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, April 2, 2010

Middle School Principal Candidates Talk to Parents

Hampshire Gazette
By NICK GRABBE, Staff Writer
April 2, 2010

AMHERST – Interim Superintendent Maria Geryk can choose an outsider or an insider as the next principal of the Regional Middle School.

She will announce her decision Tuesday, she said. On Thursday night, as 50 parents sized up the two finalists, Geryk sat in the back of the room, listening and interacting with children.

Karsten Schlenter, 47, has been a middle school principal in Michigan for nine years, while Michael Hayes, 35, has been a math teacher and administrator at the middle school for over 12 years. The third finalist, Paul Goodhind, withdrew on Wednesday.

“I believe as an outsider I can bring some good ideas to this community, not only from Michigan, but from growing up in a different country,” said Schlenter, a native of Germany. “With an outside perspective, I can say, 'Have you ever thought about doing it this way?' and think outside the box.”

Hayes said that “being an insider creates a lot of value and a lot of challenges. The value is I know the school very well. I know the staff, students and community. My wife went to school here.” He said that if he's the new principal, “on the first day, we're going to take off.”

Schlenter's school in suburban Saginaw has seen major cutbacks. It has much bigger class sizes than Amherst and no assistant principal, and Schlenter said he expects to be laid off soon. “I need a job,” he said.

He said he arrives at the school at 6 a.m. every morning to deal with administrative responsibilities, so he can spend more time later in classrooms, mentoring teachers and prodding them to reflect on what techniques work best.

Asked what makes a good teacher and principal, Schlenter said, “You need to be able to relate to kids and build trust. They don't care about your subject knowledge until they know you care about them.” Likewise, he said he wouldn't “come here and change everything” but would first work to build trust with staff, students and community.

He said he likes working in a middle school, where students are at “a crucial age and like to explore and take chances. High schoolers are more set in their ways, while middle school educators can have some influence.”

Schlenter said he has no ambition to be a superintendent. “If I was hired here, I would be here to stay,” he said, adding that his wife and daughters would join him.

“When you take a position like this, it isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle, and your family has to be on board,” he said.

Asked to define “rigor,” Schlenter said, “You want kids to enjoy education, to experiment and apply knowledge. To me, that is rigor, because it makes it so much more meaningful.”

Hayes grew up in California and started in the Amherst schools as a paraprofessional before becoming a teacher.

“The importance was not the math I was teaching, but trying to help 100 students understand something important,” he said. “The challenge is making it work for all those learners. It's about as hard a job as you could do.”

A parent challenged Hayes's insider status, asking about his association with a math curriculum that is going to be under review. “I'm not ever stuck in one model,” he responded. “I believe in continuous improvement.”

Another parent asked if increased interest in private and charter schools means the middle school needs to change. Hayes responded that although parents at open houses speak positively about the school, “I'm not someone who likes to sit around and do the same thing over and over.”

Hayes said he has learned a lot from consultant Barry Beers, who delivered a critical report about the middle school last month. (Schlenter was not familiar with Beers' report.) Beers told Hayes he wrote to Geryk saying that as principal he could carry out the report's recommendations, he said.

“I know this staff and I know how to bring them forward, and they will follow me,” Hayes said.

Asked about bullying, he said that on Monday, English teachers at the middle school will do a lesson on misuse of the words “gay,” “retarded” and “sped.” “At the end of the lesson, we'll say, 'Now you know, so we're going to call you on it,” he said.

Asked about his commitment to stay on the job, Hayes said he just bought a house in Pelham and wants to be principal at the middle school when his young daughter is there.

“In six years, if I'm not here, it's because I wasn't doing a good job,” he said.

87 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did our HR director send all the candidates (or at least our finalists) a copy of the Beers report? That seems critical.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry the way this article starts. Why does it have to be framed as "insider" vs "outsider".

These two men should be considered based on their credentials and their potential to lead the school.

It feels very over-simplistic and a bit insulting to them to package them this way.

Anonymous said...

Qualifications aside, we need an outsider to bring integrity back to the system. If we have learned anything over the past few years it is that insular management leads to decay and mismanagement.

No offense to Mr. Hayes who I find affable. My judgement is that we should bring in someone who M. Geryk does not "own" from the beginning of his tenure.

Anonymous said...

Along the lines of 11:40:

I would think every candidate should have been well-versed in the Beers report, and that should have been HR's job to ensure it happened. Candidates should not have to ask, "gee, are there any recent evaluation reports I should read?"

It is a concern if Mr Schlenter did not know anything about it.

TomG said...

I liked Nick's article about the two finalits. He presented a narrative about each and a profile of each.

Cleary it was written for print edition. It'd be a plus is he link to other materials in the on-line edition, such as resume or other materials posted on the ARPS site.

Ed said...

I say go with the outsider.

For all these reasons and more.

Anonymous said...

Let's hire the most experienced, best qualified educator with a proven record for success as middle school principal. Last year, the Regional School Committee hired the least experienced, least qualififed candidate who had never been a superintedent, a person who had held a series of short-term interim positions. That turned out horribly.

The middle school has not had consistent leadership for over 4 years. The district needs a proven, experienced leader with a successful track record. Let's not pick the least qualified candidate for our children -- and hope for the best.

Curious observer said...

This decision is the first major decision for acting Superintendent Maria Geryk. It is a test of her leadership.

Who does she pick -- her inexperienced colleague that she knows well and likes and who gets along -- or the candidate with many years of experience leading an excellent middle school?

And who does she pick for?

Anonymous said...

One question. If Mr. Schlenter is such a great principal why is he being laid off as stated in the Gazette?

Anonymous said...

Mike Hayes: He knows us and he STILL loves us.
He's the man.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22 - You must have been at a different meeting than I was - Mr. Hayes is the one who went into great detail about how he has already started to address the concerns in the Beers report and how he specifically will continue the work next year.

Mr.Schlenter,while he seemed like a very nice, sincere man, said nothing specific about what he would do. While he has more "experience," he has no experience in a town like Amherst. The demographics of his school are very different - while he has many students on free and reduced lunch, he doesn't have the diversity we do in this town. I worry about not only the diversity issue, but I'm also concerned about his ability to address the needs of our brightest students. I heard him say a lot about making kids feel part of the school and safe and happy - I think the school already does that for the most part. He did not satisfactorily address how he would make sure all students would be engaged and receive a challenging experience while in the middle school. I heard Mr. Hayes, on the other hand, talking about "differentiating up," and ideas he'd like to implement with a new schedule which would help address this.

Comparing the experience of these two men is like comparing apples to oranges. Mr. Schlenter may have more years as a principal, but he has no experience as a person who has lived and worked in Amherst. I'm afraid this place would eat the man alive, and the middle school would end up facing another change in leadership.

Mr. Hayes knows the town, knows the system, knows the staff, and has specific plans to move the school forward. I hope Ms. Geryk has the courage to choose the best candidate, not the one some people think is the better candidate simply on the basis of his being an outsider.

