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.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Meet the School Committee Candidates

On Tuesday, March 23rd, Amherst residents will elect two members for three-year terms (and these members serve on both the Amherst and Regional School Committees). There are five candidates running for two seats, so I hope all voters will get educated about all the candidates -- their background, experiences, priorities, etc. Here are some ways to get informed:

Thursday, March 11th, noon to 1 pm - The Family-School Partnership is hosting a Meet The School Committee Candidates Brown Bag Lunch at the middle school.

Thursday, March 11th, 7 to 9 pm - the League of Women Voters will ask candidates to respond to a series of questions (including ones submitted by audience members). This event is held in the middle school auditorium, and will also be shown live on ACTV (and on repeats).

Here are the five candidates running (and their websites, when I've been able to find them):

  • Kathleen Dequence Anderson (
  • Ernest J. Dalkas
  • Richard Blake Hood (
  • Vincent J. O'Connor
  • Robert A. Spence (


Anonymous said...

Is it true that we no longer have a Super?

Anonymous said...

Will Kathryn Mazur be next?

Anonymous said...

Interesting post re. appointing Maria Geryk as permanent Super.

"I'll second the motion. And this from a geriatric white male.

What we need now is a healer, a team builder.

And NOT a person from a religious and cultural background where the only authority figure is MALE, and everything he states is taken as truth with no questioning. Doesn't play well in Amherst.

Also someone, who on their first week, doesn't tell the community that it should get ready for an override.

Also, also, a person who does not hire without any competitive bids, cronies from the past.

Maybe someone who feels strongly enough about the school system, to live in the community.

Come on, this is not rocket science."

Anonymous said...

CS can't comment on Personnel. She's made that clear.

Where's this Super gossip coming from, anyway? Source?

Anonymous said...

Where is the post about appointing Maria Geryk as perm super? I didnt see it here anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Larry's post, "A-Rod strikes out!" implies Dr R was fired. I inquired in a comment if he intended that implication. He did not respond directly. My guess is that he wants to leave it open to interpretation and probably does not have two sources (he frequently brandishes his "30 years of journalism" experience) or any that will say Dr R. resigned or Dr R was terminated.

I left a second comment on his blog that his title was irresponsible. I don't think he cares. It's all about some strange kind of vindication for Larry, which I find hard to grasp.

ARHS Parent said...

Before anyone offers Maria Geryk the job of Superintendent, I think we should wait for the full review of the expensive Special Education program in our schools. It is Maria's baby and for years we have heard complaints from all quarters. If she cannot run that portion of the schools efficiently and effectively, I don't want her as our Superintendent either. Although she would be better than either Rodriguez or the Spragues!

Anonymous said...

Hello -- surely it's just a TAD premature to be talking about new Superintendents, if the sole source for that rumor comes from Larry Kelley!

Let's stay focused!

Anonymous said...

LOL Anon 5:45.

Nina Koch said...

Whether this rumor is true or not, I hope people will continue to keep in mind that we are in a situation where we need to hire people for quite a few key administrative positions.

Well-qualified applicants can choose where they want to work. Why would they choose our district? We need to be enticing people by our behavior, not driving them away.

We have already gone through an unsuccessful search for a curriculum director. Quite possibly, there were some people we would have been happy to get, but they chose not to apply here.

Anonymous said...

This is my fear as well, Nina. If the rumor about Dr R is true, Amherst is clearly a district in alot of turmoil. Why would anyone want to come and work here.

If the rumor is true, not only will we be looking for a Sup yet again, but also a curriculum director and MS principal.

Again, if the rumor is true, not only will Dr R's leaving have a very big impact on our ability to attract good candidates for the positions that are open, it also does not bode well for our students. Amherst needs good CONSISTENT leadership at the top. We have alot of things that need to be reviewed, we have curriculum that needs alignment, we have many decisions that need to be made and they cannot be made well in a leadership vacuum.

What is going on in the Amherst schools? In the administration? I have lived in Amherst for over 30 years and I have never seen it so bad in the upper levels of the school administration. When will the revolving door stop? When will the turmoil end?

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone want to come and work here.

Let's see: decades-old reputation for quality in curriculum and teachers, social justice orientation (even if it's not always carried out, at least it's there unlike most districts), interesting demographics with many talented students, support for the arts (endangered, but hanging in there), engaged parents, and good salaries.

Now, if you're talking recruiting nationally, then I think you do have some issues. Still people will always be attracted to working in a university community with its many benefits.

Anonymous said...

I would not be so quick to assume that the Superintendent's departure (if true) says as much about what it is like to work in Amherst as it does about whether he was the right choice in the first place. Furthermore, my understanding is that Dr. R. was directly responsible for Glenda Cresto's leaving the middle school. So, the vacancies of both the superintendent and middle school principal positions this year say more about Dr. Rodrigues's style than the working environment in our schools.

