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 26, 2010

Regional Meetings, March 24 & 25, 2010

We had two meetings this week (Wednesday and Thursday), so I'm going to summarize these two meetings together (since both largely focused on the budget and ended with a vote on the budget for 2010-11).


NOTE: This meeting was unfortunately not taped with audio, and hence will NOT be available on ACTV. I'm doing the best I can to summarize the meeting, but I'd encourage you to also check out the minutes once they are released for a fuller accounting.

First, Farshid and Irv both gave thanks (in their roles as Chair of Region, and Vice-Chair of Amherst) to Kathleen Anderson and Andy Churchill for their service on the SC, as did Maria Geryk. We also congratulated Rick Hood and Rob Spence on their election to the SC, and Kathy Weilerstein -- who will be taking Debbie Gould's place on the Regional SC while Debbie is away for the next few months.

Next, we had some public comment: Ernie Dalkas suggested that we try to move to one study hall (given the passage of the override), Tim Sheehan (teacher at FR and Chair of the Teacher's Union) said it was good to have Maria Geryk in place for the next 16 months to get the focus back on education, and Michael Silverstone (WW teacher) thanked Kathleen Anderson for her service/congratulated Rick and Rob on the election/expressed appreciation for Maria Geryk serving for the next 16 months.

We then turned to the Superintendent's Update, which was quite long (I believe 12 minutes), so I'm going to hit the highlights, which were basically initiatives that Maria is working on. These include working on completing answers to the Citizen's Budget Advisory Committee (CBAC), updating the district website, holding coffees with the superintendent, an anti-bullying initiative, announcing winners of the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award, coordinating the Special Ed review, working on hires for the MS principal and curriculum director, working on a district-wide safety initiative, visiting the two MSAN districts in MA (Brookline and Cambridge), working on K to 6 English Language arts curriculum alignment, creating an on-line system for K to 6 report cards, and working with Amherst and Regional data teams.

We then turned to the big topic of the night, which was budget. We had a pretty lengthy discussion about the budget recommendations and priorities, based on the new information of resources available: $175,000 in teacher givebacks (at the REGIONAL level), plus an additional $96,859 (moving from a 5% to a 4% cut in state aid), plus $678,141 (override funds for region). This amount got us to add back approximately $950,000, which was the amount agreed upon at the last meeting (e.g., the identified budget short-fall). In addition, the superintendent is recommending use of a TOTAL of $255,000 from reserves, which is an additional $175,000 in reserves than had initially been intended ($80,000 was initially recommended as use from reserves), which would allow us to bring back the following positions: 1.4 HS special ed, .2 HS librarian, .2 HS dean of students, .2 HS prep academy, $6,000 professional development in the high school, and 1 or 2 special ed teachers/paras at the MS.

The discussion by the SC centered largely on two issues. First, we discussed the level at which we should hire a person to head up curriculum. The superintendent has recommended a curriculum director, with an approximate salary of $90,000. Some members of the committee suggested that this person should be hired at a higher level in title (e.g., Assistant Superintendent) and/or salary ($115,000 - as the position was advertised last year). There was a fair amount of discussion about the advantages/disadvantages of each, and the superintendent is going to report back on her recommendation. Given that a budget amount needs to be voted very soon (24 hours), it was noted that one could use the money now allocated for program review ($20,000) to pay a higher salary, and thus additional funds wouldn't necessarily be required.

Second, we discussed whether we should go to one study hall in the high school, given the additional resources now available -- and in particular whether we should prioritize moving to one study hall (at an estimated $330,000) over some of the other things that are now getting funded (following the passage of the override and teacher givebacks). This was a pretty long discussion -- which continued on Thursday night -- but basically the committee agreed that one study hall was a good idea.

We then had a pretty brief discussion about admitting additional students for school choice at particular grades in the MS and HS, and tabled the vote for the next night.