Anonymous said...

To the extent that Schlenter seems like a "fresh" take, consider that it's because he does not know the context fully yet--just like Supt. Rodriguez didn't. While I enjoyed his presentation, I also observed that he was unprepared for the role. Not having read the Beers report (but first mistakenly indicating he had), having no experience with any sort of diversity (ethnic / racial or ELL), not having experience leading a regional system... I came to the conclusion that his leadership skills might not add up to as much as we'd gain from Mike Hayes, who has the respect of the teachers and familiarity, hitting the ground running. (Though I agree, I would have liked more detail from him.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:13 says:

"Not having read the Beers report" is a reason Mr. Schlenter was "unprepared for the role".

I'm interested to know if he had the opportunity to read the report, because it was provided to him before the interview by HR, or if he didn't have that opportunity because it wasn't provided.

Can you answer that question, Catherine?

What to do? said...

I don't doubt the sincerity and drive of both candidates. I do believe that Mike has been working in the district on many of the issues that don't seem to be working. I don't feel he has the leadership / judgment to take on this position yet. He needs more time and more mentoring from outside people. He may be a great leader in 5 or 10 years. He really could use some experience from outside our district.

The other candidate seemed good, great in some ways and ok in others. He seems much more like a leader. He understands the difficulties of his role well. I think it is far to pessimistic to say that just because and inexperience outsider like Rodriguez could not handle Amherst does not mean the man from Michigan could not handle Amherst. I think he would do a good job. Great?? I don't know, we would just have to see.

From my point of view I hope Maria hires Schlenter or fails the search. Mike seems like a nice guy but not ready yet.

Anonymous said...

Everyone should take a look at Mr. Schlenter's online info. He has done some wonderful things at his present school.

Anonymous said...

The Beer's report is on the district home page. It seems like the first thing you do is scour the web site before you arrive as a candidate. It is a bad sign if the candidate did not do this.

Anonymous said...

I think I was at the same meeting as 1:22.

I don't think that Mr Schlenter came across as a good leader for this school at this time. Some of the things about leading our MS that others have listed are missing from his experience.

I really wonder why he had not read the evaluation report. That was a big faux pas on someone's part..him or HR? How could he talk to us about his vision for the school without being aware of what was in the report?

I understand the concerns about Mr Hayes, but do feel he better expressed his ideas of how he would address the future needs of this school at this time. One could argue that he is part of the past so partly responsible for these "needs", but he also seems like a man of integrity who could honestly lead the staff through the process of improving as a school.

I wish there was someone we could all get truly excited about, but that hasn't been seen in these parts for awhile. A failed search would be very frustrating, another year of an interim? No thanks.

Abbie said...

Having just passed an override where most of the money goes to support our schools, I think it would be HUGE mistake if Mr. Hayes were hired. It seems to me that most of the support for Mr. Hayes comes from teachers and most of those who do not are parents. That should raise a BIG red flag and is something Ms. Geryk should pay close attention to.

It was clear to me that Mr. Hayes is very much a non-traditionalist. He career path has been entirely off-trail and frankly all over the place, with short stints in many roles, with no formal training.

I am flipping between the belief that "no, they can't possibly consider hiring him" to "Oh my god, what if he were hired". If he is hired, I will be deeply disgusted with the administration and my faith in Ms. Geryk shattered.

Anonymous said...

I had a difficult time finding Michigan student data compared to the MA EESE (DOE) website with its easy to find demographic info, but at a glance it would appear that Saginaw is pretty diverse.

The overall population data (from 2000 census) shows that Saginaw is 43% African-American, 47% white with the balance mostly Hispanic, particularly Mexican-American.

Hardly not diverse. However, if Schlenter's responses to the topic of multiculturalism were truly tepid and clueless, then his candidacy is highly questionable.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I'm not going to individually reply to all comments -- but just want to answer a few questions that have been asked.

1. I have no idea if the finalists and/or candidates were sent the Beers report. I agree that this should have happened. Based on Mr. Schenter's response (I attend the finalists' forum), it did not appear to me that he had been sent the report. And although someone on this blog pointed out that it was on the website, so are many things -- I don't think it would be reasonable to expect a candidate to search each document.

2. Mr. Schenter addressed the issue of why he is leaving his current district at the parents' forum: he is losing his job due to budget cuts (thus will be unemployed as of July 1st). He has the least tenure of any principal in his district (at 9 years). He is not losing his job due to poor performance.

Anonymous said...

"It was clear to me that Mr. Hayes is very much a non-traditionalist. He career path has been entirely off-trail and frankly all over the place"

Abbie his career path has been all over the place because he has been asked to step in and fill-in many rolls...He has done what has been asked of him...and done an EXCELLENT job.

curious observer said...

If Mr. Schlenter is used to working with no other administrators or guidance counselors -- could that mean less administrative staff and more $ available for teachers and programs under his administration? Even if the middle school adminstrative staff was cut only by 50% that would free up a lot of money to go directly to instruction, more P.E., art, science materials, afterschool clubs and sports.

Also, if the best praise of Mr. Hayes is that he if familiar with the middle school and our town, that is faint praise indeed. What has he done at the middle school that is an accomplishment? Has he done program evaluation, teacher evaluation, put in programs that have closed the achievment gap? Is he known as being particularly talented at differential teaching?

Finally, why is his resume under wraps? Wouldn't the resumes of all the candidates be posted?

Rick said...

We can get what we need to get done with either of these candidates, just as we can and will get a lot done over the next 15 months with Ms. Geryk as Superintendent in place of Dr. Rodriguez. We cannot afford not to.

In my view there is way too much discussion about who is doing - or will be doing - the job, and not enough on the job itself and measuring how we are doing on that job.

I for one will be asking ARPS administration to:

a. List the specific jobs that need to be done (specific “to do” items to achieve the district goals) and keep those in front of us at all times.

b. Keep us informed – in specific detail – about how we are doing on each item and timelines for each item in process.

I hope you all join me in focusing on what it is we need to do and not so much on who is doing it.

I ran a business for a number of years. Whether employees moved up from the inside or came in from the outside didn’t matter. What mattered is whether they got the job done. Critical to that was their knowing exactly what the job was and measuring whether or not the job was getting done.

how long can the kids wait? said...

Rick,

I don't really understand your post under the article on the middle school principal hire. I read your post as saying you don't care who gets hired, just as long as they get the job done. But that seems to skirt the issue of who you hire to do the best job and how you know ahead of time if they will get the job done.

Do you hire the best qualified candidate who has proven they can get the job done? Or hire any plausible candidate and hope they get the job done -- with the school committee checking in periodically to make sure things on track? If it's not working out, a few years of turmoil, then give it a shot at hiring again. Do qualifications and past record count for anything when making a hire?

As a parent, I want experienced, successful, qualified teachers in my childrens's classroom. I want the same quality of people running my childrens' schools. Few parents could look at this district and see anything but administrative change and chaos for the past few years. It needs to stop.

