By NICK GRABBE
Thursday, May 13, 2010
AMHERST - A meeting called to address the reasons why Amherst is looking at alternatives to its current superintendency union with Pelham adjourned without the board discussing the issue Tuesday.
The Union 26 Committee is composed of the three members of the Pelham School Committee and three of the five members of the Amherst School Committee. The Amherst committee has questioned the fairness of equal representation between the two towns when Pelham has one-tenth the number of students.
The practical significance of the Union 26 Committee is that it votes on superintendent decisions, and an important one is coming up next spring. On March 28, three members of the 4-2 majority approving a 15-month interim superintendency were from Pelham.
On Tuesday, Amherst members said they did not want to discuss the issue before they had consulted an attorney. They said that when the discussion takes place, it should include all five members of the Amherst committee.
Tracy Farnham, chairwoman of both the Pelham and Union 26 committees, said she wanted to hold the meeting to clarify the changes that Amherst members are seeking and decide whether Pelham needs its own attorney.
The only real discussion of the issues took place in the public comments portion of the Regional School Committee meeting.
Amherst attorney Elaine Fronhofer said her research showed no legal problem in the make up of the Union 26. A new state law allowing one town to vote to leave a union has not been tested in the courts, she said.
Jim Oldham, of Amherst, said it was ironic to hear Amherst members talk about representation. "Where are the Amherst residents clamoring for a change?" he asked. "There's no evidence you're representing anyone but yourselves."
And Norm Page, a former Pelham member of the Regional School Committee, said the union has saved the school district "hundreds of thousands of dollars" over the years, mostly by enabling the sharing of space.
Note: I think it would have been appropriate for Nick Grabbe to acknowledge that Elaine Fronhofer school choices her child into the Pelham schools, and that contrary to Jim Oldham's assertion that "there are no Amherst residents clamoring for a change", the CBAC (citizen's budget advisory committee) report presented at this meeting specifically noted that members of the public had indeed raised questions about whether Amherst should be its own K to 12 district as well as whether it should regionalize with Pelham.
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.