We also had a brief update on the Beers report, which included information that the School Council is now working on a data-driven School Improvement Plan, and that Dr. Beers is willing to come back in May to see where we are with this plan. She believes hiring a permanent principal will help with the goals of consistent leadership and providing feedback to teachers. The MS staff are eager to discuss the challenges of being a two-year school. Maria also announced that she was going to continue with seeking bids for a K to 12 math review, and noted that extensions would specifically be a component of that review. She requested that SC members alert her to other topics to be covered in this review; I suggested reviewing the IMP program (an alternative to the traditional math program) in the high school (Farshid agreed this would be a good addition).

Finally, we discussed items for upcoming meetings: Irv suggested an update from the legal services committee, and Steve suggested an update on the district goals (with a particular emphasis on the high school science program).


This meeting started with an Amherst meeting (which I will summarize in a separate blog posting), and then turned to three items of Regional business: the quarterly budget update, the budget for 2010-2011, and the school choice vote.

The quarterly budget update provided information showing where we were in terms of budget lines at this point of the fiscal year -- basically we are on track.

Then we had a LONG discussion about the 2010-2011 year, which again focused on the two issues from the prior night: the curriculum director position and the number of high school study halls.

Views on the curriculum director position were very mixed -- some believed we should hold on this search since it may be difficult to find people who want to accept such a position given that they don't know who their boss will be in a year; others believed this is a crucial position and we should make every effort to hire someone; others believed that the pool of candidates will be smaller for a curriculum director than for an assistant superintendent of curriculum, and thus the search should be re-opened. Maria noted the search had already been posted, but she would think more about how to place it in the central office administration. Steve noted that we currently have several high-paid administrators in special education, and maybe attention needed to be paid to creating a different organization in central office.

Mark Jackson and Annie Leonard then presented information about the possibility of going to one study hall in the high school. They believed scheduling difficulties would make it impossible to only require one study hall for all students, but they believed they could try to require only one study hall for some students (others would need to take two study halls) and that they intended to start by offering seniors, if possible, the option to take an additional class.

Steve then made a motion that "the Regional School Committee strongly recommends that Amherst Regional High School students be required to take not more than one mandated study hall during the 2010-2011 academic year." I seconded this motion, and we then had considerable discussion. Steve spoke in favor of this motion, based on the numbers presented at the March 1st meeting by Assistant Principal Annie Leonard. Specifically, this presentation showed that if the override passed, it would be possible to proceed with certain cuts (e.g., HS copy paraprofessional, small decreases in Department Head time, 2.4 HS special ed teachers, .2 cuts to HS librarian/Prep Academy/Dean of Students, MS Adjustment Counselor) and add a few elective teachers and then move to a 14 block schedule (only one study hall) with average class sizes of 21 to 24 (almost the same as we currently have). I supported this motion, noting that we spend as much as (or more than) other districts, yet I can't find other districts that require any study halls in HS, so I don't understand why we need to require two study halls. I also thought it would seem odd to have some students taking two study halls and others taking one, and I just didn't know how that was going to seem to parents and students.

There was then a broader discussion, with basically everyone saying one study hall would be good, but people differing on the extent to which they believed this was worth giving up other things (e.g., is it better to have smaller classes by one or two students or an extra study hall; is it better to focus resources on providing more classes or on other services such as special ed or intervention).

We then voted, and the motion passed, with 6 members voting FOR this strong recommendation to the administration (Hood, Luschen, Rhodes, Rivkin, Sanderson, Spence) and 3 members voting AGAINST this recommendation (Farnham, Hajir, Weilerstein).

Next, we voted on adding Regional School Choice seats -- with seats being added at grades 7, 9, and 10 only.

Finally, we made subcommittee appointments. Rick Hood was appointed to join the budget subcommittee.


Rick said...

On the Curriculum Director, I argued two points:

1. We need this person yesterday so we should go full blast on the search. **

2. Do NOT call this position “Assistant Superintendent”. Nobody knows what that means. We have too many “Assistant Whatever” positions already. Job titles need to indicate what the person does. Director of Curriculum tells me what the person does. The argument for “Assistant Superintendent” seemed to be to set the pecking order straight so that this position was at the same level as a principal. The org chart does that, you don’t need to do that with titles.

