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.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's next for the Amherst schools? District charts course after sudden exit of superintendent

Hampshire Gazette
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

AMHERST - The Regional School Committee decided Tuesday against starting an immediate search for a replacement for former Superintendent Alberto Rodriguez.

Instead, Maria Geryk, who had been assistant superintendent under Rodriguez, will serve as interim head of the school system through June 2011. It's the same job she held for four months a year ago.

The committee voted 6-4 not to seek a new superintendent in the wake of Rodriguez's agreement Monday with the School Committee that he would leave the post after negative performance evaluations by staff. The committee has not disclosed what financial arrangement it reached with Rodriguez.

Committee member Catherine Sanderson favored starting the search process immediately, and said it may be possible to get a new superintendent in place by July.

The committee should look at unsuccessful candidates for superintendent in Easthampton, Longmeadow, Newton and other towns that have recently done searches, she said.

The consultant who found Rodriguez, Jacqueline Roy of Dennisport, "failed in her obligations to the district" and "owes us another search for free," Sanderson said.

She disagreed with the notion that a negative environment created by anonymous blog posts was a key factor in the Rodriguez debacle, and shouldn't be a deterrent to future candidates. "Superintendents have tough jobs everywhere," she said.

In fact, Amherst could be a very appealing community for a "rising star who's demonstrated achievement in a diverse district," perhaps as an assistant superintendent or curriculum director, she said. Involved parents, the academic community, and high pay could be powerful lures, she said.

Committee member Steve Rivkin said he looked at an ad that Newton placed for a superintendent recently. It said it was seeking a strong leader and manager, an innovator, someone committed to the education of the whole child, with intellectual engagement and an ability to work well with teachers. He said he liked these attributes and said he'd like to see a "transformative leader with solid experience somewhere else."

Kathy Weilerstein of Pelham said a search was worth trying but is very risky. "Our intention should not be to get anybody in there regardless," she said.

Rivkin responded that a search could be futile but is "only risky if we settle" for someone the district doesn't really want. He said the committee should move ahead aggressively, and "reach out to people who didn't think they were quite ready for being superintendent."

Committee member Irv Rhodes said there's only a "50-50 chance" of having a new superintendent in place by July, "but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try." He said the committee should not engage Roy's firm again.
It should be possible to find a good candidate who's willing to come to Amherst for a lot less money than Rodriguez made, Rhodes said.

"We could get someone who's on the ascendancy of a career and believes in strong, functional public schools and has the administrative and managerial experience to pull it off in concert with the School Committee," he said.

He said he doesn't want the school system to be "in limbo" for any longer than necessary.

"We need to rely upon a shared vision and mission and objectives with the superintendent, and these things should be agreed to when the superintendent is hired," Rhodes said. "On the very first day, we need to meet with the superintendent and say how we want things to go."

Committee member Debbie Gould said it "would be best for the district" to find a new superintendent as soon as possible.

"I believe we should conduct the search in the most economically efficient way possible that yields the best results," she said. "I would like to see someone with very good leadership skills, someone who is able to bring together a diversity of opinion and provide leadership that can formulate a plan and move forward with it and bring people on board with it."

Gould said she doesn't think schoolchildren will be much affected by the Rodriguez affair.

"Any time a school goes through this situation, there's going to be some trauma involved. But I believe we have fantastic leadership in place administratively and in the principals and teachers. I don't believe anything that's happened will cause permanent damage."

Committee member Andy Churchill cautioned that there are trade-offs in doing an immediate search, in terms of the energy to be expended, which needs to be balanced against the likelihood of success.

"I'm not sure as a community we're in a position to say what we want for our schools," he said. "There's a lot of division and ideas floating around, and not a good sense of what we do well. It's possible we might get the right person, and if so it's all worth it, but it will take a lot of effort to do."

Churchill said potential candidates might look up Amherst on Google and "find all kinds of stuff there that might not be as attractive as other places." A better use of resources might be a community planning process, he said.

"If we jump now and say 'Let's see who we can hire,' the chance of success is low and the use of energy is high, and we might have better things to do in the meantime," he said.

Kathryn Mazur, the human resources director, said the search process started in August when Rodriguez was hired. "The hiring season has passed and the pool has been drawn down," she said, asking what the plan is if the committee fails to hire someone.

Mark Jackson, principal of the middle and high schools, spoke of the "rhythm of the profession," noting that ads placed in Education Week were extensive in January but have dwindled.

"I question our ability to make a judgment that none of the candidates are right and walk away from the search," he said. "If we come away with three OK candidates, are we going to capitulate and appoint someone for the sake of appointing someone?"

Jackson said he was more inclined to appoint an interim superintendent and "wait for another day."

Nick Grabbe can be reached at

Note from Catherine: This article doesn't give the final result -- but the vote ultimately was 4 to 6 to conduct a search for an interim superintendent (Sanderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, Anderson voting FOR), and then Maria Geryk being appointed to serve as interim superintendent through June 30, 2011 (with 6 voting in favor, and 4 voting against -- the same 4 who wanted to search for an interim voted against this appointment).


Ed said...

sometimes you have to trust your elected officials and presume they know something that you don't...

TomG said...

I think its foolish to presume the SC will find a candidate who meets everyone's requirements plus have the ability to herd cats and still expect you will get them on the cheap.

It is essential that the position is filled in five months and there's no reason it cannot be.

Frustrated Amherst Parent said...

Although Maria Geryk is a nice and capable person, she is not a strong leader and like last time, she will just do the bidding of the School Committee. I don't see why they can not start searching now, even if nobody is hired by the next school year. Essentially, it will be just like the School Committee is running our schools and some of their decisions have been disastrous over the past couple of years!

Nina Koch said...

I don't feel that it makes sense to spend time, money, and energy on looking for an outside interim superintendent. People were not very happy with the result the last time we did that. It shows that you don't know what you are getting until you get it.

Maria is more than nice and capable; she is smart and dedicated. I think she can do a lot of the healing that we need right now. I don't know her positions on particular issues that I care about, but I do trust her to do a good job on making the decisions about those issues. I look forward to working with her.

Anonymous said...

trust is a very under-appreciated yet needed quality in leadership.

Anonymous said...

We are now in a position where we have a superintendent for the next 16 months that the public had no input on. That is not increasing trust or making us at all reassured. If Maria Geryk were the person most suited to be our Superintendent, why did she not apply the last time we did a search? Or perhaps she did but was not ultimately brought forth as one of our finalists? I am not happy with this decision.

Frustrated Parent said...

I agree that she is smart and dedicated, but we need more than healing now. A lot of the damage that needs "healing" was done long before Rodriguez arrived in Amherst. If there are good candidates right here in Amherst, then we need to find them! I am sure that she will be fine to maintain the status quo, but Amherst needs more than that right now with all of the changes that will take effect within the next school year because of the budget, middle school principal search, and new elementary school configuration. We also need to have a more diverse group of parents (and I do not mean just race and ethnicity) involved with some of these search committees, because it always seems to be the same group of people (or at least similar groups of people) with less than stellar results. I also wonder why they don't hire Ms. Geryk as superintendent if they think she is qualified enough to take over the schools for such long periods of time.

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear from Principal Jackson on why he thinks Catherine isn't entitled to her opinion. His snide attack of her for advocating for an outsider's perspective and the utility of that was an embarrassment.

I watched the entire meeting--

It makes me think he has something to fear from the light of day.

Ed said...

The Air Force has a saying: "if they are shooting at you, it means that you are over the target."

