Note: The link to this story was not available on Saturday, when this story was published. Hence, I'm just posting the entire story, contrary to my typical practice, given that this story related to tonight's Amherst School Committee Meeting.
By NICK GRABBE
June 12, 2010
AMHERST - The questions of whether and how Amherst could withdraw from the union that links its elementary school administration with Pelham's will be up for discussion at Monday's School Committee meeting.
In a rare Friday meeting, the committee reviewed an opinion by attorney Sharon Siegel in which she answered questions about the union and its future. Some committee members had questioned the two towns' equal representation on the panel that governs the union while Amherst has 10 times the students that Pelham has.
A new law enables towns to unilaterally leave a union, but it "has yet to be interpreted and implementing regulations have yet to be drafted," Siegel wrote. If Amherst voted to leave the union, the state would "most likely exercise its review/approval authority," she wrote.
The attorney's advice cost $2,145, said Irv Rhodes, the committee chairman.
A breakup of the union would not save Amherst any money, but the issue is governance and the hiring of a superintendent, said committee member Steve Rivkin. Currently, the panel overseeing the union and the Amherst School Committee both vote on any decision to hire a superintendent.
The committee should consider forming a task force to look at the advantages and disadvantages of alternatives to the current union, and take public comments, Rivkin said. He compared the process to the one that led to the vote to close Mark's Meadow School a year ago. There's a policy that the union and the region agree to hire only one superintendent, said Farshid Hajir, chairman of the Regional School Committee. The discussion should take place in the context of the imminent report by a four-town panel that's been reviewing the option of extending the secondary region to the elementary schools, he said.
Parent Tracy Wolfe said Amherst must consider its options. "It would be irresponsible for the committee not to be investigating it,' she said.
Retired teacher Karen Dimock said the decision shouldn't be up to just the five members of the Amherst School Committee.
"The committee will act with openness and sensitivity, with extensive involvement of the public in multiple forums," said Rivkin. "We recognize the gravity of the situation."
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.