With the start of summer vacation and my kids out of school, I've had less time to update my blog recently -- though I hope to do better now that camps have started! So, I will respond to various questions/comments on my prior post soon (and do some meeting summaries) ... but for now, I wanted to alert blog readers to a number of timely issues/topics.
First, I wanted to commend ARHS student Darius Peyton for his OpEd in the Gazette describing some of his observations about issues of race in the Amherst schools. I believe many of his points merit future study and hope that the Regional and Amherst School Committees will consider his thoughts as we form goals for the 2010-2011 year. You can read his piece at:
Second, and relatedly, there is a piece in today's Gazette about some changes to the math program in the middle school (http://www.gazettenet.com/2010/06/28/middle-school-principal-adjusts-math-expectations). I signed this letter, and attended several meetings with Principal Mike Hayes over the last month, in part because I believe that requiring extensions of all students will help address one of the issues Darius addresses in his piece: the relative absence of students of color in higher level honors math classes. I am encouraged that Mike Hayes was willing to make a change in the 7th grade math program for this fall, and look forward (as both a SC member and the mother of a rising 7th grader) to seeing its effects.
Third, at the most recent Regional School Committee meeting (June 16th) a report was presented involving per pupil costs (including comparisons to other districts). You can read this entire report (it is available on the homepage of ARPS.org), as well as the story in the Bulletin (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/175422/). I am very glad to see this type of comparison, though I continue to be surprised and puzzled at the finding that the Amherst schools spend the same per pupil as towns in Eastern Mass (e.g., Brookline, Newton, Framingham), yet we pay teachers much less. I believe we need to understand why our costs are so much higher than those of other surrounding districts (e.g., Northampton, Hadley, Longmeadow), and I hope this will be a major focus in the upcoming year.
Fourth, there is also an article in today's Gazette on the goals that have been accomplished this year, and some tentative goals for the upcoming year (as presented by the superintendent at the last Regional SC meeting). You can read this story (http://www.gazettenet.com/2010/06/28/sights-blueprint-continuous-growth039), and also see information on the ARPS website (http://www.arps.org/goals).
Fifth, there is a Regional SC Meeting tomorrow night, starting at 6:30 pm in the middle school auditorium. This meeting will be followed (starting at 7 pm) by a Four Towns Meeting (including Finance Committee, Select Board, and SC members of Amherst/Pelham/Shutesbury/Leverett): the focus of this meeting will be the presentation of the Regionalization Report (which you can read on the ARPS.org website). It is clear that regionalization is a major topic at the state level, and I believe that Amherst's discussions regarding Union 26 fit right into this broader discussion.
Finally, I'd like to draw my readers to a somewhat unrelated but important topic -- and that is the Fresh Air Program, which brings kids from New York City to towns all over the Northeast to stay with local families for 2 weeks. You can read a letter about this program in last week's Bulletin (http://amherstbulletin.com/story/id/175423/), and I'd strongly encourage interested blog readers to contact the Fresh Air Fund to learn more about how to participate. My family has welcomed a Fresh Air child for the last 4 summers (our child started when he was just 6-years-old, and will return next week for his 5th visit with us), and it has been a great experience for all of us. I'd be glad to answer any questions about this program on my blog or through my private email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.