The increasingly grotesque attacks on Catherine Sanderson and Larry Kelly can only be explained in the context of corrupt/incompetent individuals afraid that they are about to be dragged out into the light of day.

I don't know who these corrupt or incompetent individuals are, or what exactly it is that they are attempting to hide. All I can say is that the more they try to obscure and obfuscate, the clearer it is that something is amiss.

There are districts where Principal Jackson would be looking for a new job this morning, I once worked in one. That was an extreme in one direction, Amherst is the extreme in the other.

The question I have, however, is if he will be as tolerant of a student being as disrespectful to him as he was to Committeeman Sanderson. There were 15/16/17 year old kids watching that exchange - I have no doubt it will become a UTube clip - and children emulate what they see adults do.

Hence, what expectation should Principal Jackson have that the students in his schools be any more respective of him and his position than he was of Sandersons?

Likewise, I say the same thing to all of the teachers in the district: what right do you have to expect your students to be respectful to you when you aren't modeling such behavior in your interactions with those who hold authority over you?

And when (not if) Jackson has to confront some kid mouthing off to him, and when the student says "hey, you did it", exactly what is Jackson supposed to say?????

And if they are shooting at you, it means that you are over the target....

Anonymous said...

Just remember the Spragues- that's all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

After that performance last night, and the decisions that were made coming out of it, I'm forced to seriously consider voting NO on the override.

We're just going to putter along with the status quo until July 1, 2011? I can be talked out of it, but right now I'm not inclined to vote for that.

Whether the readers of this blog like it or not, there is a Catherine Sanderson Constituency out there. It preexisted her, and it will live on after she's left the Committee. It's people like myself who love the schools but don't think everything is hunky-dory there, and want real self-examination to make them better. AND we don't care to be sucker-punched as Catherine was last night! So I found myself in agreement with the unusual foursome of Anderson, Rhodes, Rivkin, and Sanderson last night.

Begin anonymous attacks now.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

To all those who support Geryk for Superintendent as a "nice person", a "smart person" I suggest that while she may be nice and smart she is also a part of the long term problem. Geryk is central to this crisis of mismanagement. Remember it is she who presided over the SPED department for years as it bloated into inefficiency. Were I on the school committee I would encourage her to follow Dr. Rodriguez.

Re: Jackson's comments - clearly there is a large leap between being an adequate principal and a manager who can make incisive and difficult decisions. Clearly Jackson perceives himself as stronger than he actually is or he would not make such assinine comments.

Kudos to Sanderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, and Anderson for voting for an unpopular search. Time to begin repairs to a system damaged by long term neglect and poor decisions of past School Committees.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I find two things interesting in this whole thing.

1. It is interesting how two local boards view their employees. The SC which is trying to openly bring change to the way things are done openly accept on face value the comments from their employees concerning the individual hired to lead change. Then there is the SB who has predominately received negative comments from their employees for every evaluation the current TM has received. Instead of acting as the SC did, they openly disregard these negative comments as either the complaints of the Fire Dept. or employees resisting change.
2. I find it interesting that the one area (Special Ed) that people feel is truly out of control is the area that our new acting Super has been responsible for over the past years.

Boy it would be nice to read the evaluations of the outgoing Super.

Anonymous said...

Rushing any hiring search is not a good idea, nor is hiring someone who does not already have experience in that job. The positions Amherst is hiring for are high power positions that demand extremely capable administrators. Not untested *potential* "rising stars" as Rivkin suggests.

Particularly now! After YEARS of failed leadership, we need a proper search that wins Amherst an excellent, innovative, tested Superintendent. The same goes for the ms principal.

The Spragues, one of whom bailed on the job halfway through the year -taking his full salary with him- is an example of a rushed search yielding in a poor hire. He failed as an administrator.

Glenda Cresto, though extremely accomodating to parents, had never previously been a principal. Hence her dramatic failure in running the inside of the school once she had full control in her second year, as evidenced by the scheduling debacle on her watch. (And, yes, creating the schedule is the principal's responsibility.) She failed as an administrator when it came to running the inside of the school, even if some in the community liked how she tried to to accomodate each individual parent's wishes. Like Sprague #2, she quit the job early, this time leaving others to clean up her shocking scheduling mess.

Supt. Rodrigues is another who lacked the necessary experience as a superintendent to work in a town like Amherst. Catherine was right, at that time, to vote for Sklars. Rodrigues was a failed administrator, who quit the job early.

The new interim supt is a known quanitity, she knows how the schools work and is willing to step in and pick up the pieces. Again. For that she should be lauded, not criticised. Parents know who she is, the majority of the SC knows she can run the district capably, and the teachers can have confidence that she will work through the length of her interim contract.

Lets do it right this time. Hire a new headhunting firm, hire experienced administrators with good instincts, innovative ideas and are familiar with the Northeast US's educational and political culture. And don't rush it.

Anonymous said...

There are those who want to vote no on the override so as to "punish" the school district. This is the equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I just don't see how it makes sense. Things are in chaos right now. Creating more of it in allowing more cuts can only add to that.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that this happening!! But then again, I could not believe the closing of Marks Meadow and then the getting rid of open enrollment....This so does not sound like a 'free' or democratic community. How does it happen that a figure (MG) who ran the Sped Dept. into the ground, and the findings of that evaluation/investigation just keep getting put off and off...(Will the results be given in August 2011 now??,) can now be given the helm to do it all over again?? Worried

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:27.

The reason we might not want to vote "yes" is the same reason you might not want to give an alcoholic a bottle of vodka.

The alcoholic - our school system - is currently in need of grim ascetic medicine. Adding more booze to the system will simply make the administrators earning 100K /yr think that the party will go on forever w/o any input from them.

We need to look at the costs - primarily the bloated bureaucracy that feels it is okay to mouth off to its boss with a metaphorical bottle of gin in hand - and look at systems FIRST, then give the system some fruit juice to make it work!

Anonymous said...

Would someone explain what criticism by Jackson of Sanderson that keeps getting referred to? I missed it.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting when people comment on an administrator as being nice and smart. While being nice has its place, being competent and experienced and able to handle what is needed in a top administrative position is what is needed. Similarly to Maria Geryk who keeps stepping up as needed, Mike Hayes had been denied the MS principal position (and he actively applied and interviewed for the position). He was deemed not qualified, and the position went to Glenda Cresto. Yet, Mike is always turned to for an assistant/interim/whatever for the MS because he is here, knows the district, and is always available. Yet, he is not the right person for the job. Neither is MG the right person to be our superintendent. I commend Anderson, Rivkin, Rhodes and Sandesron for pushing to start a superintendent search immediately. We need the right person at the head of the district, at the head of the MS, and at the high school sooner rather than later, not the warm bodies that are available.

Anonymous said...

Previous poster here again - sorry for confused syntax and let me try again:
What did M. Jackson say to C. Sanderson that people are talking about?

Anonymous said...

I know nothing about Ms. Geryk's qualifications to be acting superintendent, but I do think it's interesting that in the (overlooked) middle school report last night by a very impressive consultant, the single area he praised for its rigor and effectiveness was special education. Geryk's bailiwick.

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of 2:

I watched the whole meeting last night. The committee members, Anderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, and Sanderson were willing to launch a new search for Superintendent now. They were willing to put in the time to see if there was someone out there. They expressed that they would not settle for a less than stellar candidate, and that if the search yielded unworthy candidates they would not just hire someone to fill in the spot. They would say we tried, and defer the hiring until the right candidate was presented. But if they tried now, they might actually find someone who could fill the spot. Someone who perhaps did not anticipate applying for a Super job earlier in the year in another district, but someone who has come to that decision now in March. Someone who could oversee the hiring of a middle school principal, a curriculum director, and two assistant principals. Someone who could digest the evaluations that are being made of the middle school and SPED (forthcoming in June) and make CHANGES and reallocate resources.

