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, March 22, 2010

The Impact of an Override on the Middle School: Just the Facts

As promised, here is the impact of the override on the middle school. Again, note that these projections were based on a 5% cut to local aid, and the legislature has now said that the cut won't be more than 4%, so there is another $80,000 or so that will be added.

Administration - next year, the middle school will have 2 principals (1 regular, 1 assistant), 3 guidance counselors (this is an INCREASE from 2.8 currently), 1 dean (same as now), 1 librarian, 1 nurse (same as now), 4 clerical positions (3 full year, 1 school year), 6.3 custodians, and 1 quiet learning center staff member. If the override fails the quiet learning center will be staffed by a paraprofessional (instead of a full-time faculty member), one of the clerical positions will be eliminated, one of the custodian positions will be eliminated, and the librarian position will be cut from 1.0 to .6 (the librarian will then teach reading intervention as part of her job).

Regular classroom teachers - next year, there will be 19.2 team teachers - this is an increase of 1.2 team teachers from current staffing (so that class sizes will stay the same -- 20 -- in 7th and decrease from 25 to 20 in 8th). There is no impact of an override on classroom teachers or class size.

World language teachers - next year, there will be 3.4 world language teachers (this is a decrease from 4.4 in current staffing, and means that we will no longer offer Russian and German at the middle school AND that class sizes in the other four languages will increase to 25). This staffing is not impacted by an override.

Exploratory/music/PE teachers - next year, there will be 5.0 exploratory/PE teachers (this is a decrease of 1.0 PE teacher from current staffing), and 1.6 music teachers (this is an increase from 1.4 of current staffing, and means that kids can have music every day). If the override fails, an additional PE teacher will be cut (and PE will no longer be taught as an elective, but will be combined with health and taught only as a one-semester course in one grade).

Intervention teachers/paraprofessionals - next year, there will be 3.4 intervention teachers (this is a cut of 1.2 positions from current staffing), and 2.5 to 3.0 regular education paraprofessionals (this is an increase from the current staffing of 1.5 positions). If the override fails, a .4 position will be cut (meaning Math Plus sizes will increase from 4 students to 8 students).

Special education - next year, there will be between 30.1 and 36.1 special education teachers (compared to 37.1 current teachers/paraprofessionals now). None of these cuts are impacted by an override.

Note: Regardless of whether an override passes, students in the middle school will have no change in class sizes (academic classes will be about 20 students, which is the same as current class size at 7th grade and a decrease in class size for 8th graders), and will have seven periods a day: math, English, social studies, science, world language, music (band, orchestra, or chorus), and an elective (health/PE, drama, art, computer).


Confused Parent said...

So in other words, an override would have little effect on our middle school students (except that gym would no longer be an independent class)? Is all the money earmarked for the Regional district going to the high school then? The things you list here as potentially cut with no override are so minor.

Anonymous said...

It says just the facts, but I feel that there is factual information omitted.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Confused Parent - the override would have precisely the impact that I've noted -- and yes, that includes less time in PE (and some cuts to administration).

Anonymous 12:20 - I've attended all SC meetings and have gone through every bit of information I received on the impact of the cuts. If there is information I'm not including, please tell me what it is. I'm simply trying to give objective information so that voters can decide for themselves how to vote. You can post corrections on this blog, or send them to me privately at If I'm wrong, I'll admit it and promptly do an update.

Anonymous said...

Given the Beers report, we would expect adjustment to the ARMS budget, ie more money put in the direction of instructional leadership as opposed to discipline. Our structure looks heavy in admin, quiet learning center staff, deans etc, while relying on the few academic teachers to teach classes where the teachers don't even have time to look at homework.

Who is going to address this? The interim superintendent, who has never taught or been a principal, will be picking the next Middle School principal....where is the oversight? Where is the person ready to re-prioritize the ARMS budget to reflect the Beers' report?

Anonymous said...


A question for clarification sake...when you speculate on the effect of the overide not passing, are you including the fact that if it does not pass then the teacher giveback is no longer on the table?
In other words, the effect is an additional $350,000 to the negative?


Anonymous said...

Anon 1:25PM, what do you mean our interim Superintendent never taught or was a principal? I thought she used to be a teacher? I know she was never a principal (which concerned me), but thought at least that she had been a teacher. Catherine, is it possible to get her resume posted somewhere on line the way Dr. Rodriguez's was? I would rather see the facts for myself rather than relying on blog comments to find out her qualifications for the job.

