By NICK GRABBE
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
AMHERST - Richard Hood, who got the most votes for School Committee in Tuesday's election, sees himself as a bridge builder.
Robert Spence, who was also elected, said that as an emergency room physician he can bring to the School Committee his training in "using data to make decisions and taking care of patients at the same time."
Hood received 2,418 votes and Spence got 1,964. Incumbent Kathleen Anderson will leave the committee after coming in third with 1,475 votes. Vince O'Connor got 1,342 votes and Ernest Dalkas 597.
Six-year committee member Andrew Churchill was not seeking re-election.
Hood and Spence, who have been attending most School Committee meetings, will get started immediately. The committee has meetings tonight and Thursday night to discuss the budget for next year.
"My main thing is to bring people together and get away from focusing on personalities," said Hood. "We need to get back to the district's goals and what we need to do to accomplish those goals."
Hood, 52, is self-employed in Web site development and graphic design. He lives at 48 Farmington Road, has children who are 23 and 21, and moved to Amherst in 2001. He said the fact that he's no longer a parent of students in the schools will not lessen his sense of urgency.
"My kids got a good education, and this means I'll have more time to devote to it," he said. "I'm not on the committee to not get something done."
Hood has a blog at amherstschooltalk.org but it has been dormant during the campaign. He said he plans to revive it.
"I want everyone to be in love with the schools," he said. "There are parents who are not in love with the schools. I want teachers to be involved, and I don't want people to leave the schools; I want to attract them."
Hood said Amherst has good teachers and principals and he is happy with interim Superintendent Maria Geryk. "There's no reason not to go forward to make improvements in the schools and listen to parents and give the schools' customers what they want," he said.
Before the results were in, Churchill said that Hood would be an effective successor. "He has the temperament and experience at the high school and the interest in data," he said. "I felt like he'd be a productive member of the committee and get along with everyone."
While Hood supported the override, Spence did not take a position and received an endorsement from a leader of the "no" campaign. He had supporters on both sides of the override, and this created "a level of trust between people who felt strongly that I can work for everyone to make strong schools," he said.
School Committee members Catherine Sanderson and Steve Rivkin were at Spence's victory party Tuesday. He denied that they will form a voting bloc, though all three are "vocal about academic rigor and using data to evaluate how to do things" and they want to compare Amherst's performance to other districts, he said.
The committee's first goal should be "to help hire a strong, experienced, excellent superintendent" after "casting a search far and wide and not settling for anything less," Spence said. Another goal is "to constantly re-examine whatever we do to make sure it's as good as it can be," he said.
Spence, 39, lives at 16 Bayberry Lane and has children who are 4, 6 and 8. He came to Amherst in 2004. As an emergency room physician at Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer, he works a shifting schedule but said he can block off the nights he needs to for his School Committee work.
Sanderson said she's confident she can work well with both Hood and Spence, whom she's known for several years. "I have great respect for both of them," she said. "Rick and Rob both care about academic excellence."
Hood and Spence will join Sanderson, Rivkin and Irv Rhodes on the Amherst School Committee, which governs the Amherst and Pelham elementary schools. All five also serve on the Regional School Committee, which is in charge of the secondary system.
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.