We need steady experienced hands now. No, we needed them four years ago when the former principal yet.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the person who stated that the Beers report is on the Web Site and respectfully disagree with Catherine that is it not reasonable to expect someone to research the blog...it is a standard expectation that someone interested in this level a position do their homework...all of it. Any time I have done a job search I felt it was my obligation to research the institution, have questions based on the information I was able to read and that came from the Web Site. I have been responsible for hiring many entry level admission counselors (right out of college) during my career and frankly would not have hired anyone who did not do their homework at the junior level much less the senior level. Mr. Schlenter does need a job but should have done his homework before coming to interview at the finalist stage. Anyone worthwhile would have read everything on the WEb Site that related to the Middle School so that they were prepared and so that they could ask the pertinent questions they might have for themselves. Not having done this implies to me that he is not really interested in Amherst but in a job...any job.

I also take issue with the statement that all people who support Mike Hayes are teachers and not parents. There is a small handful of parents at the Middle School who are involved with the FSP. (It is actually very disappointing how few parents are willing to give their time to make the Middle School a better place) As part of this small group I have had the pleasure to work with Mike and see him in action. He has been professional, cares deeply about the students in the MS, comes to every FSP meeting, is willing to listen to new ideas and ran a professional oreintation program recently to name just a few things. I have thought all year long, why are we searching for someone when we have the right person here. I know for a fact that others of the group of about 6 of us who take the time to be at orientation, teacher appreciation day, work to run fund raisers etc. all feel that Mike would indeed be a good choice for the Middle School principal based on what we have witnessed this year. So before you say parents are not pleased it might make sense to see if the parents who express displeasure have any direct experience with Mr. Hayes or if it is this weird-no one who works here could possibly be as good as someone from the outside mentality. what a demoralizing attitude. Remember Mike stepped up when we needed him, worked hard, learned, grew in the position and has done a great job. Why would anyone in their right mind what to take on new challenges when they are needed if by definition they are not qualified for the permanent position due to already being in the system. What would you want to work hard? No matter what happens I for one am very appreciate that Mike Hayes ran the ship this year. What would we have done in September if Mike and Mark Jackson had not risen to the challenge?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1:10 - When asked about the diversity of his school he told the audience he couldn't claim it was diverse. He said that a Mexocan family had recently moved to town, so he had three Mexican children in his school.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Two quick responses:

Anonymous 4:59 - I responded to a question about whether all the finalists were given a copy of the Beers report, and I stated that I didn't know if they had been, but that they should have been. I still believe this - I've also hired people, and we certainly give people information about our current department, etc. That just seems to me to be appropriate and courteous -- perhaps especially since one of the candidates was an insider and thus would obviously have much more information.

Anonymous 5:11 - just to clarify: Mr. Schlenker was NOT asked about diversity. He was asked about experience with ELL students, which is NOT the same as diversity. He responded that there were three, and then he joked that there were four because he also was an ELL speaker. People laughed. Then he noted that a family had moved recently to his district from Mexico with three kids, and these kids were at various stages of learning English. That is pretty much the exact nature of the interaction, and he admitted that he did NOT have experience as a principal with ELL students, although he also noted that he had experience with ELL from the point of view of a student, since that had been his own experience. It is entirely inaccurate to characterize the interaction as someone asking "what is your experience with diversity?" and him replying "there are three kids from Mexico."

Anonymous said...

Three kids from Mexico? That's weird.

With the population of Saginaw at 11% Mexican, he must not be in the school where their kids are.

Correct, ELL does not equal diversity, although I would have thought people would ask about that, too. It's "kind of" an important aspect of the Amherst schools....community....

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 5:56 - I'm not sure if you attended the forum or have read anything about Mr. Schlenker, but Mr. Schlenker works in a middle school in Swan Valley District (NOT Saginaw), which (according to the website) is 91.1% white. I can't find information on ELL students -- but I believe him when he says there are only 3 ELL students. It is distinctly possible there are Mexican and/or Latino kids who are not classified as ELL by the time they reach MS, right?!?

Rick said...

Anon 4:47 said: ”I read your post as saying you don't care who gets hired, just as long as they get the job done.”

Well, literally I suppose that is true, as getting the job done is the goal. But I started my post with “We can get what we need to get done with either of these candidates...”, which means my judgment is they are both qualified to do the job and are not just ”any plausible candidate[s]”.

I will say though that maybe my comment is in the wrong blog post – as this is a post about who will be chosen, so its normal all the talk would be about that and not necessarily about goals.

So I guess my comments are really about after the choice is made – whatever it is – that I hope we can then focus on goals and measuring progress on those goals.

Anonymous said...

I have a niece in the middle school and one on the way. If it is true that it was Mr. Hayes and his wife, who is a Math teacher at the middle school, who created the extensions program, we need new leadership. My niece is busy with sports and friends and will not do anything she doesn't need to do. Extension is a cope out to differentiation. The comment of "differentiating up" seems like something he prepared in anticipation of the meeting with parents who know what's going on.
I think the Math teachers are all close friends and are allowed not to teach to all levels in the classes. I say pay for Dr. Beeers to work with the teachers in the summer and hire Schlenter. Hayes, et al have had enough chances.

Anonymous said...

So Catherine - if Swan Valley district is 91.1% white, it is a pretty decent inference that his middle school is not diverse. So while anon 1:10 may have gotten the question wrong, there is not much diversity in his district.

Anonymous said...

Swan Valley is in Saginaw, MI.

He works in the white part of town.

What to do? said...

Hey not to shock anyone, but we are a predominately white community as well. More diverse than Swan but 77% compared to 91% not a huge difference. We are a very accepting and welcoming community and it is a great place to live but:

Races in Amherst:

* White Non-Hispanic (76.7%)
* Hispanic (6.2%)
* Black (5.1%)
* Chinese (3.4%)
* Two or more races (3.4%)
* Other race (2.9%)
* Asian Indian (1.6%)
* Other Asian (1.4%)
* Korean (1.3%)
* American Indian (0.9%)
* Japanese (0.6%)
* Vietnamese (0.5%)

From the web site there is some cross over in the statistics so it may add up to a bit more than 100%.

Source:
http://www.city-data.com/city/Amherst-Massachusetts.html

ARMS Parent said...

I don't think we can fault Mr. Schlenter for not working at a very diverse school. Someone has to lead all-white schools too!! I would prefer that he had some more experience with diversity but bottom line is that we need a good EDUCATOR, we are not hiring a social justice coordinator here! His practices, as I heard him speak and as I saw both on his web site and on the web site of his current school, are something we could really use here at ARMS.

One of the problems Dr. Beers mentioned is instruction--lack of differentiation, poor planning, and poor alignment within grade even! To solve that, we need an experienced educator who has spent a lot of time TEACHING so he/she can really evaluate what our teachers are doing and be a MENTOR to bring their instructional methods in line with the expectations of the school. Mr. Schlenter not only does that now in his current school--he was also a teacher for many years (and still teaches at a community college). From Mr. Hayes talk (only basis for judgement since we haven't seen his actual resume), he has spent maybe two years in the classroom as a very junior teacher and only in math. Mr. Schlenter has taught social studies and foreign language!