That to me is leadership. Way to go School Committee.

Anonymous said...

So 4 of the 5 Amherst members on the Regional Committee voted in favor a superintendent search and against hiring Geryk as interim. Yet due to the votes of the surrounding towns, this majority of Amherst members' votes were negated. Why in the world do the towns of Leverett, Shutesbury and Pelham, whose students comprise only 20% of the student body, have 50% of the seats on the Regional School Committee?!!!

Anonymous said...

part 2 of 2:

I could launch the search with my Apple computer this morning. I would cut and paste the superintendent announcement from Newton (as Prof Rivkin suggested last night), make some changes to make it fit for Amherst, compare it to what we have used in the past, have some really smart people look at it to make edits and then I would post the thing all over the internet, and get it halfway around the world by late this afternoon, as Kathleen Anderson mentioned could be done in this age. I would get it posted on the websites of the national organizations for school administrators. And I would post the thing in the ed magazines that people look at when they are looking for ed admin jobs. Then I would call the Ed Admin professors in the schools around here and ask them for some names of graduates or top notch people they've come across. UMass has an ED Admin program, right? Then I would call some principals in this district and ask them who I should target specifically and if they could give me some names of stellar people they've come across, trained with, went to school with. Or if they could give me some ideas of more resources I could tap into. Then I would call that lady who spoke last night who is a Crocker Farm parent who works at UMass and has collaborated with district personnel on various occasions--like Dr. Rodriguez and middle school teachers-- on leadership and working together, and I would get her ideas. It seemed to me like she had substantial knowledge. Then I would call or visit UMass, Smith College, Amherst College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Hampshire College and talk to their career people. I would give them the job posting to post on their online alumni networks. Then I would contact alumni from each of those schools that I know personally in town and I would ask them to go to their alma mater's career office and get me a printout of names who are employed as principals or superintendents around the country. I would start calling or emailing them, maybe start with Smith and UMass first. They specifically have teaching programs. And I would ask those people who they know that is amazing that might be looking for a job and I would email them the job posting. And I would ask them if they are interested too. Remember we would be trying to get some candidates... a "pool" of potentially qualified candidates. If the budget permitted (and this sounds like the expensive part from what I heard last night) I would run an ad in a national newspaper like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Last night I heard that this is standard in searches for Supers, there's got to be an ad in a major newspaper. I would also email and call that professor at Williams College who writes about teaching in the New York Times, and ask her for some names and resources. Her name is Susan Engel. Then I would call Columbia Teachers College and get in touch with the Ed Admin profs there and get names from them of potential candidates.

These kinds of searches need to be targeted searches. We could do it.

I realize the district personnel has had to deal with a lot of upheaval and many changes. And a lot of initiatives are pending. And they are very busy and they have been disappointed. And it seems like a daunting prospect to launch a new search after something just did not work out. But I think we could do it.

Anonymous said...

I watched the meeting last night and appreciated the positive comments made by Rivkin and Sanderson about Rodriguez. Dr. Rivkin noted that the worthwhile middle school eval that was presented last night was commissioned by Dr. Rodriguez who should be given credit for doing so. And Dr. Sanderson remarked about the value of having an outside perspective such as Dr. Rodriguez in our district. She highlighted the point that we are an insular district and having fresh eyes look at us is extremely valuable.

And then she was attacked by Mark Jackson because she said something positive about Dr. Rodriguez. He acted like a bully. And then he tried to silence her when she went to respond. He said something to the effect of, "That's a statement, not a question."

Mr. Jackson needs to learn that social justice applies to the treatment of women too. And that was a reprehensible display of disrespect and a lack of decorum. If he spoke that way to a man, someone may have gone flying over a table last night. On second thought, that's probably not true, because this SC has some very fine individuals on it who show so much self-restraint and dignity that it is inspiring to me.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I don't get:

How did good liberals like Sanderson, Rivkin, Rhodes, and (I guess) Morse become The Bad Guys? And I guess I can see the retaliation that one of the speakers referenced in the meeting last night.

Is this effective coalition building? I've voted for every override since I've moved here. But I'm beginning to sense the same resistance to change in our schools that I've seen for years amongst NIMBYs around land use issues in the wider town.

I thought liberals were FOR change and the willingness of institutions to reexamine themselves, asking themselves tough questions, in the name of progress and social justice.

Rich Morse

Rick said...

“After that performance last night, and the decisions that were made coming out of it, I'm forced to seriously consider voting NO on the override.”

Rich, please reconsider. There is not way in hell we are going not do this: “We're just going to putter along with the status quo until July 1, 2011?”

The Beers report was fantastic – and so is he. We need to go full blast on the things he talked about and get him back often to review our progress. And what he said had something for everyone: I think Catherine liked what he had to say, and sitting next to me was Nina Koch who thought he was great.

Beers costs money - well worth it - so do many other things we want to do to improve the schools. Please vote yes on March 23.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Rick.

I will keep listening. This is where I am today. I bet I have company.

Rich Morse

Rick said...

OK thanks for listening.

Terrible typo in my post above; should have been this:

There is no way in hell we are going do this: "We're just going to putter along with the status quo until July 1, 2011?"

Anonymous said...


I'm an Amherst parent. I watched last night's SC meeting on TV. I read this blog regularly, but I have never commented before now.

(I agree with you and others that while it's not optimal, there are some valid reasons to comment anonymously.)

You have asked more than once that people not write comments that disparage school or district employees. While this is admirable, it's clearly not working. People are continuing to make disparaging comments, and until you have time to review them, they are there for everyone to see.

On blogspot, you have 3 options regarding comments. You can "Always" allow comments (your current setting), "Never" allow them, or you can choose to "Moderate" them. This last option means that you, as blog owner, can choose to read and review comments before they are published. This consequently means that there will be a delay in comments being published, which could be seen as a drawback.

I'm asking you to take some time to weigh the "Always" and "Moderate" options and explain your reasoning to your readers. Do you believe that having comments published immediately is most important? Or, is it more important to not allow comments to appear until you have been able to evaluate them? Which option do you feel best serves the community?

You remarked on a different thread that you were physically and emotionally exhausted after last night's meeting. I appreciate that honest statement. I also think it speaks to why, as a responsible SC member, you should consider changing your blog settings so that you moderate comments.

If you decided to change your settings to moderate comments, and explained the change to your readers, we would know that you have seen all of the comments and that you have determined that they are not disparaging. This would be a great service to your readers and the larger community (and to you, as well).

Thanks for thinking about this, and I hope you'll respond.

Anonymous said...

I see that comment moderation is all ready happening.

While I certainly am fed up with te nasty and disparaging comments that have appeared here ( with no facts to back them up) I also am very wary of comments now being reviewed before being posted. Now, only comments approved by Catherine will appear, we have censorship in all its glory!!! I fear that comments that are not in agreement with Catherine's views will now be a thing of the past. This blog will now become a voice box for all folks who are in line with Catherine's opinions.

A sad day for public discourse in Amherst.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Two quick things:

Anonymous 10:42 - this is a good idea (moderate comments so I see them before they are published), which someone also made yesterday. I didn't want to do it because (a) it is really catering to people who are trying to be slanderous, which I don't like, and (b) it will involve even more work/oversight by me to constantly have to read and approve comments. However, I think you are right that this is a fair approach, and I've now changed this option.