There was an enjoyable community event held at the middle school last night. Student performances, food, community, and fun. There was a strong turnout. From the perspective on the ground - inside the middle school - there is a lot of positive energy among teachers, students and staff, in spite of the rocky start this year, looming budget cuts, and more negative than positive press. Prospective candidates who visit the school, watch teachers in action, talk to kids and parents, and observe the way the staff is making things work under stressful times may very well come away with a strong desire to be part of this community. Let's not be so quick to sell ourselves short.

Anonymous said...

What is happening has nothing to do with the blogosphere, anti-overriders, or pushy parents.

This is strictly within the school system itself.

Anon 9:45 PM has expressed it well.

I also think that what is happening will be deemed to reflect well on the basic decency and courage of teachers and administrators, who wanted to stop something before it metasasized.

Anonymous said...

We have wonderful ES principals too. Lets keep building on the positive!

Ed said...

In normal districts, the first place you start looking for superintendents is amongst your building principals. You know, kinda like how you look for police chief candidates amongst the shift commanders....

Now it is often good to hire from outside so as to prevent fractionalism, but you do want to first check the bench...

And as to why anyone interested in education would want to come to Amherst to be Supt of Schools, repeat after me: "There are three colleges in Amherst."

First, this is definitely a community interested in education. I argue that it sometimes goes about it in a rather assinine way, but having taught in a mill town, I can tell you there is a difference.

Second, with three colleges (and two more over the mountains) there is opportunity for a spouse to be professionally employed. Candidates under 55 are quite likely to have a spouse or partner who is in the education field - and hiring at the Supt level is not unlike faculty hiring.

Third, whom do you think garners more respect at national conferences - the Supt of Amherst or the ones from Longmeadow or Hamp? It is a college town, there is glory in that.

Nina Koch said...

to 9:45 pm, thanks for your description of the middle school. I agree that if we got a candidate here to see the place, he or she could very well be impressed by talking to teachers and seeing kids in action.

The thing is, we have to get them here. We don't want them to decide from afar that we are not worth a second look.

If it is true that the supt is leaving, it could well be due to job performance. I am not suggesting that the community drove him away. However, if you take the perspective of someone who is considering submitting an application and is researching our district on line, you have to realize that the potential applicant will come across some pretty nasty stuff. A natural question for that person to ask would be "Why I should subject myself to that?"

I do think there are lots of positive things we can build on, as someone suggested. But we better start building. This is going to take a collaborative effort between community members and employees of the school district. We need an atmosphere where that collaboration can occur.

Ed said...

However, if you take the perspective of someone who is considering submitting an application and is researching our district on line, you have to realize that the potential applicant will come across some pretty nasty stuff. A natural question for that person to ask would be "Why I should subject myself to that?"

By the same token, Nina, why would anyone subject themselves to teaching in Holyoke, or Springfield, or Hartford? Or teaching in general?

There are people who think that they can make a difference. And that is the type person you want to attract.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's keep building on the positive by not subjecting those wonderful ES principals to arbitrary and capricious firings.

Principal Glenda Cresto lost her job for our sins. We cannot afford to lose more quality people from our schools.

If the Super leaves, it will be damage control.

Anonymous said...

We the People demand: Reason and civility in public affairs; A government accountable to the People; Liberty & Justice for All.

Join a local chapter, and participate in our discussion boards at: Join the Coffee Party.

Anonymous said...

Is there an Amherst branch of The Coffee Party? The closest branch I have found so far is in Boston.

Rick said...

If it turns out to be true that Rodriguez is leaving, that would obviously be a setback, but I totally agree with Anon 9:45:

"Let's not be so quick to sell ourselves short."

I would add that we have a wonderful set of Principals right now, and even at ARMS the interim folks are doing a decent job as well. The guy at the top is very important, but we can be happy that the next level of management is very, very good.

I suggest that we keep moving forward, and not allow this to slow anything down in our efforts to continually improve our schools. We’ve got good people to do that; we should just keep doing it.

Anonymous said...

And we can't leave that next level of management vulnerable to the caprices of the one at the top.

We've already done it once.

Anonymous said...

I vote that we stop talking about the Super leaving, because so far it's nothing but a distracting rumor propagated, apparently, by Amherst's #1 negative rumor-monger. Whose disinformation is not worth the time we're spending on it until/unless it's proven to be true.

Anonymous said...

Great post Ed at 8:38.

Consider what a prospective candidate would read about other large, diverse, complex districts, and Amherst looks better than good.

There is a strong, positive base to work from and, above all, many great people in and supporting the school system.

Sure it's not Newton or Longmeadow or Hadley, but as Ed said, there are good people who wouldn't want those districts -- they want the challenge of an Amherst.

I doubt if Amherst is terribly different from many college towns such as Ann Arbor, Chapel Hill, Austin, Berkeley (except in size) in its diverse student needs and problems. Let's not be so darned negative!

kevin said...


It is not uncommon for Massachusetts school superintendents to resign under political pressure.

In Amherst, they drop dead.

Consider that HS Principal Jack Heffley died of a heart attack due to what John Barutto called the "emotional manipulativeness" practiced in Amherst.

And Asst Superintendent Ron Bell's stroke.

