principal is sleeping and going to the bathroom too? You have the time to write a post on the blog but you didn't pick up the phone to call the office. I bet there are several people who can help you with your child's problem.

I do not want a post on the district website about where the superintendent is. Do you think other districts do that? How provincial our little town seems.

Anonymous said...

Dear Confused parent... No wonder your kid is having a problem. Look at the salary list. Call anybody who is earning more than $80,000. Someone should be able to help you. Get a life.

Anonymous said...

Chances are confused parent is really not a parent at all and just a troublemaker who is posting here just to inflame. A parent that needed help for their child *would* be more resourceful than that and would probably not want to alienate anyone by publicly posting such a comment.

Whoever you are, do you think anybody is taking you seriously? You're probably one person who keeps posting the same question over and over again. "Confused" is probably more like it. You must feel very powerless in your own life.

No matter what you do, it is apparent who has been working hard this past year. You are one of those people who brings up issues that detract from any substantive discussion about how to celebrate and improve our schools. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Just because there are reasons for a program and thinking behind it, doesn't mean that a program is working or that there aren't other better models or programs. If you are looking at SPED or the number of paras here are some questions that I think could be asked:

Do other districts use the same or different programs? Have these programs been evaluated for effectiveness? Is Amherst using the program proven to be most effective?

If Amherst is using an innovativeor unique program, does it work? Does it work better than programs other schools use? The has to be an objective evaluation -- not only asking teachers or the program designers how well they think it's working (although teacher opinions are certainly part of an evaluation).

Is the program being implemented effectively?
Are employees being trained and regularly evaluated? Is there a mechanism to weed poorly performing employees out -- or to readjust or correct the program? Is there enough money and supplies to support the program?

How does Amherst compare with other districts, that is, is there a high or low number of paras? Is there a reason for the greater number of paras? Does Amherst get better, the same or worse results?

I thlnk these questions can apply to most educational programs, there probably are more questions. I'm sure that there are established methods of program evaluation.

I want to emphasize, strongly, that having good reasons for a program isn't the same as having an effective program -- or the most effective program. Great intentions and good reasons aren't the same as gteat results. Medicine has been doing this level of evaluation (evidence-based medicine) with startling results.

It seems to me that this level of analysis doesn't go on much in the Amherst school system. (Or maybe Amherst did program evaluations in the past.) Our children live with the consequences of program decisions that were made years, and some cases, decades ago -- with little or no hard look at effectiveness or to see if other better programs now exist. I'm glad that the schools are starting to evaluate more, even if the process starts with complaints and rancour from parents. And the defensive reaction from administrators, department heads, program designers and teachers is to be expected. No one welcomes criticism and questions -- especially when one is an older professional and has been doing something the same way for a long time.

Questioning results and methods isn't an attack on teachers or administrators, it's just a crucial part of evaluation. We can't teach our children to be analytical thinkers, then fail to apply the same critical thinking and scrutiny to what we do as adults -- especially in schools. The stakes are too high when we are talking about kids in the classroom.

janet mcgowan

Nina Koch said...

Hi Janet,

I believe the district is proceeding with the special ed review. Is it your sense that someone does not want this review? I have not heard that.

Anonymous said...

When I read a post like that of Janet McGowan I have a few initial thoughts.

First, I think SPED paras and their numbers are driven by the partcular IEP of the students involved. Therefore, I don't think we can just compare Amherst to other districts directly. Other school districts have different SPED students with different IEPS. Anyone familiar with how SPED works who can comment on whether my take on this is correct?

The second immediate reaction I have is that while what Janet suggests is the way, in a perfect world, things would work. I think in this difficult budget time the in depth evaluation and review of our programs in Amherst just isn't fiscally possible. Much of what Janet suggest will take administrative person-power. So, on the one hand we have many demanding that Amherst's administrative costs be cut (I assume that the way to cut costs is to cut people) and at the same time, many are demanding that Amherst increase the depth of their evaluations of many programs. I don't think we can do both at the same time.