For the record -- I will publish ANYTHING that isn't just mean or slanderous. It has to have some point/relevance.

Anonymous 11:01 - comment moderation has just begun, for the reasons I stated above. And I just published yours, which includes the really interesting and unfounded accusation that I will only publish those that I agree with (hence I am publishing yours). If I wanted to only hear from those I agree with, I certainly could have used this option at any point over the last two years since I started this blog -- do you really think I'm afraid of criticism?

Anonymous said...

Call me simple minded but after the last few years of upheaval surrounding Supers and yes, Principals, I as a teacher would welcome time to just "putter along", if that meant focusing on the children.

Anonymous said...

Rick Hood,
I opposed the last override and was skeptical of this one, but ultimately was won over on the merits, and based on looking at it as a component of a comprehensive solution - a three-legged stool that also includes necessary cost reductions/waste-cutting, and long-term strategy for responsibly growing the commercial tax base.

I was won over to vote Yes - until yesterday.

I now will be voting No on the override, and what’s more I will get on any PVTA bus, to ride to any address in town, to tell anyone: "Vote NO."

After attending last night’s meeting, my trust in the School Committee to responsibly manage its important affairs is totally erased by the mystery and mishandling of the Rodriguez debacle. Sure, it is unforgivable that this fellow admired Ronald Reagan (an impeachable offense in Amherst), and that he planned to use all the sick leave permissible under his contract, but we have yet to learn the substance and legitimacy of the senior administrators' critique. What actually WAS so extraordinary and egregious that Dr. Rodriguez had to be terminated on the spot Monday evening?

I also question whether the Committee, and the town, can get its story straight on what we are looking for and, in Andy Churchill’s words, “Put our best foot forward” as a place where qualified, vibrant candidates will want to work, and be appreciated. For a town that talks “Change” all the time, it seems as though when Change presents itself – in the form of transformative SC members or a “Change agent” Superintendent – these people are harassed and hounded relentlessly by the forces of inertia.

Spoke with one of the excellent elementary school Principals this morning who cited the several important, system-wide initiatives now moving forward, and hopes that teachers and administrators can find the stamina to persist in seeing these through after this latest upheaval – and now anticipating another 16+ months of the revolving-door Superintendent swirl and vacuum – his question: "What is the breaking point of 'change'?"

I ask, is the SC prepared to show leadership, and to hire a strong leader? Will Amherst teachers and administrators accept leadership?

Vote NO to the override on March 23.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was interesting that Sanderson and Rivkin wanted to act in direct opposition to the wishes expressed by three of our highly respected principals (Jackson, Morris, and Yaffe.) They explicitly favored and advocated for appointing Geryk as Superintendent. Sanderson started crying during the meeting because knew she was losing a struggle for power and control, not because Jackson called her out on her disingenuous comments regarding Rodriguez's job performance evaluation.

ALL the senior administration, and more teachers than i can list, think Geryk is a strong and capable leader, the type of "transformational leader" that Beers spoke about. Rivkin seemed so disappointed when he asked Beers what we should be looking for in a new Superintendent, and all the criteria he listed described the school personnel's correct perception of Geryk. The fact that she is personable, friendly, and (almost) everyone likes her is just a bonus. She has 24+ years of experience working in the public schools and has PROVEN, time and again, that she has what it takes to lead effectively and get the work of the school's done. The HUNDREDS of people who have worked with her in the past in other school districts, and the hundreds who work with her now and for the last 8 years, know she is a strong leader. But, unfortunately for Steve and Catherine, she's not going to just do whatever they want, which is what was so upsetting to them. The teachers, administration, parents and the children of Amherst scored a huge victory last night.

Anonymous said...

You would think that people would now believe in that old expression re. the devil you know is ....

Before someone gets all riled up, I am not inferring that Maria is a devil. Gee!

Tom the Independent said...

Anonymous 11:19: "The teachers, administration, parents and the children of Amherst scored a huge victory last night."

You say victory, I say disgrace. What are you afraid of?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 11:19 - I've heard from numerous people over the last few hours who feel the same -- that the vote last night demonstrated a powerful force to maintain the status quo, and that doesn't inspire a lot of faith for some in providing more money.

Anonymous 11:19 - your interpretation of my crying is one of the rudest things I've seen on this blog, but I'm posting it anyway. You should also have noted, in fairness, that both Kathleen and Irv voted with me and Steve. So, apparently four of the 10 people, including four of the five Amherst members, opposed hiring an interim WITHOUT having a search. Maria could have applied for the interim position and she could have been granted this position IF she emerged as more qualified than other candidates - apparently a situation that the majority of the SC and the administrators don't want to face. And yes, I think it is very, very clear that the administration prefers Maria, who is a known quantity. But the job of the SC is actually to make decisions on behalf of children in our district, not administrators. And I continue to believe than an outside person would have better served our district.

Anonymous said...

Precisely the opposite is true. Last night was a disaster for Amherst and a victory for the Status Quo ante.

Now we are in a period of true urgency to find a different path.

Geryk = status quo. If you are happy with that (what we have now) be happy with the turn of events last night.

Anonymous said...

I believe, with all my heart, that the administrators believe that their job is to influence decisions that they believe are best for the children, and not for the individuals on the school committee. Catherine, do you really believe that Mark Jackson, Nick Yaffe, and Mike Morris advocated for Geryk because they want "status quo" (whatever that means to you, sounds sort of nebulus to me) as opposed to what they believe is best for the children? Or is it that they believe that is the best decision for kids, but you believe they are so much dumber than you that they don't know what is best for children? Either way, what rude and insulting things to say about our administrators, from a school committee member nonetheless.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:44 - I didn't say they didn't want was best for children .... I said that IF they really believed Maria would emerge as the best candidate, then surely they would have supported an open search, in which she obviously would have been chosen. They didn't. I believe this community deserves openness and transparency, and the SC appointing a superintendent to serve for 16 months -- who will hire the Pelham principal, the middle school principal, and the curriculum director -- without seeking any community involvement or input is inappropriate. Maria could have thrown her hat in the ring, and if she emerged as the best person, she would have been chosen.

There are always advantages and disadvantages to internal candidates. Their strengths are also their weaknesses. Ultimately, I have no idea how I would have voted, and whether I would have supported Maria or another person (and this would have depended on who else emerged in the pool).

What I'm highly concerned about is the process - a process in which the community (parents and teachers) had absolutely no ability to give feedback or thoughts about this hire. Even delaying the vote on her hire for a week would have allowed the community to share their thoughts. I'm very disappointed that this was the process the SC felt was better for the community at this time.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 11:19 a.m.,

I am sorry but you have it all wrong. Voting for an outsider to come in is the right thing to do because it forces self-examination and it gives us access to more resources.

Just because I want an outsider to come in does not mean that I don't agree that Ms. Geryk is smart, well-liked, and personable.

But transformational? Really? How so? Did redistricting pass on her watch? Were evals commissioned of the middle school and SPED on her watch? Now I am not saying that Dr. Rodriguez was the transformational leader that we needed either, but he, in tandem with a transformational SC, accomplished some very positive things.

I am very concerned, as Prof Rivkin mentioned last night, that the long-term leader of our schools will not be here to hire some important people for important jobs-- middle school principal, two assistant principals, and curriculum director. And that's why my vote would have been to initiate a search for a new Superintendent today.

Anonymous said...

Here's how bad it was for me watching at home:

Kathleen Anderson is back in the mix of possible candidates that I could vote for for School Committee. I admit that this was utterly unthinkable for me before. She had a good night. And I'm starting to take more seriously her perspective representing those she feels are on the outside looking in.