** But after the meeting I realize that we need the curriculum director JOB done yesterday, but not necessarily have the position filled – in other words we could bring in a curriculum consultant to do it for a year. That might even be better because a consultant that works with many districts may be much better at the job – sort of like Barry Beers is so good at his job.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, Does the school committee have any projections of what money will be raised by its decision to add Regional School Choice seats in grades 7, 9, and 10?

Confused said...

What force does the School Committee resolution have on the study halls have? Can it control the high school schedule?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am confused by alot of the money talk, but thank you for writing about the discussion on study halls. I know you don't control the newspapers but based on your posting it seems like it would have been a good idea to have a headline in the newspaper the next day that read: "School Committee says no more 2 study halls." Also, I don't understand why the school choice decision would have been opposed.

Anonymous said...

Maria is doing an excellent job.I've been very impressed with her reaching out not only to parents,but to staff as well.
There is a plaque that hangs in Crocker Farm in honor of former Crocker principal Justin O'Connor. It reads "Remember,it's all about the children". There's been so much negativity surrounding our schools lately that it's refreshing to see that we are getting back to that mindset,that it IS all about the children.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Rick - I definitely think we need a person focused 100% on curriculum. I was on the committee looking for this person last year, and ultimately the search was failed -- in part because Dr. Rodriguez wanted to choose his own person (e.g., like a football coach bringing in his assistant coach!). So, I'm of two minds on this: I definitely want this work done ASAP, AND I want to make sure we have the right person -- and that may depend on who ultimately is hired as superintendent and who he/she wants. I think your idea of having consultants do this work might in fact be a GREAT idea -- I hope you'll bring this up at the next meeting.

Anonymous 9:08 - we get $5,000 a student for School Choice kids, and have opened up (based on superintendent's recommendation) 1 seat at 7th grade, 11 seats at 9th grade, and 3 seats at 10th grade. Now, it is complicated (as both Steve and Kristen pointed out) to figure out whether this is a net win. It is definitely a win if you have students just come in and fill an empty seat in a classroom because that doesn't require any additional funding. However, it could be that we add more choice students and then that pushes class size (e.g., in 7th grade) above our limit, so we have to hire a new team (or part of a new team), and then that ends up costing us money. So, it is complicated is the ultimate answer, and I think we are going to return to discuss this issue later this year.

Confused - the SC could vote on a policy that we not longer have study halls, and that would then be the policy of the district. Steve actually also made a motion to refer that topic to the policy subcommittee. The issue is we don't have time to pass an official policy (which goes through the policy subcommittee and then has to come back to the SC for two meetings to get voted on) in time for the upcoming school year. So, this vote was a recommendation (a strong recomendation), which the administration could certainly ignore. But Steve has also referred his motion to the policy subcommittee, and thus there could be a vote on ending all required study halls in the HS as of NEXT academic year later this spring. I think that would be a great idea.

Anonymous 9:13 - the money stuff is really confusing -- I agree! And yes, I LOVE that idea for a heading, and I think it would have been entirely accurate! Also, I explained the School Choice issue in response to a prior poster -- it isn't just simple.

Caution on Study Halls said...

Catherine, I think its reckless to say we have a no more study hall policy (sounds like no more overrides)for several reasons: 1. we cannot anticipate conditions that may necessitate it 2. by making such a policy you may be effectively and accidentally stigmatizing kids who put it in their schedule. I'm not saying we should have study halls just as a way to not stigmatize it, but I think the policy needs more careful thought.3. I think such a policy should be discussed when the high school schedule (trimester or semester) comes up for discussion with the teacher contract.

I think study halls do a couple of things: for the schools they are a place holder, which may or may not be needed in a changed system. For students, they either are wasted time or an additional opportunity to take care of academic responsibilities (which may be affected by a change of schedule) or assume additional responsibilities. Also if school choice might trigger a need to raise class size... why not wait to see the affect of that decision on the high school for a year as well?

Although I support the effort to make there be only one study hall for next year, I ask you to wait to make such a yes or no policy on study halls. Sometimes patience is a virtue.

Anonymous said...

No, there is NOT "so much negativity" around our schools. That's bull.

There's a strong interest in making good schools even better.

That's not negativity.

