By NICK GRABBE
Thursday, April 15, 2010
AMHERST - Regional School Committee members will have to decide whether they want to hire a consultant to look for superintendent candidates or conduct their own search.
Jacqueline Roy, the consultant whose search brought former Superintendent Alberto Rodriguez to Amherst, has declined to conduct another for free or at a reduced fee, to compensate the town for Rodriguez's March 8 departure after only eight months.
"I can't imagine why you would want to use my services,'" she said, according to committee Chairman Farshid Hajir. She's read Amherst's blogs and concluded that citizens would resent her involvement, he said.
Roy suggested that Amherst conduct a regional rather than national search, because New England school committees interact with superintendents more than other parts of the country. She said Amherst should make clear to candidates the number of night meetings required and the town's distinctive social and political culture, Hajir said.
An in-house search would save about $20,000 but would require more work by committee members and staff.
Mari Geryk is serving as interim superintendent until June 2011. The search that resulted in Rodriguez started 10 months before he started work here last July.
More than 17 at-risk electives have been restored to the budget at Amherst Regional High School, and students can choose among them and other courses to replace one of the two mandated study halls next year, said Geryk.
The process of selecting courses ended Friday, and in a few weeks administrators will know how many study halls can be eliminated, she said. The committee urged her to reduce the number of mandated study halls.
Committee member Steve Rivkin has argued that many class sizes could sustain an increase as a way to maximize instruction time. He said that in Newton, many classes other than English have 25 or more students.
$100K in renovations OK'd
The Regional School Committee has agreed to pay $100,000 for interior renovations at the South Amherst Campus, which in the fall will absorb students now at the East Street Alternative High School.
Both buildings are owned by the town. Consolidation of the two programs, which serve students with emotional problems as well as those suspended from regular classrooms, is estimated to save $178,000 a year.
The reason the schools are being asked to pay the renovation costs is that they involve adjustments to a town asset, said Hajir.
Geryk said she's confident that the consolidation is "a strong programmatic move" and will reduce the need for expensive out-of-district placements. Business Manager Rob Detweiler said that the renovations will make the space more flexible.
Students hold issue-based forums
A group of high school students has been holding monthly forums on such issues as study halls, achievement gaps and outreach, said student Hailey Andler, who is a nonvoting School Committee member. Future topics will include class sizes, absenteeism policy, special education, semesters vs. trimesters, vocational schools, computers, open campus and heterogeneous vs. homogeneous honors classes, she said.
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.