I simply don't believe that we are serving all of the children equally well. But I love having my daughter in these schools and she's had some fabulous teachers whom we will never forget.

Rich Morse

Alisa V. Brewer said...

For those readers for whom this is not a rhetorical question:

Why in the world do the towns of Leverett, Shutesbury and Pelham, whose students comprise only 20% of the student body, have 50% of the seats on the Regional School Committee?!!!

check out the Policy Manual on the schools website for the AAC-E: Regional Agreement

Anonymous said...

I was surprised at how fast the SC moved to appoint MG as interim Sup. I thought they should have lt her continue as acting Sup for at least a week to let the emotions of the last few days come to a rest. I would have thought the SC would have had a more thoughful process than the one that took place. I am disappointed.

This however will not affect my vote for the override. I plan to suppot it on the 23rd because I think its the right thing to do.

Mary E.Carey said...

I watched the meeting and Jackson's unseemly attack against Catherine. I know Mark Jackson is a good person, a hands-on principal and a charismatic personality. I can only think that he is exhausted himself and wasn't thinking clearly when he suggested that Catherine hadn't read the reviews of Rodriguez. I can't understand, by the way, why those evaluations can't be summarized for the public. I used to be an Amherst schools reporter and witnessed firsthand people on and off the School Commtitee being rude to Catherine. The way I always explained it to myself was that it was like high school and Catherine was the smart cheerleader who people loved to call names, either because she annoyed them for some reason and they couldn't help themselves or they were somehow hoping without realizing it that putting her down would elevate them in other people's estimation. I had stopped paying attention for a while, but I see it's continuing. It IS bullying, as someone else pointed out, and I was SO glad to see Steve Rivkin address it. I have been at other meetings where public bullying was allowed to go on without the elected officials who are in charge during public meetings stand up and say it's not acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Can the committee back peddle on the decision to appoint Geryk through the end of next June 2011? Is it possible to get some public input first? It seems to me as I was watching last night that the members were originally pushing for a new superintendent search today, and there were more than Rivkin, Rhodes, Anderson, and Sanderson who expressed they could do that. They let school personnel weigh in and some members changed their minds, but there was no opportunity for public comment. And we, the public, had no idea that was going to be decided last night. Seems hasty and a big decision. With all respect, can we back peddle? Is that allowed?

Abbie said...

I picked up the SC meeting after the Beer's report, the live-streaming is a great feature (thanks to those responsible). I thought the process went pretty well last night. I thought that there were valid reasons presented for both options (1) appoint Maria Geryk as interim for 16 months and (2) appoint Maria as interim for 4 months and search for interim to serve one year beginning in July. I don't see this as necessarily polarizing. I think both options have real pros and cons. Personally, I think that the right decision was made and Ms. Geryk will do a fine job. I thought that it would be extremely challenging to find a suitable interim Sup given the lateness of the year (guess who is probably just now starting to look for a new position...). There is a season to some of types of hires. My department is concerned/skeptical always launching a search in the off-season. This works fine if the target candidate population is huge, which is true in some fields. Some fields, however, produce few candidates, so to search in that area after the 'season' is wasteful and frequently doomed. Given our previous search that yielded a thin pool, I believe the likelihood of finding someone 'better' than Ms Geryk is very low. Most persuasive to me, however, were the comments made by Ms. Mazur and Principle Morris. Ms. Mazur- Do we really want our staff who have a lot on their plates already to spend significant amounts of effort, perhaps fruitlessly, searching for an 'interim' this year (and then again next year for the permanent Sup)? If you think yes, then some of those important things aren't going to get done. Principle Morris- It would be disruptive to have an 'interim' with a steep and long learning curve to be in place this coming year with the HUGE changes that will be occurring. I have great respect for Mr. Morris (and our family very much looks forward to becoming part of the CF community) and if he says this, then I take serious notice.

I also thought that Principle Jackson's comments to CS were uncalled for but I can understand that emotions are raw (on all sides). I thought that CS’s comments about Sup Rodriguez were reasonable (surely he wasn't ALL bad) but can understand how that comment could rankle someone who thought that individual had treated them poorly. I hope those involved can manage to chalk it up to "a bad situation" and move on (not intending to minimize anyone's feelings).

I don't see how having Ms. Geryk precludes any changes/improvements that many are hoping for: curricular review & revision (where necessary), curricular alignment, the list goes on. None of which would have been accomplished in a year anyway. I understand the concern about the hires (MS princ, curriculum director, etc) wrt an inside Interim Sup but I think the unknown quantities of an outside Interim Sup don't provide me with more confidence in that area.

My thanks to all those who participated in last night's meeting. I thought (almost) everyone showed their best under very difficult circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mary Carey, for your comments.

I also find it interesting that Catherine comes in for more of this treatment than either Irv or Steve. Hmmmm.......

I like the cheerleader analogy.

There was a coalition of people that included both Catherine AND many of the folks who have squared off with her. The fact that it's gone can't be good for those political interests and budget priorities that they have in common.

Someone needs to call a summit, with calming adult refreshments.

I also think that Riverwolf Productions could do their audience and the town a big favor, similar to the one they did with the SC candidates' debate, by having Catherine or Steve or Irv on their show for an in-depth, evenhanded interview. You know, one in which the interviewee talks more than the interviewer? And, yes, I do think it's a matter of intestinal or even testicular fortitude on their part especially given the snarky attack stuff I've watched in the past.

I'll be happy to write something complimentary if they do it, and we'll all be in their debt.

Rich Morse

Joel said...

I want to thank Catherine, Steve, and Irv for the incredible work they do on a volunteer basis for our schools.

As a friend of Catherine and Steve and a supporter of Irv (I just don't know him personally), I'm incredibly put off by the ways some on this blog and at the meeting last night have treated them.

The anonymous bloggers' attacks are awful enough.

Mark Jackson's behavior was an embarrassment. He embarrassed himself and the town. He owes Catherine a public apology. He attacked her unfairly in public, he should apologize and make amend in public. That's how people with honor and any sense of personal dignity act.

He's the highest ranking educator in town and he is obligated to behave in a professional and adult manner at all times, but especially in public setting.

Anonymous said...

I do not view the appointing of MG as interim for next year as a vote for the status quo. The status quo is a district in chaos,wit low morale among teachers, parents and administrative staff and a school committee that is divided.

As Abbie pointed out, there is absolutely no reason that certain initiatives can not move forward. It is up to the school committee as the body that sets goals for and supervises the work of the superintendent, to make sure that that happens. So if a year from now we have a district in as much turmoil as we do today- well then the SC is not doing its job.

Anonymous said...

" They let school personnel weigh in and some members changed their minds, but there was no opportunity for public comment. And we, the public, had no idea that was going to be decided last night. Seems hasty and a big decision. With all respect, can we back peddle? Is that allowed?"


Anonymous said...

" It IS bullying, as someone else pointed out, and I was SO glad to see Steve Rivkin address it."

Just imagine for a second, the less powerful you are in the system, the more vulnerable... the more abusive it becomes.

Can you imagine what it must be like being an employee at the "bottom of the barrel".

Two words: completely disposable

Ever been treated like garbage?

Anonymous said...

I think this Mark Jackson Moment of Zen may ultimately exact its own punishment: an undetermined increment of votes against the override. Let's face it: these overrides are plebiscites. This one will be about the schools.

I think Catherine was trying to make a subtle point (talking too fast as usual), and Mark either accidentally or willfully missed it. But such a response in bad form("that's a statement, not a question") doesn't happen without a preexisting readiness to pounce.