Anonymous said...

isn't this catherine's blog????

Anonymous said...

11:41 am - what does this mean? It sounds snide and elitist. But maybe the writer didn't mean to convey her or his exclusivity?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Caution on Study Halls - I'm sure if a policy is created to eliminate study halls, we would hear pros/cons about this policy. But I'm highly concerned that kids in ARHS have required study halls and kids in other schools don't. I literally can't find another school district in our comparison group that requires study halls, so for me, I can't see why it is OK for kids in ARHS to have less time in class than kids in other high schools, nor can I see why other schools have managed to avoid study halls and we have not when we seem to spend more money per student than other schools. I think a no required study hall policy would indicate that we value time in class for kids who want it -- and certainly there will be kids who want study halls, just as there have always been (and the issues of stigmatizing just don't seem relevant to me, when we haven't required ANY study halls in the high school until the last 2/3 years). Steve's motion ALSO said that there could be a one year delay (at the request of the administration) in moving to no study halls -- and again, this would be for the 2011-2012 academic year IF such a policy passed.

One more thing: we already take School Choice kids at the high school -- we currently have 63 kids at the high school through this program. This isn't a new program.

Anonymous 11:14 - I agree! We should be focused on making good schools truly excellent schools -- and that strikes me as exactly what we are trying to do (which indeed is very positive, not negative). Although I think you posted this comment on the wrong thread?!?

Anonymous 11:41 - it is my blog, but let me be clear -- I really welcome Rick's contributions on it (as I have prior to his arrival on the SC). He often raises points I haven't thought of, and has done a great job of clarifying some of the trade-offs involved in the class size/study hall issue. Plus he often responds to points faster than I can! I'm very glad to have Rick's contributions on my blogs, and I appreciate his willingness to continue to do so.

kevin said...


Thank you, Catherine, for your support of Rick as he finds his voice and grows into the position. Many have placed great faith in Rick.

Okay, Rick. Speaking as your friend...

Rick said...

Do NOT call this position “Assistant Superintendent”. Nobody knows what that means.

Welcome, Rick. Before you make pronouncements on what this mysterious "Nobody" person may or may not know, you might consider asking yourself if Rick knows.

"Everyone" (Nobody's cousin) knows who and what John Musante does. In education, our currency is curriculum and the Asst Superintendent manages the budget, ie curriculum, bottom to top.

It makes perfect sense to have that person sitting next door to the Superintendent, to expect them to show up at [countless] meetings of [how many?] School Committees, and be responsible for bottom to top continuity of all those elementary schools feeding into the middle school. For which they should be compensated. In a school district, this is the one contract that one would not hire out to the lowest bidder.

My brother wrote a program we call, "Webmaster in a Box". Perhaps, the town and schools should buy one of those to write the website and quit hiring guys like you. I know there is no connection between what his product does and what you do, but the suggestion is terrifying and compelling, is it not?

Similarly, as you are now in a position of responsibility, if you expect to be taken seriously you might consider getting a mentor and taking the training before you say something that cannot be undone.

Speaking as your friend...

What do they say? God has his greatest revenge when He grants your wish? Congratulations on your success.



Ed said...

The school committee can vote (it may be 2/3) to ignore its own policies. (Congress did some of this in passing the Obama Healthcare.)

Just because procedure is to send to the subcommittee doesn't mean you have to - and if there really is a 2-meeting rule on policies, you have two meetings on consecutive days.

You could pass a policy that says "there shall be no manditory study halls" and it could be imposed on next fall without trouble.

HOWEVER, the way I would write it would be thus: "There shall be no manditory scheduling of study halls except in such cases where the Supt formally determines that such scheduling is essential for the functioning of the school - in such circumstances the supt must reduce his finding to writing and formally present it to the school board, and such a finding shall not be valid for more than one trimester" (e.g. she must present it every trimester there are manditory study halls).

Best of both worlds - you have no study halls unless it would really mess up the school - and having to come and explain that each trimester is an effective motivator to try to find a workaround solution

Anonymous said...