While I agree that we should be constantly evaluating our approaches and curriculum, the kind of in-depth work Janet is suggesting we should be doing just can't be done while cutting the budget at the same time.

Anonymous said...

No, this is one of the reviews initiated recently. There has been a review of the middle school and that report is due soon. The Hamer report was a quick review of the school system as a whole. I would think that a review of the high school would be next.

I believe that these reviews are mostly the result of pressure by parents, and actions by new school committee members and new administrators. I wish there had been an intensive math curriculum review in time to benefit my children in elementary school and middle school.

Also, there are reviews and there are reviews. Catherine Sanderson has written eloquently about her experience on a math review committee and it is sobering.

Janet McGowan

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying your thoughts, Janet. I agree that those types of reviews can be included even in tight budget times.

Anon 9:43

Anonymous said...

I agree. Best practices is everywhere. Budgets or not. Hospitals and the medical field have to go by best practices, and they are under extremely tight budget control by the insurance companies and government. I don't agree at all that following best practices is something you can't do with tight budgets. Everyone else has to follow those rules. Why can't Amherst?

Anonymous said...

Well, look at Northampton. They cut back on admin expenses and now the are paying because their SPED program is not in compliance. So, not everyone is practicing best practices...and many on this blog hold Northampton out as an example that Amherst should follow!!!

Anonymous said...

I think that it is imprudent to use NOHO as an example for SPED revelations. They have a very active Special Education PAC (parent advisory council) that thoroughly integrates parental views. They communicate with each other without censorship of the SPED Department. What that means is that when the state did its review, there was significant feedback.

Conversely in Amherst there is no active SPED PAC. In fact, in Amherst, all communication between SPED PAC members has to flow through the SPED offices. This has lead to an effectively dead SPED PAC community and there was little feedback from parents to the state during the recent review. I know, because I am a parent who has issues with the SPED department and was NOT notified of the State review hence did not give my feedback. Had we had a free flow of information between families, the story in Amherst may have been quite different.

Anonymous said...

"all communication between SPED PAC members has to flow through
the SPED offices"

Are you serious? Why is that??

Anonymous said...

Good question. Its been that way forever. It was like that when my kids were SPED kids....about 10 years ago.

Anonymous said...

A lot of Northampton's deficiencies were lack of documentation. They had done what was required, but not documented it correctly. That's different than not doing it at all.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

A few assorted thoughts:

1. I'm not going to comment on teacher givebacks -- that is entirely up to the teachers, and if they decide to do any type of a giveback, I'm sure it will be announced.

2. My understanding is that the list of salaries posted on the "no more overrides" list was given to them by the ARPS central office -- based on a public records request.

3. There is indeed a special education review underway -- my understanding is that review will be available in May/June. This is a review conducted by an independent group not affiliated with our schools, using funds paid for from the economic stimulus money for education.

I believe the Northampton SPED issues may or may not be an example of not spending adequate money - I just don't know enough about the issues in that district. I certainly don't think we should assume that our SPED program is better (just because we haven't had such a review yet), NOR do I believe that their SPED funding is 12 million dollars less than ours (which is the $4,000 X 3,000 students that we spend more than Northampton). I certainly hear concerns from parents about our SPED program -- despite the considerable resources we devote to this program. I also think, in line with Lise's post and Janet McGowan's post, that we have no idea whether our SPED program is in fact using resources in the most cost-effective and/or educationally-appropriate way. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn't. But even raising this issue often leads to accusations of trying to harm SPED kids, which is unfortunate. To quote Janet McGowan: "Questioning results and methods isn't an attack on teachers or administrators, it's just a crucial part of evaluation."

And I'd say that evaluation and making sure we are using "best practices" is especially important during times of tight budgets -- when we need to make sure that we are getting the biggest "bang" for our limited "buck."!

4. I believe an annoucement about the superintendent will be made at tomorrow night's SC meeting. Note that I am not the chair of either the Amherst or the Regional Committee -- who would properly make such announcements.