I would hope that he would promise himself not to do it again to an elected volunteer official in town. An apology? Too much to expect.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank all the members of both the Amherst SC and Regional SC for all of their hard work. In tight budgetary times like this their job is a thankless one.

They are all working hard and deserve our thanks - whether we agree with them or not.

TomG said...

The decision to select rather than search for an interim superintendent is less important in my opinion than the decision to start the search for the new superintendent immediately and try to land the person by July of this year.

I think its very clear that we are facing short and long term URGENT issues and leadership is the key to making progress from all quarters including superintendent.

Votes to delay the start of a search for a new super are unacceptable because they are without compelling reason.

I'd like to read CS's position on these key issues, and create the opportunity to gain some public support for them.

Nina Koch said...

I would agree with the observation that somebody made that everybody is exhausted right now-- both school committee members and school officials. So things are going to be raw. And sometimes things build up for a while and come out in a way that sounds harsh or pointed. I know I have done that myself, especially when I am feeling worn down.

I didn't hear the exchange at last night's meeting and I don't know exactly what was said. What I do know is that if Mark Jackson makes a mistake, he has no ego around admitting the mistake. His ability to change his mind based on feedback is one of the many things that makes him a refreshingly good administrator. I can point you to an example where there happens to be a document describing the original decision and the reversal:

Underclass Awards

Now he doesn't always change his mind, but I can tell you that he listens very carefully to what people say and thinks it through. I could list many reasons why Mark is a great principal for ARHS, but I think the one I will focus on right now is that his leadership makes me want to work hard to be a better teacher. We have very strong assistant principals too. They are people I can go to if I just want to toss around an idea, or if I feel like I am struggling with something. Administrators do serve a purpose.

I want to go back to the issue of people feeling worn down because I think that is what we are seeing right now. The school committee members are basically working a second job and so is Mark Jackson. Teachers often feel like they are working a second job because they finish up at school and then they come home and grade papers for hours. You might be thinking, well, I can't do anything about people's workload. But actually you can. There's a very simple gesture you can make that can really help to make it more bearable: send a piece of fan mail. I have started doing this and it's really kinda fun. I sent one to Farshid a few weeks ago and told him I like the way he runs the meetings. I sent one this morning to Dr. Beers and said I liked his approach of looking at what the students are doing in a classroom and the value that he places on getting the kids to think. I don't know who Abbie is, but if I did I would send one to her and say that I enjoy having a dialogue with her.

I know some of you will think this is silly, but for those who want to try it, fire up your email client and put "Fan Mail" in the subject heading. Then send it to your kid's violin teacher or to a school committee member who said something you felt was important or to Debbie Westmoreland who sits there while meetings run late and has to listen with painstaking care to every single word that is spoken so she can record it accurately in the minutes. There has to be somebody in this situation whom you appreciate. Even if you have already told your kid's guidance counselor in person how much of a difference he has made to your child's development, go ahead and put it in writing so that the counselor can post it on his refrigerator. Even if it is just one or two sentences, it will serve its purpose.

It really does make a difference in how you feel about your job when you feel appreciated. You still have the same amount of work, but it seems more possible that you can finish it when your spirits lighten a little. I realized this myself this week when I woke up Sunday morning to find an email from a student who had been working feverishly on a computer program. The subject heading said "I DID IT!!!!!" and her happiness with her own accomplishment was so infectious that it set the tone for my whole week. I'm grateful to her for reminding me why we are in this business. You can have the same impact on somebody else.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Morse, here is an evenhanded interview with Steve Rivkin and Irv Rhodes conducted by Student News. It is one in which the interviewees talk more than the interviewers:

Joel said...

Nina and I don't often agree, but I think she's right to point out how hard a lot of people are working on these issues. The SC is a volunteer group and some of our administrators are doing double duty with the middle school and superintendent situations.

When people angrily and anonymously criticize our SC they really aren't helping.

I still believe Mark owes Catherine an apology, but I do grant he was and is stressed. Indeed, admitting that his current workload is part of the reason he so misbehaved would be a very gracious way for him to begin his apology.

Xiomara Hernandez said...

I am extremely disappointed by what I saw at last night's school committee meeting. First, it appears (I say appears because the school committee has not really given the public a tremendous amount of information regarding what happened behind closed doors) to me that an injustice was committed against Dr. Rodriguez by him being let go after only serving 8 months as superintendent. Second, it has become obvious to me that this town is interested in the status quo. Lastly, I wish that the process involved in appointing an interim superintendent was more thoughtful and inclusive (nothing against Maria, whom I like very much). Unfortunately, many have lost faith in the school committee after last night's meeting (and other things that have transpired in the past) and as a result the override is at risk of not passing.


Anonymous said...

"AMHERST - Former Superintendent of Schools Alberto Rodriguez, who left the position on Monday, will be paid his $158,000-a-year salary through May.

Farshid Hajir, chairman of the Regional School Committee, has declined to disclose the terms of the financial settlement, citing advice from the committee's attorney. A source close to the situation, who declined to be identified, provided the information to the Gazette.

The dollar value of the settlement is approximately $36,000, plus the cost of continuing Rodriguez's health care coverage."

I know you can't fire personnel Catherine, but you put pressure... "Someone" must be held accountable...

This is disgusting.

Ed said...

When I was doing my student teaching - in Maine where beer is sold in all the grocery stores - the first thing I was told was not to buy beer in the district, from my own students.

The second thing is grace and decorum. As best I can tell, Catherine Sanderson was trying to say something nice about someone who had just been fired. It was the decent and humane thing to do - Socrates' "noble lie" and the rest.

And our high school principal made three mistakes.

First, he failed to recognize it for what (I think) it was - a noble statement to a vanquished foe. He won - ARod lost - and you have grace in victory.

Second, I think the district needs to define what constitutes "insubordination" and further define the difference between citizens speaking and employees speaking in their official capacities.

And third, and most important, he "bought beer in the district." He is a role model, damn it, and he should not do things like that lest he has his students doing stuff like that to his teachers.

How on earth is he going to have moral authority to tell students not to mouth off at people AFTER HE DID IT HIMSELF?

And I am really glad I couldn't make that meeting because I might just have stood up and told the good principal what I thought of his behavior and things would REALLY have gotten interesting then....

In other news - yes UM has a Ed Leadership program in Hills South and they do have a bulletin board for postings.

Anonymous said...

I went back to the DVR and found the comment by Jackson which was directed at Sanderson. It is at 9:45 p.m., or 3 hours and 45 minutes into the meeting. You really have to watch it because his delivery is hostile and aggressive.

Not only does Jackson bash Rodriguez publicly, he tries to bully Prof Sanderson and makes it sound like Sanderson, by saying something positive about Rodriguez, somehow *betrayed all* the personnel that participated in the evaluation process. It's really a spectacle.

Mark Jackson:
"So, I want to make a comment about interims in general. But Catherine, I want to address your last comment. Because I find it hugely problematic. For you to say publicly, knowing what you know about what was written in the evaluations, that the former Superintendent is emblematic of the value that can be created by outsiders. I, I am not sure what basis you're making that comment on. And I think you do everybody who participated in the evaluation process a real disservice by even, by even, by even hazarding [with much loud emphasis on hazarding] that kind of reference. Because Dr. Rodriguez represented a lot of things, I mean I'm probably going further than I should should go. But to say that he's emblematic of the kind of change agent that someone could be from the outside, I'm not sure what evaluation document you were reading. So I would hope that you would reconsider that comment."