I am "anonymous 9:16 a.m.". The point I was trying to make is that a lot of really positive things that go on in our schools have been overlooked recently( Dance-A-Thon at CF, award winning para,no mention by any SC members of this).We should always be trying to improve our schools,but how about talking about what's great about them sometimes?

Anonymous said...

I am anonymous 9:16 am. The point I was trying to make was that sometimes we overlook the positive things in our schools. I am a CF parent, and recently we had an amazing Dance-A-Thon to raise $$ for the playground. There is also an award winning para in our building-completely overlooked by SC.I'm all for continually improving our schools, but we should also acknowledge what's great about them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your vote to lower the number of required study halls. Students who want or need a study hall to catch up and do last night's homework, can continue to take a study hall. But, students who want more classes and actually have their homework done on time, wind up listening to their i-pods, or reading their own books. Both of which are fine with me as individual activities when they are at home, but when they're in school, they should be able to fill their day with classes.

Anonymous said...

What seems remarkable to me is that the SC continues to talk about adding administration. I agree with what I perceive to be Rivkin's point that we need to examine the structure of Central administration.

If the current administration does not have curriculum expertise than we should eliminate some of them and replace them with what we need.

Doesn't Ms. Geryk, our new Superintendent, have such expertise - or at least some exposure to this discipline ? One would imagine that a Superintendent qualified to work in our District would have such knowledge.

I thought the SC hired her to do something productive here.... Put her to work researching curriculum options. Give that highly skilled, highly compensated intellect something that Mr. Hood argues we should do yesterday. (Right Rick ?)

Rick said...

Maria Geryk’s expertise is in special education. I believe her background is in psychology. As far as I know she doesn’t have any expertise in curriculum. Her position as Assistant Superintendent for Student Services is not being replaced (I believe, am checking on that) so therefore we are down one administrator.

I am not one of the people who think we generally have too much administration, and in this area we have too little. For example, if there is one complaint I hear above all else at ARMS, it’s the inconstancy from class to class, teacher to teacher. A Director of Curriculum would help that by insuring that there was consistency in both curriculum, training and assessment.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to push for no more mandatory study halls. Having to sit there, often doing nothing, in the middle of the school day interrupts the momentum of learning for my kids. I have found when they have a study hall in the middle of the day, they are not as motivated to actively participate in the classes they have afterward. Kind of like they switch into "after school" or "down time" mode and then have to switch back to learning mode.

I also want to mention that a lot goes on during study halls that our deans and counselors want to discourage, including the passing of drugs. During the study halls, some of which are very large, potential predators have a captive audience. I would urge the School Committee to ask the deans and counselors how they feel about study halls.

Anonymous said...


Am I to understand that the SC hired the person responsible for the current state of affairs in the Special Education department ?

I thought that everyone has been saying that this is the department that has been so mismanaged and is over budget.

Why are we hiring a titular head for big bucks for an extended period ?

Please explain your support for this strategy which I see as self defeating.


Anonymous said...

Catherine, Haven't we had a Curriculum Director before?


Rick said...

Typo above: "inconsistency" not "inconstancy" .

"Her position as Assistant Superintendent for Student Services is not being replaced..." I checked and this is the case.

Rick said...

Anon 7:39 AM:
”titular head for big bucks” is not a helpful comment.

”everyone has been saying that this is the department that has been so mismanaged”
No, everyone is not saying that. We do not know the facts yet about whether or not we are overspending on SPED.

But here is my view:

The SC (before I was on it) went through this at the March 9 meeting:

1. Debated whether to start an immediate search for a permanent Superintendent. Even though arguments were made pro and con, the motion failed unanimously.

2. Then debated whether or not to hire an outside interim Superintendent. That motion failed 5-4.

3. Given that #1 and #2 failed, the next thing that happened is kind of an obvious choice: voting for the current acting Superintendent to stay there until July 1, 2011. That motion passed 5-4.

The draft minutes of that meeting are here:

I find it strange that #1 passed unanimously, that #2 was close and that #3 was close. This is all in hindsight, but I would have voted:

1. Not sure. I just don’t understand enough about how bad the “off season” nature that a search now would be. The “right” answer would be to say “I need more info” and to suggest delaying a vote on this.

