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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Four-town panel sees little merit in wider Amherst-area school regionalization

This article describes the regionalization report (now posted on, which will be discussed at Tuesday night's Four Town Meeting (7 pm, middle school; also shown live on ACTv): As the report clearly says, moving to full K to 12 regionalization (which I continue to believe would be in Amherst's best interest) isn't likely any time soon ... and as of now, Shutesbury and Pelham are forming committees (including SC and SB and FC and community representatives) to study what is in their own town's best interest. I imagine Amherst will also choose to form such a committee, which the regionalization report recommends ... and I would be very interested in hearing from blog readers about this issue. Should we just drop the Union 26 discussion and continue being the only town with more than 1300 students in a union (which is certainly not a situation we would join in today)? Should we take steps to change the union in some way (e.g., ask Pelham to regionalize with Amherst)? Should we form a committee and have someone else study the issue and report back to the SC at some point later this year?

I am torn about the right path -- because I see the current situation as unfair to Amherst voters and thus feel it is my responsibility to do something to try to make it right (instead of passing the buck to a later SC), yet I also want to make sure we can continue making major progress on the many initiatives the Amherst SC has undertaken over the last year (e.g., the K to 5 math review, adding K to 6 Spanish, adding preschool classes). I'd like constructive, honest, and ideally personally owned feedback from blog readers at this very crucial time on what (if anything) we should do -- either through blog posts or to my private email (


Gavin Andresen said...

I like simplicity; I think it is a virtue in and of itself.

BUT... reorganizing the structure would be way down on my priority list for the schools. As far as I've heard, belonging to Union 26 and having the odd half-regional half-union half-Amherst organizational structure doesn't add a lot of cost and doesn't really prevent the school committees from doing what needs to be done.

Given all the higher priorities, and given the (to me) inexplicable amount of sturm und drang generated over the issue, I say leave it be for a year or three.

Ed said...

doesn't really prevent the school committees from doing what needs to be done.

Yes, Gavin, it does. The Amherst School Committee can't hire the Superintendent that AMHERST needs.

And there is a very real issue of the Voting Rights Act being violated here, and all it would take would be one black Amherst resident calling the DoJ and you are in trouble...

Anonymous said...

I second the Gavin Andresen position on Union 26. The notion that the current structure of decision-making will yield a different Superintendent than the one that Amherst needs is simply speculation, one driven by reasoning backwards from the differing populations of Amherst versus the other communities.

But I still see no evidence that that difference will turn out to be salient in the process. I hear no argument that it has in the past prior to last March.

I would vote YES to get out of Union 26 in any town-wide referendum on the issue. But sentiments alone and some unease about the fairness of it all doesn't move Union 26 to the top of the priority list. This is a reorganization that needs to percolate in our collective brains for awhile.

For me, the far more interesting political and educational point-counterpoint is in the Geryk-Rivkin perpetual verbal ping-pong on whether our schools can be better at current funding levels. This strikes me as pure idealism on Steve's part which ordinarily would be invigorating. But, in Amherst these days, idealism and a belief in progress at even money is instead viewed with distrust and even fear. So Steve's first name could just as well be Darth, in this political climate.

Rich Morse

Alison Donta-Venman said...

Among other things, a regional K-12 district (or, alternatively, an Amherst-only K-12 district) would allow increased vertical and horizontal curricular alignment; one of the problem areas in our current arrangement. This is especially a problem with incoming seventh graders. I see this as a real priority for our schools. A long-term, strategic planning sort of priority as opposed to a short-term priority. Both can (and should) be worked on simultaneously.

Curious observer said...

Isn't it the bottom of the barrel when the only reasons for staying in Union 26 are: we don't have time now to set up a new arrangement or there is a history with Pelham? The fact is that the Union 26 agreement doesn't benefit Amherst students or schools in any way -- and probably hasn't since Amherst's population began to grow in the 70's.

The Amherst School Committee has an obligation to the children of Amherst and no others. It should vote to disband Union 26 and offer to enter into a regional agreement with Pelham. If Pelham doesn't want to be in a k-6 regional agreement this is further evidence that Union 26 has outlived its usefulness.