I am very concerned that she will be in charge of hiring our new middle school principal and that she might be in favor of internal candidates (at least one of whom was passed over for that position last time). We really need to have experienced people at the helm in all our schools and at the head of our district!

Anonymous said...

I thought the Middle School only had one guidance counselor this year and it would go back to 2 next year like they used to have. I guess I'll find out for sure at orientation tonight.

Anonymous said...

Get the facts correct. there is only 1 guidance counselor at the MS this year. Are there other"facts" that are incorrect? Vote YES. This information is misleading!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 1:25 - I believe recommendations for any budget changes would be made by Maria Geryk, in conjunction with Mark Jackson/Mike Hayes. It is possible we would have such information at the SC meetings later this week (WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY), although I haven't received my agenda yet so I can't confirm this.

Anonymous 1:34 - good question! I haven't included that amount in at all, because it isn't clear to me where that money gets allocated (e.g., what is the division between elementary and region AND whether this takes us just further down the list so there are more adds, OR whether this takes us to new programs). So, this is the "worst case" as I've presented, and there would be MORE adds if the override passes (much like would happen if state aid comes in at 2% rather than 4%).

Anonymous 1:38 - I haven't seen Maria's resume, so I have no idea whether she's been a principal or a teacher. As superintendent, she makes all hiring decisions. If people are interested in having that posted, they should email the whole SC at

Anonymous 3:58 - according to the information posted on the ARPS website, there is currently 1 guidance counselor and a 1.8 student adjustment counselor, which makes a total of 2.8. The projections for next year, regardless of whether the override passes, is that we will have 2 guidance counselors and a 1.0 student adjustment counselor, which is a total of 3. For the ease of presentation, I combined the two guidance positions (guidance counselor and student adjustment counselor) into a single line. Regardless, it is 3.0 positions instead of 2.8 positions.

Anonymous 4:18 - I'm sorry that I didn't specify the difference between guidance counselors and student adjustment counselors - but the facts that I've posted are correct: there will be 3 positions in guidance next year, and there are 2.8 positions now. There are reasons to vote yes -- but people should do so with accurate information.

Ed said...

If people are interested in having [Maria's resume] posted, they should email the whole SC at

Done. I asked for her CV because it also is interesting where she got her doctorate (which I think you have to have to get your Supt's Certificate) and I am a firm believer in pulling the thesis and reading it...

Ed said...

The district's autoreply daemon:

Thank you for your e-mail communication to the School Committee. Please note that email communications with departments and officials are public documents under State Law.

Catherine -- off topic I know, but this needs to get clarified. If a parent sends an email regarding a child, IS or IS NOT that email protected under FERPA (Buckley) and thus confidential? Notwithstanding the Sunshine act?

I think that really needs to go to legal counsel and get clarified - my position has always been that anything relating to a student is absolutely FERPA protected, it is this way at a public university, ought not it be at a public K-12 school too?

And if it is not, then the parents need to know that...

resident for sensible admin said...

Hi Catherine,

Obviously, the superintendent has a tremendous influence on the hiring of any school administrator; but doesn't the school committee have the final say, usually based on the superintendent's recommendation?

Additional comment - If the interim superintendent's resume isn't up to speck for the bolgosphere, what then?

She certainly put some progressive actions into place last spring (eg. investigation into Spec Ed administration practices, asst. superintendent for curriculum.) Are we really ready to drive her out too? Amherst is already the laughing stock of MA with resigning principals & overpaid superintendents. I'm not sure anyone of quality with any ounce of common sense will be willing to come to Amherst and work for this SC.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification on the guidance counselors!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My comments:

Resident for Sensible Admin - actually, the SC doesn't approve any hires - that is the job of the superintendent alone. The SC hires the superintendent, and the lawyer. And I would imagine there are many things appealing about working in Amherst as a superintendent -- 5 colleges in close proximity, a higher salary than most areas in Western MA, involved parents, part of MSAN, etc. This is a great opportunity, and I think we will be able to hire someone excellent within the year.

Anonymous 9:20 - no problem! That's the point of the blog -- putting info out there, getting questions, responding to questions.