2. Definitely no – we don’t need the potential drama of an outside interim Super.

3. Put Maria as acting Super until July 1, 2010, and hold on all other decisions until the next meeting. When in doubt, don’t.

But having said that I am fine with the way things are. Maria is a fine acting Super and I think we can get a lot done with her.

As far as I am concerned, I am going to focus on what needs to get done and whether we are doing it, not on who is doing it.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your reply. Thoughtful and appreciated.

I still don't like that we are locked into M. Geryk for such a long time. Seems a mistake to me.

I think we could find a qualified superintendent and should look. Even if we fail in the search we will understand the field better.


Rick said...

I may need to cut back on what I post here and/or be a lot more careful.

Above I say this “As far as I know she (Maria) doesn’t have any expertise in curriculum.”

I have no idea what Maria has for expertise (eventually I will). But being on the SC now people may assume I do (e.g. have seen her resume etc.).

I will be more careful in the future.

Anonymous said...

In regard to the Asst Supt/ Curriculum Director -- I was wondering if other "peer" districts use one person or more than one person in this role. I ask this because a regional school faculty member who I know mentioned that the previous Curriculum Director focused mainly on the HS even though they were responsible for the entire district. Or, do other peer districts use consultants periodically rather than hiring a permanent person in this capacity?

Also, Rick thanks for redirecting comment-ers when they stray off the civility line! I think that could prove to be very helpful for keeping discussions going in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Is Maria Geryk's resume posted anywehre?

It would be nice to know the background and work history of the person who will be superintendent for the next 16 months.

I would have thought School Committee members knew it when they voted.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:26 AM,
the passing of drugs at the HS and even MS is not limited to the study halls. I wish that the administration would take this problem more seriously. You would be surprised to know who is doing what these days and it is very, very sad.

Anonymous said...

Rick, thanks for your hard work and willingness to volunteer for such a demanding job. My family and I appreciate your repsonsiveness so much and we are extremely thankful to Catherine Sanderson for maintaining this blog, providing this forum, and providing a lot of information.

Please keep contributing when you can and I think the people who nitpick every single word and are so darn critical are a very small minority. I am a parent of elementary school kids and the parents I know just want people like you and Catherine on the SC who are willing to make thoughtful decisions, get answers, and make some changes that will make our good schools great.

Thanks again.

Rick said...

Anon 8:12: Thanks. I am really excited and optimistic.

Anon 2:09 said: ”I was wondering if other "peer" districts use one person or more than one person in this role.”

Good question. That question prompted me to look for what our comparison schools list is. I finally found it buried in these meeting minutes (see the Word doc attached at bottom of that page “How are we doing”). Actually I think it’s on this blog somewhere also as I recall.

I will check those districts and see what they have for people overseeing curriculum.

In the meantime, check out what Newton has: - they are at huge ($158 million budget); sure would be nice to have the resources ($) they have.

Rick said...

Here is the first one on our comparison list. I really like the way they have it set up as an "Office of Teaching and Learning" that does assessment not just curriculum.

Brookline Public Schools, Brookline, MA (MSAN):

“The Office of Teaching and Learning is responsible for a broad range of areas, including: program and curriculum coordination, assessment, Student Services instruction, professional development, program review and coordination, educational initiatives, research, grants, and No Child Left Behind (NCLB).”

Office of Teaching and Learning Staff:

Dr. Jennifer Fischer-Muelle, Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Amy Martin , Director of Program Review and Grants
Gene Thompson-Grove, Director of Professional Development
Oscar Loureiro, Director of Data Management and Evaluation
Betsy Fitzpatrick, Administrative Assistant
Sue Fields, Teaching & Learning Secretary, Grants

Rick said...

I noticed that the central office for the Brookline Schools is located in the Brookline Town Hall. Wonder if that saves them some $$ by sharing resources.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Rick for posting the links to the other districts.

Wow, Newton has a lot of administrators for curriculum - 8 curriculum coordinators!(they are probably also faculty?)
I also checked Chapel Hill's website and they have a "Curriculum Management Team" and "Vertical Alignment Teams" for math, social studies, and science.