When Sanderson opened her mouth to reply to the multiple inquiries Jackson posed (He did make inquiries, didn't he? Such as I'm not sure what basis you are making that comment on, and what evaluation document were you reading)...

Jackson forcefully interrupted,

"That's a statement, it's not a question. It's a statement."

As someone noted here earlier, how cheap.

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering how much the former middle school principle was paid when she left in Sept. I don't recall if that was made public at the time.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:44:

Thanks for the info, and I will try to look at them.

I looked at the SC debate run by the students and it's terrific. I hope that ACTV will run it on multiple occasions.

So what's wrong with putting your name down? No one's going to bite you. I suppose that you are with Riverwolf, but who knows? That's the magic of anonymous posting.

I've told you who I am and identified myself in a Email to you. And you apparently read it on the air, which apparently "skewered" me. As you can tell, I'm devastated.

So where is that invite to Ms. Sanderson? Or is she just a whipping post for you guys? Or are you afraid that she just might make sense to you?

Awaiting your response or just simply contact Ms. Sanderson.

Rich Morse

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Nina - I think your suggestion is a great one. I actually do that all the time myself - and I also copy the principal of my kids' schools when I complement the teachers so that these notes are in their personnel files also. Ask any of the Fort River teachers my kids have had -- I do this all the time, and I do think it is good idea.

Rich - OK, so now it is seeming like it is more and more about gender ... I don't see why Irv and Steve had a talk with the student news and not me? And I have no idea what invitation I've ignored -- I went through my SPAM email today to see if it was in that, and I can't find it (at least during the last 6 months). I also don't have the impression that the student news has ridiculed Irv or Steve, and I've seen clear evidence that I've been ridiculed. So, to be clear to any students involved in Riverwolf productions: my email (, my home phone (256-4977), my office phone (542-2438).

Anonymous said...

I've read this blog from time to time, but never commented. I also watched the school committee meeting on TV and was dismayed by the majority decision not to look for a superintendent now. There are qualified people out there, and they're out there now. There are reasons that Mark Jackson doesn't want a search now - He really doesn't want to see significant change.
I'm a former educator and school administrator, so I think I have a pretty good understanding of what is going on here. Catherine Sanderson is a target (and yes she is being bullied) because she represents change in a system that really doesn't want to change. Many Amherst administrators and some teachers have long felt that Amherst is superior to other school systems. In fact, Amherst is so far behind current educational practice that it's embarrassing. The curriculum doesn't really exist, especially at the elementary level; there are no clear standards about what students should know and be able to do; and accountability for student learning and teacher performance doesn't seem to exist. The two outside reviews that have been done are spot on in their evaluations of the schools. Amherst has long been very insular and has not looked at best practice in other higher performing districts. When someone suggests that they do, it threatens the status quo.
This is very common when you look at it from an organizational perspective. Whenever anyone with some power comes into a school system (be that superintendent, school administrator, or school committee member) and advocates or implements change, the organization often goes after that person. They will do whatever they can to get rid of that person, because the person is threatening the status quo. Until Amherst can get a common vision that is shared by the school committee, the superintendent, and the teachers' union, (and this vision supports current practice in education) this will continue. It will take a miracle working superintendent to get everyone on the same page, but this really needs to happen. AND, it's practically guaranteed that any current administrator will NOT be able to lead the type of change that Amherst needs.
I feel sorry for the Amherst schools, because they are clearly in a crisis, and it doesn't look like anyone will be able to try to right this sinking ship for years to come.

Anonymous said...

The ball is clearly in the court of the young folks at Student News and the Graphic.

Given the fabulous SC debate they put on, they seem to realize that there's a news void out there that only they can fill: an appetite for local news (with the attendant controversy) and not enough sources.

Heck, I'm giving them free pub. Do you think their interview with you would get some attention? That Wolfsun fellow is a natural in front of the camera.

So we wait.

Anonymous said...

Catherine- is the report on ARMS going to be posted?

Anonymous said...

It seems as though the MM closing is a big issue for the Riverwolf staff - however, Andy Churchill - father of the Riverwolf producer - voted (in the unanimous SC vote) to close MM. So, why is CS being "skewered" but no one else is (besides Rich)?

Linda L. said...

8:37 to Rich Morse: if you think you're writing to students in your post, I would ask you to please exercise more maturity, discretion, restraint and respect. You ought to use the same tone that you would hope and expect would be used with your own child. I don't know if you're actually writing to students, but if you believe you are, please treat them the way you would want YOUR student treated.

I'm not sure what's happening in Amherst, but this kind of taunting even with names, or maybe especially with names, is particularly disturbing and upsetting.

LarryK4 said...

Mr. Jackson needs to learn some manners

Ed said...

I also don't have the impression that the student news has ridiculed Irv or Steve, and I've seen clear evidence that I've been ridiculed. So, to be clear to any students involved in Riverwolf productions:

Two interesting asides.

First, the "public figure" exemption to libel is dependent on the public figure being able to defend herself in that or similar forums. So if they are ridiculing Catherine but not interviewing her, well if I were the faculty advisor I would be concerned.

Second, what are the guidelines for the organization? There have to be some guidelines and one would hope that they include balance to political issues - not just interviewing one side. And as there are public resources involved (right?) then we get into the State Ethics Commission stuff.

The long and short is that you either gotta interview ALL the school committee members willing to show up, or none....

Anonymous said...

Let's be clear -Riverwolf Productions is NOT affiliated with the schools in any way other than that most of the teens go to ARHS. They do not have a faculty advisor, nor do they need to check in with the principal or the superintendent for approval of what they say or do.

Maybe they take exception to what Catherine says because they DISAGREE with her positions. Their lampoon of her was sophomoric- but no more sophomoric than much of what passes for commentary on this blog. But they have the excuse that most of them are 10th graders.

A.N.W. said...

if you cant be sophmoric when you're a sophmore, when the heck are you entitled to be?

Anonymous said...

But they have the excuse that most of them are 10th graders.

Actually, no, they don't.

This is a really interesting - and frankly scary - developing issue of law which is best recognized by the music downloading lawsuits.

From what I am seeing, there is no "I am just a kid" exemption for things being done in electronic media. And I do find this troubling as an educator because there are developmental issues directly related to age that correspond to responsiblity.

More importantly, 10th graders are minors and they can't be doing this on their own. There has to be an adult responsible, at least on paper -- either an adult directly responsible or their collective parents indirectly.

Unemancipated minors are unemancipated minors - and no matter how mature they are, they are always under the supervision of an adult who is legally responsible for them.

(And if you think this gets messy, think about the 17-year-old college freshman who won't turn 18 until a couple months into the semester...)

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:02 PM

Please refer to Anon Mar 10 10:06 AM in the thread that follows this for another persepective about
change always being the issue.

Anonymous said...

My point is that the student journalists don't know what CS's views are, and they are not willing to explore them OR they would have been fair to her, as reputable journalists (which I assume that they want to be) would be.

And it appears to me that they are hiding from her.

They are just part of the pack mentality inside of our schools that serves to caricature, demonize, and distort the views of others, especially those who have not dutifully climbed on the override bandwagon and/or advocated for the closing of Mark's Meadow. I've seen it in the skewed reporting both in the Graphic and on the Student News program. There's a grudge there.

As with Catherine, it becomes about my tone, ironically coming from anonymous posters sitting behind their Curtain of Cowardice.

So let's be clear, since I might be guilty of being impolite and that might be gumming up the works: these young adults are capable of some really terrific broadcast work, as the recent SC debate demonstrates. It was must-see TV. I would expect a CS interview to be nothing less. How much more complimentary can I be?