I almost don't even know why I am posting, though. I figured those in power here would gladly latch on to the fact that Mr. Schlenter's current school has very little diversity and ELL and use that as a justification not to hire him. I knew as soon as I saw Mr. Hayes name on the list of finalists that Maria Geryk would choose him. I guess I still dare to hope that professionalism and caring for our kids would win out over nepotism. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

If Swan Valley is 91% white then there is no diversity. Everyone, especially in Amherst, knows that all white people are identical and their contributions, beliefs and experiences are to be rudely discounted!

Abbie said...

So the folks that are supporting Mr. Hayes are happy with the idea that he learns how to be a principle while on the job. And then say that Mr. Schlenter with 9 years experience as principle can't learn on the job more about diversity (if he needs to)?

Again, this is nothing against Mr. Hayes as a person, it is a question of experience and having the qualities required of an effective principle. Both his time spent as curriculum administrator (where it appears nothing was done) and his role in extensions, which he claims has been evaluated every year but no one else seems to have seen those evaluations are REALLY scary! To name a couple of things.

Yes, folks can claim he had short stints in many jobs because he was asked but in order to build a solid reputation, you have to stay with a position long enough to show that you are effective in those positions. Just having had them offers no confidence in itself.

I'd like to remind folks of what Mr. Hayes said "when I don't know what to do, I call Mark (Jackson)?" This after being a 'co-principle'. Do we want a principle who has to call the HS principle because he doesn't know what to do or do we hire a principle who has been doing a fine job for 9 years? Or do should the search be failed?

Anonymous said...

What to do -- you are wrong.

The overall population of a community (all ages) typically isn't the same as the school district population. You have to look at the correct age range.

Eg, Amherst:
76.7% White,
5.10% Black or African American, 0.21% Native American,
9.02% Asian,
0.09% Pacific Islander,
2.89% from other races
3.35% from two or more races
6.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

But that's everyone in the 2000 Census.


The Amherst school population is very different. I took this info from the K-6 page of MA DESE website.

African American 7.7
Asian 12.7
Hispanic 17.3 (compare to 6.2% overall)
Native American 0.2
White 53.0 (compare to 77% overall)
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander 0.4
Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic 8.7 (compare to 3.4% overall)

I'm not BLAMING Mr. Schlenker, who may be a delightful, talented school administrator. I'm just pointing out that he hasn't worked (in Swan Valley, anyway) in a district like Amherst. So, let's make sure he gets what he'd be walking into if he were to be hired. An dlet's make sure we hire someone who knows what MSAN stands for, and why Amherst is part of it, and actually CARES about that.

There is little tolerance for a learning curve in Amherst, regardless of the issue to be learned.

I think that is something we can all agree on -- the lack of patience/tolerance for newcomers to "get" it. The first mistake -- oh boy.

Does he know what "MSAN" means? What a terrible thing to do -- hire someone, move his family, but not adquately prep him as to the values of the community.

Ed said...

middle school in Swan Valley District (NOT Saginaw), which (according to the website) is 91.1% white. I can't find information on ELL students -- but I believe him when he says there are only 3 ELL students. It is distinctly possible there are Mexican and/or Latino kids who are not classified as ELL by the time they reach MS, right?!?

I have a very different take on this.

I went into a "Giant", which is a grocery store. I noticed three things in the following order:

(1) Giant is identical to Stop & Shop (and actually is owned by them.

(2) The police officer (S&S in cities hires detail officers after 9PM as a policy) was wearing his gun on his left side.

(3) All of the cottage cheese was out of code (typical S&S...)

(4) I was the only white person in the store.

My point is simple: not everyone is as much of a racists as the racists in Amherst are. There are lots of people in the rest of the country who simply don't care what race you are. There really are places like that...

And maybe he isn't qualified for the 25.23 square miles that are surrounded by reality -- but if he isn't, you all need to admit to yourselves just how racist you all truly are.

What was it that Dr. King once said about the "content of character and not color of skin?

And yes, Catherine, in much of the rest of the country, parents push their children to learn English so that they can become successful. And it is quite possible that after a year or two, the kids ARE fluent in English and hence no longer ELL....

What to do? said...

Anon 12:53, thanks for your correction. I decided to take it a step further and check the 7-12 population from the mass doe site. It certainly does show a lower numbers but not as low as the K-6 (65% 7-12, 53% K-6, 77% overall population) I assume the population of Lev., Shute, and Pelham have an impact. I also included the state numbers as well. I thought it was rather interesting to see how we match up. Our overall diversity is similar to the state at large. Pretty cool.

District State
African American 7.2 8.2
Asian 8.9 5.3
Hispanic 12.3 14.8
Native American 0.2 0.3
White 64.7 69.1
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander 0.1 0.1
Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic
6.5 2.2

Your point is well taken. We don’t want anyone coming to Amherst that is not ready, as we do seem like a tough crowd to deal with. We also don’t want someone who will bail in a year or two. I did like Schlenker better but I don’t know if he is a perfect fit for us. I still believe Mike for all his good intentions is not ready. I would rather have Schlenker or a failed search. I wish there was a way to send Mike H. to a different district for a few years and get him back. I think that would benefit both Mike and Amherst tremendously. I know I learned many things from the various companies I worked for and I know my approaches to problem solving were much stronger for it.

ken said...

Ed, they don't just push them, they also have to give them the magic "learn English in a year or two" pill, and say the special incantation. Only then does it just take a year or two.

I'm with Abbie on this one--how horrific to have a principal that teachers really like! Anything but that!

Anonymous said...

What are the demographics of the regional school students not Amherst's?

Maybe we should just tell people only to apply for jobs if they are working in schools with our exact demographics, school by school. You can't be too picky or exacting in your standards.

Anonymous said...

Wow, now we're (or is it just Ed?)jumping to the conclusion that someone is saying someone is a racist...or something like that...or maybe something else...not one of your clearer posts, Ed.

Nobody is saying anybody is a racist. I'm saying that race, class and issues of social justice are a big deal in Amherst. Whether this is as it should be, or shouldn't be, is not the topic of discussion.

The hiring of someone who may have little or no experience in a diverse district, and thus has no idea what's awaiting him here in Amherst -- that's the topic.

To hire someone whom we don't know is ready to hit the ground running on that particular topic is not doing anyone (the town, the kids, the staff, nor the hire and his family) a favor.

I wish Mr. Schlenker would spend a coupe of hours reading this blog.

If he still wants the job, more power to him.

Anonymous said...

Now Ed.

Race, class and issues of social justice are a big deal in Amherst. Whether this is where school admin's attention should or shouldn't be is not the topic of this thread, unless you're trying to turn it that way.