This could turn into a major research project! I can't believe that we have had minimal/no leadership in regard to curriculum for quite a few years now.

Do we want to formulate an idea of what model we'd like to use for curriculum management before we hire someone into the position OR do we hire someone who will formulate the vision for us?

Anonymous said...

Why do I feel like we live in Sleepy Hollow?

Anonymous said...

Newton and Brookline might have way bigger tax bases.

Brookline has a very busy shopping district, but no industry. Newton I don't know about shopping district but they have no industry either.

The assessed value of homes in those two towns might help to explain it, but given the differences in student population size, that isn't all of it.

Maybe Brookline and Newton are better at getting grants?

Brookline -- $490,000 (rounded)/6500 students

Newton -- $623,000/12,000 students

Amherst -- $295,000/2700 students

Per a website called

Anonymous said...


You said, at 4:40 on 3/27

"For example, if there is one complaint I hear above all else at ARMS, it’s the inconstancy from class to class, teacher to teacher. "


Are you sure you were hearing that about ARMS?

Rick said...

Yes it was ARMS. BTW generally I hear good things, it's just when you ask where could ARMS improve, consistency is mentioned most to me. But that's just what I hear - doesn't mean that's accurate.

What I was getting at is that if that is a problem, a curriculum director would help.


Yes Newton and Brookline have large tax bases. I wasn’t saying Amherst is comparable with them. I was just saying “geez, look what they can afford to do”.

Anonymous said...

So how do Newton & Brookline find the money for all these administrators?

Have they cut other things in order to maintain professional management?

I'd truly love to know.

Rick said...

Anon 6:18:
I believe the simple answer is that they are larger school systems. Larger organizations can afford to have more people in positions like this. That is why MA department of Ed is pushing for districts to regionalize. MA has a lot of districts for it’s population compared to other states.

Newton: $165 million budget
Brookline: $86 million
Amherst (+ Regional): $48 million

Anonymous said...

Rick, so Brookline with less than twice the money has 4 directors working on curriculum, program and data assessment and professional development, plus administrative assistants -- while Amherst many doing this work?

Obviously Brookline is putting money where they think it counts and it shows.

Anonymous said...

I find this dialogue so useful and I appreciate so much that Rick and the posters are willing to engage in this kind of worthwhile analysis and comparison. It is so helpful to just know how other places do things, even if they are not exactly comparable districts in some ways.

Rick said...

”Brookline with less than twice the money has 4 directors working on curriculum, program and data assessment and professional development, plus administrative assistants -- while Amherst many doing this work?”

Your point is basically correct. Only thing I would add is that it’s not exactly linear. As budgets grow, there are a number of positions you only need one of (Superintendent, CFO, HR, etc.), so the dollars that can be spent on other people grows in a non-linear (faster) way.

Anon 11:31:

Yes, I have a post about this on my blog (, where I talk about stealing good ideas from other places that have the resources for coming up with those ideas that we don’t.

Critical to this is having the right attitude about it:

"Also, I don’t view this as 'we suck, let’s do what they do', but rather as 'we are the best, and we will only stay that way by continually trying to improve'. You don’t have to believe we are the best to have that attitude. Take this attitude anyways because it's positive and will get more buy in from everyone involved."

Anonymous said...

Although Chapel Hill seems far away from us geographically and culturally, I was thinking that it might be comparable to us in that it is rural and has a similar tax base.

When I went to the Chapel Hill, NC website it was hard to get an idea of exactly how they manage their curriculum -- but it seems as though they might use staff who have other roles serve on curriculum committees -- which may be complicated to organize -- but could save money on admin salaries. It would be interesting to get a clearer picture of how districts with budgets that are comparable to ours deal with this issue.

Do we need a subcommittee to look at different options and report to the the SC?

TomG said...

Mark Jackson and Annie Leonard then presented information about the possibility of going to one study hall in the high school. They believed scheduling difficulties would make it impossible to only require one study hall for all students

So what's going on that these two important ARHS leaders believe it is impossible?

I would like to understand it because clearly it's resistance but is it resistance for a justifiable reason or not, and who's needs are served by resisting the change?