"Leave Amherst" is sound medical advice for anyone who works at APRS.

When you consider this rumor, think about how many times Dr. R has been supported by the School Committee.

And how many times he "struck out" because the SB did not get behind him. That lack of support, alone, supports such a decision on his part.

They did not even support his minimum recommended override amount, what he needed to do what you asked him to.

In the SC final vote, he was shorted how much -- on a $13.7 million budget? That sent a clear message as to how much support he could expect from the SC.

Good job, guys. You got what you asked for.

Next time, how about this job description: "Only recently discharged Marine's need apply."

Amherst -- Where We Eat Our Own (when they try to do the job we hired them for).

I hope he quit.

For his sake.



Anonymous said...

Ah, the self-loathing.

Kevin, I hope that you will eventually learn how wrong you are about this situation.

kevin said...


So, what if I am wrong? I am as tired of this as the next person.

Why don't we get Gus Sayer back? He was the best Superintendent we ever had, based on longetivity and how many years he served. I miss him.



Anonymous said...

You obviously weren't around for the Don Frizzle years!

Anonymous said...

Gus Sayer????? Are you kidding? He had files 3 inches thick on teacher complaints and wouldn't act. He was a do nothing Super. Gotta get your history sorted out.

Anonymous said...

You miss him? Maybe you were one of the teachers he allowed to get away with murder? He was horrible!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

OK, so I can't comment on personnel stuff, but will say that I am going to delete comments relating to current or former district employees. If you have specific concerns about district employees, bring it to the attention of the Chair of the relevant School Committee - posting it anonymously on a blog isn't appropriate. I'd like this blog to be a useful forum in which I can provide information (as I have on numerous local and national educational topics) AND in which community members (including parents and teachers) can respectfully and politely discuss education issues and ask questions. So, when you post something, can you please make sure it fits in with one of these two goals ... and can you remember, as Nina and others have pointed out, that potential candidates for employment could read your comments? Thanks.

Alisa V. Brewer said...

More places on ACTV Channel 12 to listen/view the School Committee candidates:

"Student News Special" taped 03-04-10 starts broadcasting Monday March 8 at 7 pm.
(three candidates of five; *seven* questions -- which is way more than the LWV forum does)
& hopefully soon on demand

plus a 30-minute-per-candidate interview with Isaac BenEzra, Conversations, usually Wednesdays at 7 pm (the ACTV site doesn't yet list these specifically)

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Thank you, Alisa, for being the FIRST person to actually post something that related to the topic of this post!

Anonymous said...

LOL Catherine! Maybe Alisa should get some kind of prize :)

Anonymous said...


You shouldn't be deleting posts, you should be replacing personnel.

How much more of this can the city take?

Anonymous said...

Richard Hood = tool

Anonymous said...

What ever happened with teacher negotiations over salary/givebacks?

Still pending?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 7:04 - well, I think this blog posting certainly gets the record for the most number of comments NOT on topic, and I am thankful Alisa at least tried to return us to its point!

Anonymous 8:04 - the only person the SC can hire/fire is the superintendent. We have no control over principals, teachers, or other personnel. I will repeat: If you have serious concerns about any person employed in the district, those should be brought to the attention of someone in a responsible way -- which is not an anonymous post on a blog.

Anonymous 8:47 - Rick Hood is a candidate for SC, which indicates a willingness to take on a serious volunteer responsibility. If you don't want to vote for him, don't -- but I think anonymous accusations are inappropriate.

Anonymous 8:57 - if there is any decision by the teachers' union to do givebacks, I'm sure it will be announced.

Anonymous said...

the only person the SC can hire/fire is the superintendent. We have no control over principals, teachers, or other personnel.

And the people thus, through their elected representatives, have no direct say in how the schools really are run. All they really can do is choke off the funding in an attempt to get the schools to respond to their desires.

The override thus becomes not a question of wanting to fund the schools but a pleblicite on total satisfaction with them, and thus its inevitable failure needs to be viewed in such context.

Nina Koch said...

the teachers are voting on the giveback a week from today (Monday the 15th)

Anonymous said...

"The only person the SC can hire/fire is the superintendent. We have no control over principals, teachers, or other personnel."

I don't beliece this is accurate.

According to the Policy Manual, specifically Policy BDC: School Committee Appointments, the SC also has hiring responsibility for the Director of Finance position.

Anonymous said...

and the SPED Director and lawyer

Vote for Vince said...

And the people thus, through their elected representatives, have no direct say in how the schools really are run. All they really can do is choke off the funding in an attempt to get the schools to respond to their desires.

That is the spirit! Choke them until they can't breathe; I mean, teach our kids.

De-fund them until Teacher's Union leadership has been fired, going back forty years.

Fire them all, start over. We don't need the teachers.

And we certainly don't need a Superintendent. Anyone on this blog could do a better job.

Any volunteers?

Anonymous said...

the teachers are voting on the giveback a week from today (Monday the 15th)

Thanks Nina. We certainly are cursed to be living in interesting times.

Anonymous said...