The hiring of someone who may have little or no experience in a diverse district, and thus likely may have no idea what's expected of him here in Amherst -- that's the topic.

Based on what I've read here, my short list of what matters in the MS hire is:
1. Prior MS principal experience in a district with high educational expecations and strong outcomes.
2. Deep knowledge of curriculum and curriculum integration/management.
3. Strong leadership skills.
4. Experienced in leading a school with a racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse population.

Anonymous said...

Although I opposed Mike Hayes for the ARMS Principal position a few years ago, I have seen some real growth from him since that time. My son was in the middle school several years ago, did the extensions and I strongly oppose the extensions curriculum (for many reasons including complete lack of evidence of their success, that students are not taught the material,and that they are essentially extra homework appealing to a small overachieving over-resourced population in Amherst).

However, this past year I thought Mike Hayes demonstrated extraordinary leadership, maturity and vision as the acting principal-like in ARMS when Glenda Cresto left. I also think he demonstrated the value of having someone in the "inside" who understands the school and its needs when trying to respond to difficult budget limitations. I wish he had more experience. I wish he had not developed nor been associated with extensions. But I think he has shown that he is qualified.

And I disagree with Catherine, I think any ARMS Principal candidate could easily have found the Beers report listed as "Amherst Regional Middle School - Comprehensive Needs Assessment Report" right on the homepage. As someone who has applied for positions, researching an organization's homepage, and being familiar with everything on it that might relate to my prospective position (i.e. "middle school") would have been a focus for my attention. The fact that it was not for one of the candidates, for me, is a huge oversight on his part and a flag about his lack of initiative to learn about our community.

Anonymous said...

What to Do, appreciate the quality of this discussion.

Wouldn't it be great if a candidate could spend several days in the school watching/listening and being privy to the good, the bad and the ugly. Not an hour or two, but two-three full days.

If he still wanted the job then Mr Schlenter (I think I erred in calling him Schlenker) could speak to what he saw that he already knows, what he saw that was new to him, and explain what he brings to table re:both areas.

He may have perfect skills for dealing with diversity and curriculum redesign -- but he has to find a way to prove that or at least demonstrate some credibility in those areas.

ARMS Parent said...

Catherine, how will Superintendent Geryk's decision be announced? Via the ARMS and/or ARPS web site? Or at the School Committee meeting that evening? Is the School Committee going to be live on ACTV and at the Town Hall? I am anxiously awaiting this decision so I know where to send my child next year...thank you!

Anonymous said...

Abbie, my faith in administration and Maria Geryk has long been shattered. I still stand in great disbelief that the closing of Marks Meadow has slipped through the hands of these 'so claimed educated' people along with SC members. There is a current overflow/excess of close to one million dollars in the school budget, if my reading of an Amherst Bulletin article is correct, which I find astonishing. I know I am off subject here of the original post, but nothing this administration can do, the hiring of Mike Hayes or Bozo for that matter, would surprise me now... Worried

Anonymous said...

What, exactly, has Mr. Hayes done with the middle school in terms of improvements? Posters keep praising him in general about his extraordinary leadership but without any specific details. All I can tell from these posts is that he attended and was helpful to FSP, the school parent organization.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

I am worried about the direction this discussion seems to be taking by focusing largely on the diversity (or lack thereof) of Mr. Shlenter's current district rather than on his experience as an educator of middle-schoolers. Clearly, his current district is less diverse than ours, and I would agree that this is a major problem if he were going to be our diversity director, social justice coordinator, or even our adjustment counselor, but he is hoping to be our principal. He has a great deal of experience in that position and has done a lot of work with teachers in his district and seems genuinely concerned with both children and with his teachers.

Our neighbor to the west, Hadley, is less diverse than Amherst but I don't think that anyone would argue that Dr. Young, their Superintendent (and incidentally Superintendent of the Year for MA) is therefore unqualified to lead a more diverse district. If nothing else, he LIVES in a diverse valley, much as Mr. Schlenter apparently lives in clearly diverse Saginaw (even though his own district is largely white). Mr. Schlenter also has the interesting perspective of having lived, as a teenager, as "the other" and "an outsider" since he grew up in Germany but attended school in the US for a year. He has truly experienced diversity of one type.

Rather than focus on the issue of diversity, I am focused on the fact that we have a great opportunity here. We have an interested and experienced candidate in Mr. Schlenter and a bright young administrator willing to learn in Mr. Hayes. It seems to me that the best of all possible worlds is to hire Mr. Schlenter as our principal and appoint Mr. Hayes as his assistant. This way, we have Mr. Schelenter's experience and Mr. Hayes' inside knowledge of our district. Mr. Hayes, in his talk, spoke often about his willingness and ability to grow as an administrator, and having a stable, experienced principal from whom he could learn seems the best thing for him as well as for our school. This would be a great combination for any school, whether it was diverse or homogeneous. I hope our Superintendent will focus on this possible combination when making her decision.

Ed said...

he grew up in Germany but attended school in the US for a year

This is an ESL person's wildest dream, a person of the majority language with personal knowledge of being - in his case - GSL (German Second Language).

Someone who knows what it is like.

And who likely will insist on the 2nd "L" in ELL as well - which likely is why the Town Farm Crew will never hire him...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Schlenter may well have the ability to lead a diverse district but we need to know more about that before hiring him, given that it's the #1 or #2 concern to many people in the district (though not you).

Why not ask for evidence? Why avoid the question -- it's not to anyone's advantage to do so, including Mr. Schlenter's.

Is it a zero-sum game -- if we ask about diversity, there won't be time for asking about leadership or curriculum? You're framing of the issue is needlessly limiting.

As I keep saying, he may be the world's most fabulous MS principal but he could be rendered completely impotent if he trips up on diversity issues.

And I don't think being German makes him understand diversity, unless he comes from an unusual background in his native country where he had experienced being an outsider, a minority group, or something like that.

He does have experience with being a newcomer to the US, which is useful.

Anonymous said...

I am much less concerned about Mr Schlenter's experience or lack thereof with diversity than his coming unprepared to a major job interview.
It is completely reasonable to expect a candidate to do his/her research on the website prior to meeting parents and administrators. This is a huge red flag. I do agree he can learn the diversity aspects of the position on the job.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Rick in that either of these candidates could be successful in the position of MS principal. Especially given that we now have a strong SC that is formulating a strong vision for our district.

But I'd like to point out that many people want to believe that Mr Shlenter is the "wise prophet from afar" with a proven track record who will deliver us from our alleged mediocrity. In reality, we don't know how he will perform here in our unique setting -- or how long it will take for him to get "up and running."

On the other hand, Mike Hayes did a great job determining cuts to the MS budget that minimized impact to the students. I think that shows that he is a team player - and is someone who is open to guidance from the SC. He seems "on board" with implementing recs from Dr Beers AND the teachers already like him! He also wants to make the MS a great place for all kids - and he has a child who will one day be at the MS. How much more invested can a person be?