Day 2: still no invitation to CS.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...


I honor your courage in speaking the truth. You have to put up with a lot of petty and nasty behavior.

1) I think Amherst is forgetting that the teachers and administrators are public employees - i.e. they work for us and are responsible to us.

2) I believe that there is truth to what has been suggested on the blog - that Mr. Jackson's comments to the effect that he has read the evaluations of Rodriguez are quite troubling. If in fact that occurred the law may have been violated and a severe reprimand should follow . I recognize that you may not be able to act on that supposition, but someone should. In my view there is too much internecine politics within the District.

Each passing day shows the extent of the decay of the system. I am not sure the regional system can work without a complete re-vamping - cleaning out the high priced insular administrators and replacing them with experienced but hungry new blood with a fresh view of education. Of course this would have to be done carefully and with an eye to continuous improvement. The idea is that we might be able to save money, improve the schools and better serve our community.

3) In my view Ms. Geryk is not a capable candidate for a system in crisis. In fact I believe that her inability was one of the reasons the District is in such fiscal trouble. Just as Rodriguez was forced out after 8 months I see no obligation to keep Ms. Geryk in her position for 16. We do so at our own peril.

Please stick around. We need people like you to stand up for what is right for the District.

Anonymous said...

to Rich Morse -"pack mentality"? from what I can see that may be a perfect way to describe the regulars on this blog. You don't sound impolite at all. You sound like you're trying to demonize and pressure students.

What the heck is going on in Amherst? Aren't we supposed to be working together to improve the schools for Amherst kids? Focus, people.

Anonymous because I don't want to be slapped in public.

Anonymous said...

In my view, this school committee is not prepared to fix a system in crisis, especially one of its own making.

David said...

I would like to echo Joel's call for a public apology from Principal Jackson. I think this is critical. The whole town in waiting.

I had previously suspected that the crux of the problem here is rampant insularity and cronyism. Boor Jackson (it seems wrong to dignify him with "Principal" and certainly not "Principle Jackson" as one poster did) really confirmed this suspicion. GASP--she gave some well deserved credit to THE OUTSIDER!!!

Alternatively, if he feels he is unable to render a public apology, I would be happy to meet him in the schoolyard at 4:00. No teachers. Really. Let's go Jackson. Great example you set. That's how I and the other science nerds dealt with bullies back in the day... You deserve the same.

Jackass er Jackson seems to have forgotten that the SC is his boss's boss. He is talking UP the chain of command in this display. Imagine how he treats his subordinates!

It is the SC's right, and indeed their fiduciary responsibility, to formulate their own opinions and act on them. Even if they are unpopular with the principals or senior administrators or other cronies. ESPECIALLY if they are unpopular. Jackson's rage seemed to stem from his perception that his evaluation of Dr. Rodriguez was not accepted unilaterally as gospel.

My wish for the School Committee: DRAIN THIS SWAMP. Clean house. I can tell you the override has no chance of passing now. Jackson's eruption knocked the fencesitters onto the NO side. The public has lost faith. Drain this swamp-- Jackson's miasma is nauseating. He should clean out his desk. Drain it before our children succumb to this perverse malaria which is so unfitting for a town like Amherst.

My other wish--that Jackson will meet me at 4:00. Remember mark--no teachers!

Nina Koch said...


I need to say that I am very uncomfortable with the way that you are talking to the student journalists. I am especially bothered by the "grow a set" reference in your original email to them, because you don't appear to regret it at this point.

I believe them when they say that they extended an invitation to Catherine last year if only because they want their show to have interesting content. I would think they would want any high profile interview they could get. It has nothing to do with whether or not the journalist agrees with the person being interviewed.

By the way, they have exams all this week and are probably studying right now. I don't know all of the kids on the crew, but the ones whom I do know are excellent students, in every sense of the word.

LarryK4 said...

Look around: it's 2010 and the Internet has changed EVERYTHING.

Student journalists--if they want to become real journalists--better figure out pretty fast how to handle the heat.

Anonymous said...

LarryK4's wrong but he just gave us a view into his brain. He believes the internet changes everything.... and allows for bullying, inappropriate language, and inexplicably bad behavior by adults - towards other adults and children in our community.

The internet gives permission for shameful behaviors, "heat". That explains alot.

Anonymous said...


I love the way you sift content to get to the stuff that really bugs you. How much apologizing and self-flagellation about my tone do I need to do before you engage the point?

If there was an invitation to CS, it was like a tree falling in the woods.

Think of it this way: if the news organizations at the High School were taken over by anti-override students who simply pumped out content supporting that position, would any of the adults in the community be concerned about that?

With an audience that included first-time ever voters in the spring elections? Oh, you bet they would.

I'm guilty of taking these very talented kids and their roles as journalists seriously. Your discomfort is not necessarily the touchstone of proper comment in town.

My point has been all along: I believe that there are ideas and issues that Catherine would talk about in an interview that students could get enthusiastic about. That opportunity has been closed down. Do you call that a free press?

Rich Morse

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I've done a separate post now on "the process of change" so I'm not going to respond individually to all of these. But here are my assorted thoughts:

1. I have no idea if we could have found a strong outside interim or permanent superintendent to start July 1st. But I think it is a shame that we didn't even try. Even if ultimately we chose Maria, at least the community would have known that we made this decision with full awareness of the options -- and not just out of ease. I think that would have increased community confidence in the decision-making and transparency within the district.

2. The interim choice last time (Helen/Al) was made in MID-JUNE for a July 1st start. That was obviously less than ideal - but our only choice, since that is when Jere left. I have heard from numerous sources that you can indeed find high quality and experienced interim superintendents (often retired people) who seek one year jobs -- and those people would be available in March/April. Again, I think this would have been worth a shot.

3. Anonymous 12:02 - I agree with your comment. I like Maria and believe she did a good job last year when she stepped in. And I think she can keep the trains running on time, which means she can maintain the status quo. What I'm concerned about is her ability to move the trains in a different direction -- and I think we would have more confidence in her ability to do that if we had conducted a real search, and she had emerged as the strongest candidate.

Mary Carey - thank you so much for your comments ... I've never thought of myself as the "smart cheerleader" ... but that is a lot better than some things I've been described as of late! Thank you -- and we miss your articles at the Bulletin/Gazette!

Anonymous 8:25 - thank you for the transcript of the exchange ... I believe interested viewers can now also watch the exchange on Larry's blog. I do believe Mark's behavior was rude -- and it was hurtful. I am also now hoping we can move on past this to the hard work we all have ahead.

Anonymous 9:02 - your comments for me captured a lot of what I see: "Amherst has long been very insular and has not looked at best practice in other higher performing districts. When someone suggests that they do, it threatens the status quo.
This is very common when you look at it from an organizational perspective. Whenever anyone with some power comes into a school system (be that superintendent, school administrator, or school committee member) and advocates or implements change, the organization often goes after that person. They will do whatever they can to get rid of that person, because the person is threatening the status quo." Thank you for your wisdom.

And finally, let me re-iterate my point: I have NEVER been invited to appear on the Riverwolf production by anyone. If the students are interested in interviewing me for their show, I am absolutely willing to be interviewed, and can be reached by phone (256-4977, 542-2438) or email (

One final thing: I believe the interaction between me and Mark Jackson has received plenty of attention. I'd now like to move on to discuss issues related to education ... and not this one incident, so I'm not posting any more responses that address this.

And just to be clear: I have posted ALL comments that I've received unless they have really no point (e.g., I didn't post one that said at some point "save the drama for your mama").