Anonymous said...

A couple things....First who does the hiring of the principle? The school committee or the school department, supert., human resources, a hiring committee.

sencond Abbee, it seems from your posts you do not like Mr Hayes. As any known quantity, we know the good and the bad. And everyone has good points and bad points.

And thank you Allison, for a non-judgmental posting about both candidates.

I really would love an answer about who has the final say about the hiring.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Geryk has the sole decision maker in the Principal hire. And by the way, we have no idea what her qualifications are....we've never seen her resume...don't know whether she's ever taught or been a principal herself.

As for the Beers report, that is not on the ARMS website. It is on the ARPS website, but buried. If HR wants to hire the best person, HR should have given all the candidates a copy of the report.

Anonymous said...

The Beers report is on the front page of the ARPS website, hardly buried.

Anonymous said...

When I have a job interview I always do a web search as well as using the old fashioned method of word of mouth. You take what you read/hear with a (big) grain of salt of course.

And not to have read the Beers report -- if it was easily found and put up on the district website at least a couple of days before he came for his interview -- that is a red flag.

Why not ask him -- did you do a web search for info about the district or did you just rely on the info HR sent you?

Help! said...

Speaking of the Beers report, has anyone read it? It's a pretty unflattering picture of the middle school (with the exception of the SPED and intervention programs). Here are some quotes. It singles out the 7th grade math program for special scrutiny. And then it has a daunting, long list of recommendations which cry out for an experienced administrator.

some excerpts....

"….When the consultant spoke to teachers and parents [about the School Improvement Plan], the vast majority informed him that they knew a School Improvement Plan existed but they didn’t know who created it and they didn’t know what was in it....
.....There is nothing in writing that the consultant was able to obtain that listed any expectations for delivery of instruction, planning and/or assessment. There are no grading or homework policies. There is no identification of effective teaching strategies that should be employed by the teachers at the school. There is no set of guidelines for daily lesson planning and plans are not collected. The consultant was informed that some teachers participated in “Skillful Teaching” training in the past. Currently, this program is only provided for teachers in their second year. There is evidence of long range planning in some departments, but the extent to which daily planning occurs depends on the desire of the individual teacher to do so. A few daily plans collected by the consultant revealed some detail, but most of the plans were minimal at best. Some teachers reported that they didn’t write lesson plans....

..... Review of the correlation between the stated and the taught curriculum and the consistency of delivery throughout the school.
In the absence of daily lesson planning, common assessments, and frequent monitoring of classrooms by administrators, any conclusions regarding the correlation between the stated and taught curriculum would be speculative....

Summary….However, many characteristics of highly effective schools are not observable at Amherst Regional Middle School. Highly effective schools have data-driven school improvement plans that are developed annually. Teachers are required to develop daily lesson plan which contain the elements that are developed by the instructional leaders with input from teachers. Classroom observations are frequent and followed by conversations designed to promote professional growth. Most, if not all, departments have common assessments which guide instruction. In highly effective schools, the characteristics of effective instruction are clearly defined and communicated in writing to stakeholders. Although teachers make daily instructional decisions based on the
needs of their students, consistency is the norm..... Policies and procedures are known by all and applied on a consistent basis.

Anonymous said...

Alison,
Your idea is fantastic!
I wish there were more people like you in our town, with great ideas and a positive attitude!
At the end, I just hope all of us, and especially the parents of middle-schoolers, the central administration of the schools, and the influential minds of our town, will support whoever is hired, and truly help him succeed. We don't need another Rodriguez-like situation.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

There are a lot of posts here, so I'm just going to make three quick points.

First, the superintendent chooses the principal. The SC has absolutely nothing to do with hiring. Anyone who wants to share their views of either/both candidate can send them to the superintendent at: Gerykm@arps.org.

Second, I think the key issue in all these posts is what do we value, and different people value different things. Some people value experience as a principal more than experience in our specific district (or a district with a particular demographic). Some people view having an inside knowledge of our schools as more important than bringing in an outside perspective. I don't think there are "right" or "wrong" answers here ... just differences in what people value and see as important in terms of leadership.

Third, I'm sort of amazed at the number of comments that focus on whether Mr. Scklenker had done a review of our website and found and read the Beers report. I do think it would be good if he had done so, and I also think it would have been good if that report were provided to him directly. However, I also note that Mr. Hayes directly stated at the forum that his initial reaction to the Beers visit was defensive, and, again using his own words, about a month was lost with them not really making progress on the MS evaluation. That also seems less than ideal. But I surely don't think either of these should form the basis of a decision about who will lead our MS forward.

I believe these are two candidates with different experiences, and ultimately (I think tomorrow), the superintendent is going to have to make a decision about which of these two finalists is best able to lead the district going forward (or in theory fail the search). I imagine her decision will be announced through a press release -- posted on the ARPS website and sent to the Gazette (based on how other principal announcements have been made in the past).

Abbie said...

I could definitely support Alison's idea! Let's give Mike Hayes more time to gain additional experience...

lise said...

Please note that the Beers report was posted on the website on March 11, long after applications for the position were due, and well into the interview process. Probably candidates did their research on the district long before this report was published.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine coming to a campus as; a finalist and not revisiting the WEb Site for any new information (before flying out from Michigan) particularly about the MS. I would also be reading the newspaper on-line on a daily basis for the area where I might be working (and have done so in searches) as much to present myself in a positive light and to learn if I wanted to work in that district. I wonder if the other candidate withdrew after seeing all the negative stuff in the Gazette about our school district of late. Someone who is going to lead a school needs to do their homework and gear answers and questions to that particular school....at least if they are smart. How could you be prepared if you stopped doing your research when you submit your initial paperwork?

ALso what makes anyone think that Mike Hayes would want to be the Asst. Principal. He applied to be the principal and if I would imagine will be in other principal searches as well. So before we start to rearrange the world we should figure out if Mike were even interested.

I do hope that we can support whoever is in the principal seat. We need stability at the top of each school.

Anonymous said...

Given the hefty list of recommendations in the Beer's report, isn't the key question be which candidate has the background, skills and experience to implement them?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Goodhind most likely pulled out of our search not because of negative publicity about our districts but because he is a finalist for the Principal position at East Longmeadown High School. (http://www.eastlongmeadowma.gov/meetingDetail.html?mode=show&meeting=454) Given that he is currently principal of a regional middle/high school, it might be that he prefers to be the leader of a high school rather than a two-year middle school.

Anonymous said...

During his talk to the public, Mr. Hayes made it very clear that he was committed to ARMS professionally and that his family was committed to living here. If that is true, I don't see why he wouldn't accept a position as assistant to Mr. Schlenter if he were offered it. Mr. Schlenter is an experienced leader and educator and Mr. Hayes seems smart and eager to learn and must realize that this could represent an excellent opportunity for him no matter which way the decision is made. He wasn't insulted when Mark Jackson was appointed ARMS principal this year instead of him (why, by the way, was Mr. Hayes NOT chosen??) but instead worked with and learned from Mr. Jackson.

Mr. Schlenter has 20 years experience over Mr. Hayes and if Mr. Hayes is not chosen, it should not represent an insult to Mr. Hayes but rather a recognition of the much greater experience both as a teacher and as a leader Mr. Schlenter has had. In twenty years, Mr. Hayes will be facing his own search committees with many more years behind him to recommend him at that time.

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine going for a professional job interview without throughly researching the job, which in this case would include the Beers report. The Beers report isn't just about ARPS - it is specific to the Middle School!! And let us not forget that Mr. Schlenter didn't apply for the job because he was interested in our lovely little town or anything like that - he is losing his current position. This is a no brainer.

Anonymous said...

"It seems to me that most of the support for Mr. Hayes comes from teachers and most of those who do not are parents."

Any grounds for stating this, Abbie, or are you just making stuff up?

Abbie said...

to anon@2:57 PM

happy to respond if you ask non-anonymously...


While I can certainly understand parents wishing to post anonymously when they post views critical of choosing M. Hayes (for whatever reasons), like many have ("...have kids and don't want them to face any repercussions").


But I don't understand why folks are posting anonymously when they are supporting the hiring of Mr. Hayes? Can anyone help me out here???

Anonymous said...

Catherine-

You have made clear your preference for Mr. Schlenter. Can you make a clear statement about whether you think both candidates are well qualified and capable of doing the job well?

Ed said...

The thing that bothers me the most is that this is supposed to be a democracy.

The people elect a school committee who hires a superintendent, but there it all breaks down.

Apparently the Supt has the right to hire whomever she damn well pleases - with impunity. With no consequences.

What ever happened to democracy????

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response:

Anonymous 5:07 - I haven't made clear my preference to anyone ... I have simply pointed out that different people value different things in a leader, which in turn could lead them to have different preferences between these two candidates. I have spoken up only when I felt that someone was misrepresenting what occurred at the public forum. I don't believe it is appropriate for SC members to make public statements regarding hiring of anyone they aren't in charge of hiring (e.g., I can and will express preferences re. the superintendent hires).

curious observer said...

Well, I read the Beers report which has a very comprehensive list of recommendations. It is a big task and I wonder if either of the candidates have the qualifications and experience to do this. They will need them.

His detailed recommendations amount to building key structures into the school from within. Dr. Beers describes this difficult task as a 'long journey." He wrote:

The curriculum leaders and administrators have recently been receptive to the challenge of increasing expectations in an effort to improve student achievememt. However, this is going to be a long journey. Many teachers have become accustomed to “doing it their way.” Some teachers choose to collaborate with their colleagues, but this is not the norm. It can be expected that there will be resistance to the standardization of some practices. The success of the recommended changes will depend on the willingness of the faculty to institutionalize “best practices.” In addition, the leaders of the school must be able to guide the change process and develop the
capacity of the faculty to implement the changes.

Here are Dr. Beer's 8 recommendations which are quite detailed and by their detail show how much is missing from the middle school:

Develop a data-driven school improvement plan that meets the following criteria:
• User friendly – no more than one page per goal, no more than five goals.
• A living document to be discussed at faculty, department, and parent meetings.
• Developed by teachers and administrators with final approval of the School Council.
• Aligned between the evidence of need (current status), the evidence of success (desired status) and the strategies to get from one to the other.
• Assigns responsibility for various tasks with timelines.
• Has ownership by the faculty and staff.
• Shared with all stake holders (students, parents, community) for review and suggested
revisions.

curious observer continues said...

Establish written policies for grading and homework.
• To be developed by teachers with approval by administrators.
• These should be for all subjects with a few exceptions based on the needs of various
programs of study. For example, mathematics teachers typically assign more homework;
English teachers typically assign more writing assignments.

Establish and document in writing clear expectations for planning, delivery of instruction, and checking for understanding.
• Planning Guidelines for daily and long range lesson planning should be developed.
o Plans should be collected with feedback provided. The frequency of the plan checks
should depend on the degree to which expectations are being met.
• Delivery of instruction and checking for understanding
o The faculty should reach consensus regarding the characteristics of effective
instruction.
o These characteristics should include criteria such as communication of daily learning objectives, checking for prior knowledge, whole group questioning, student engagement, differentiated instruction, etc.

Develop common formative assessments for all subject areas.
• These assessments should initially be given at the end of each semester but eventually
address shorter periods of time.
• These assessments should guide instruction and dictate remediation and acceleration
efforts.

Provide on-going feedback to teachers.
• The characteristics of effective instruction that are developed should be the basis for walk- through observations. Teachers should receive feedback periodically as a group regarding the summaries of the walk-throughs.
• Every teacher should receive an extended observation each semester which is followed by a “learning conversation” with the observer that stimulates professional growth and is not
evaluative.
• Administrators should be trained to hold “learning conversations” and receive feedback
from a trained observer following the conversation.

Develop a plan for professional development.
• This plan should have teacher input and document the support that will address the areas of need in the school improvement plan.
• The plan should be data-driven and evaluated on a regular basis.

Provide consistent leadership.
• An instructional leader should be hired as the principal of the school who is most likely to remain in that position for at least three years.
• Curriculum leaders should be given the means to guide the instructional program.
Currently the main impediment to this being accomplished is the lack of time for them to
do such. At a minimum, they should be given one period a day to work with the school
improvement plan, review and revise curriculum, develop common assessments, review data, and observe the delivery of instruction throughout the building.
• Teachers should be given the opportunity to provide input on a regular basis.

Increase communication with parents and the community at large.
• Develop a strategy to receive input from parent groups which are not typically represented.
• Provide data on a regular basis so that the successes and challenges of the educational
program are known to all stakeholders.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the model for school admin is broken. How can one person manage the day to day of a school while also changing its deeply-rooted cultures and practices?

In a large company, is the CEO also the CFO, the COO and the head of HR? Certainly not.

It would seem as if a large MS needs an on-site curriculum director, a teacher manager and an operations director, as well as a parent-family liaison and a dean of student life (some of these tasks are not full-time, but they could be). Wrapping all those jobs up in the person of one Principal...no.


Maybe this is why the decision seems so unsatisfactory: because nobody can do it all.

Rick said...

Whatever the outcome of the selection, I think we need Beers to be here a lot – as much as we can afford him to be. I think we have money in the budget to do so and will argue for using him more.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to imagine the Beers report and recommendations as your mandate for your first year as a principal. Talk about an uphill slope. Easier to imagine a principal of nine years of a high-performing middle school who is used to working hard, with few resources. Isn't this the choice? Pretty stark.

Ed said...

My attitude is simple: If they hire the insider, it is time for an underride.

If the only control we have over the schools is to starve them, so be it. When they get hungry enough, they will listen....

ARHS Parent said...

Can someone fill me in on why Mike Hayes was not chosen as the interim principal of ARMS in September when Glenda Cresto left? Seems to me that if there had been a viable principal-potential within the building, they would have appointed that person to lead ARMS instead of having to tap already-busy Mark Jackson (who already had one school to run). It concerns me that in September, Mike Hayes was apparently not considered ready to lead ARMS for an interim period of less than a year and now, six months later, he is being presented to us as a viable candidate to lead ARMS alone and for the forseeable future.

concerned parent said...

Rick I do have a lot of respect for your views and I am encourage by your election to SC but, the Beers report and subsequent reports will only be of value if they are acted on quickly? Our children are not going to stop growing while we wait for the administration to figure it out. At this point I unfortunately don’t have a lot of faith in our current administration. What is worse is that I see the School Committee / Superintendent system very flawed. It takes years to make meaningful change and it can all be undone in a moment by any administrator or one bad SC vote. Nothing seems to every get corrected. We just settle for our children receiving a good education at a very high price. It would be nice to spend less money and have the best Superintendent in the state like Hadley with a highly rated school. How we can have so many educated people in Amherst and spend the money we do per pupil without the best result is unconscionable, wouldn’t’ you agree? Forget about all of the details and focus on the amount of money spend and the brain trust we have. Something surely is broken and it is not going to be fixed by people who have been working in the system for over a decade. We need new outside people and we need many of them now. I really really hope that you and all the other committee members get just how out of sync we are and work very rapidly to correct it. Please hold Maria and any future Superintendent to the fire for results NOW not in 4 years when it is too late for my kids.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, has there been an announcement of the Middle School principal yet? I thought it was supposed to be yesterday? Is it being announced tonight at the School Committee meeting? Thank you.

Rick said...

Concerned Parent:

Your comment is one of the best I have seen in a while. I have been thinking a lot about this lately, especially around this “I see the School Committee / Superintendent system very flawed”.

In thinking about this I like to split the problem into perhaps three parts:

1. What are we trying to accomplish?
2. How are we going to accomplish it?
3. Who is going to accomplish it?

#1 is the simplest and is described well by the District Goals.

#2 is about tactics employed to achieve those goals; for example, bringing in Dr. Beers to help achieve this goal: “Assess the effectiveness of the Amherst Regional Middle School. Prepare and begin to implement a set of recommendations based on the assessment.”

#3 is about who will do both the assessment (sometime working with outside people) and most importantly, who will “implement a set of recommendations”.

The assessment has to be well done; and the implementation of recommendations has to be done quickly.

I like to look at extremes and then move to the middle to see where we might lie:

A. One extreme is that we hire a superman (or woman) as Superintendent. In that scenario, the school committee can pretty much go home and all of the above will just happen.

B. The other extreme is that we have ineffective people in management and the SC has to be on top of them all the time to make sure something is happening.

My thought on this is that “A” almost never happens in real life (it does happen sometimes). I think we lie between A and B, which is where most organizations, corporations and schools fall.
Are we closer to “A” or “B”? I don’t know. I am going to say “I don’t care” (for now) and here is why:

I would do the same thing right now whether we are close to A or close to B, which is this:

Be relentless in keeping goals in front of us at all times and monitor specific progress on those goals at all times.

Currently the school committees and ARPS administration is NOT doing this. All we do is talk about budget details. When was the last time the goals were pulled out and we went over each one and talked about the detailed status of each?

Or take this one: “Initiate an evaluation of the Special Education program”

What we have heard is that an outside firm has been hired and that their report will be done in June. NOT good enough. We need a detailed status report at least once a month at SC meetings – preferably a page on the web site that gets updated weekly. We don’t want to wait until June and then find out the outside firm did a lousy job.

Some say “trust” the administration to do this right. This is not about trust. The trust I have in the administration is that they mean to do well. I mean to do well too, but that doesn’t mean I don’t screw up – I do. This is all the more important as budget cuts happen because with reduced staff you are more likely to screw up.

So I repeat: Be relentless in keeping goals in front of us at all times and monitor specific progress on those goals at all times.

---

The other solution is to remove the current Superintendent, and any other people we think are not effective enough, and replace them, hoping to get closer to “A”. Well, on the Superintendent front we are going to do that by doing a search (which may or may not find a candidate “closer to A” than Maria). I am not sure what better option there is than that. Then technically (legally) all other positions are up to the Superintendent to hire or fire.
I come from the business world, and just as when you have a CEO you are not sure about, you really only have two choices as a board: keep that person, let them do their job, but monitor it closely (and give advice as needed), or fire them and replace them with someone else.

ARHS Parent said...

Rick, I like your thinking. One additional goal of the district should be to increase transparency and trust between the administration/School Committee and the public. Take your recent decision to hire Maria Geryk for a long period of time and the current decision regarding the choice of middle school principal. In both cases, the public (through various means) has requested that the resumes of all three people (Superintendent Geryk as well as the two finalists) be made available on the web to the public. That request has been ignored. Why? This does not inspire confidence or trust in any of our leaders. I think this is a simple and honest request for information--why can our leaders not offer this transparency?

Rick said...

Yup, not posting the resumes is bad. What I describe above is a process for monitoring whether things are getting done or not. That is an example of something not getting done.

When that happens too often, you fire the person who is not doing what they should be, which means the Superintendent, because that is really the only person the SC can fire.

I am open-minded about Ms. Geryk and we’ll see how she does; ditto for whoever is chosen for ARMS Principal. But again the critical thing in all of this is to monitor closely whether goals are being achieved or not. When you do that properly it becomes more factually obvious if a change in personnel is needed, instead of us floundering around and guessing whether someone is good enough or not.

Anonymous said...

Rick, if you can agree that not posting the resumes is "bad," can the School Committee DO SOMETHING about it? Have YOU even seen them?! Can you FORCE Superintendent Geryk to post the resumes? If she does not, can you take steps to provide her with consequences for her actions?

In my workplace, a refusal to carry out a direct order by a supervisor could result in immediate termination or, at the very least, an official letter of reprimand in the employee's file.

Can the School Committee implement steps like these to make sure our Superintendent (whomever it is at the time) carries out your orders? I think Superintendent Geryk is just carrying on the tradition of past Amherst Superintendents of just doing whatever she wants, despite what the School Committee asks of her. When they are called on it by the School Committee, they then come up with a million excuses why they could not carry out those direct orders.

Please, someone, hold our Superintendent's feet to the fire. Start out by insisting on the posting of the resumes (all three, no matter which finalist is chosen as the ARMS principal) within 24 hours. If that direct order is disobeyed, follow through with immediate consequences. We elected you to do this job and are now paying higher taxes to live in this town. Please DO IT!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Just to clarify - I have asked the superintendent to post the resumes of all finalists for principal positions, as we posted all the resumes for superintendent finalists. I have also asked the chairs of both the Amherst and Regional SCs to post the superintendent's resume. I am, however, just one random person on both committees (and not chair of either).

I agree with virtually all of Rick's points -- including keeping the focus on what is getting done (and when).