Pelham is most interested in protecting its fine, yet uneconomical and unsustainable elementary school and will likely seek some protections for the school. (Andis probably least interested in helping Amherst's great polygot of students from all economic and ethnic backgrounds.) Will Pellham foot the bill for its school or expect Amherst to pick up some of the tab? Will the Amherst School Committee commit to keeping open a Pelham school with declining numbers of students that cost more the educate than the students at the other three elementary schools? Are there benefits to both towns of being in a K-6 regional agreement that are not easily seen?

Why not have this discussion now during the quieter days of the summer? What would the reason be to put these talks off? When would anyone think there is time to have them?

The reason to disband Union 26 now is to give the Amherst School Committee its deserved anf fair say in selecting the next Superintendent. Could anyone look at the events of the last 3 years and say that the selection of superintendent is unimportant? Also, isn't it obvious that the Amherst School Committee will be looking for a candidate experienced in dealing with several elementary schools, with many poor children, children who speak different languages and come from many different ethnic groups. Will the Pelham School Committee be looking for the same qualities to lead a small, 125 student elementary school of Caucasion, affluent children? Probably not and they probably should not. Herein lies the reason the Union 26 agreement no longer makes sense.

It's just time to move on -- and no real reason not to move on.

Anonymous said...

Curious observer -
Very well said. I completely agree!

Anonymous said...

Whenever I read proponents of leaving Union 26 NOW get to the bottom line question (will this existing structure lead to Amherst being denied what it needs in a Superintendent?), the proponents then resort to qualifiers like "probably" and "maybe".

The reason for this is the proponents are engaging in pure speculation about the future. There is no evidence that Pelham's specific interest in the Region and its elementary school creates an inevitable divergence of interest with Amherst in the Superintendent selection process, some looming standoff between communities on Candidate A versus Candidate B. I see no one citing past history either.

So I still think Mr. Churchill was right in substance: "this is a solution looking for a problem." I would also claim that it's a fight looking for a justification, and fighting tends to pollute the atmosphere on other initiatives that directly benefit kids.

There is a need here for a careful selection of priorities, a careful selection of the order of "the right things to do". I would submit that this is WAY down the list, as in, we can get to this sometime before 2015.

I view the handling of this issue as a critical test of our current Amherst School Committee membership's acumen as political actors. Yes, politics, especially in dealing with other towns, is part of the job.

Rich Morse

MaryAnn said...

Rich Morse:

Very well said. I could not agree more. Thank you.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I am going to do a longer blog post on this soon, but I'm going to throw out a question here, that I'm really interested in hearing thoughts about. At the regionalization meeting on Tuesday, three options were presented: doing nothing (keeping the status quo), full K to 12 regionalization (which was totally shot down by those from Leverett and Shutesbury and dismissed as not realistic, which I agree is accurate, though depressing), and enlarging Union 26 so that Leverett and Shutesbury leave their current school union and join with Amherst and Pelham. This would have real advantages for Leverett and Shutesbury -- one superintendent for kids K to 12 - and increase the possibility of more K to 12 alignment in all four towns. HOWEVER, this would mean Amherst would have 25% of the vote to choose and evaluate a superintendent (and still pay 90% of the bill). This would make Amherst in even a worse shape than our current situation (in which we have 50% of the vote), and would mean we would have to hire a superintendent who instead of working with 3 SCs would have to work with 5 SCs (and manage 5 budgets and go to 5 SCs meetings a month and go to 5 Town Meetings, etc.). Does this seem like a tenable situation? Again, if we all assume that everyone wants the same thing in a superintendent and so it really doesn't matter who gets how many votes, then I suppose people who are comfortable doing nothing about Union 26 (since the problem is hypothetical, and not yet creating an obvious problem) would agree to expanding Union 26 and reducing Amherst's power from 50% to 25%? This is the option (other than doing nothing) clearly favored in the regionalization report, so I'd be very interested in hearing Amherst residents' views on this solution.

FR Parent said...

My opinion? Get out of Union 26 NOW before Amherst SC members are out-voted and Leverett and Shutesbury join us in Union 26!!!

It seems to me that if Leverett and Shutesbury would be willing to join us in Union 26 yet not join us in a K-12 regional agreement it is because they are looking out for THEMSELVES, not the greater good of all kids in the entire system. If that is acceptable for the SC members from Leverett and Shutesbury (and I believe it is), why is that not acceptable for the SC members of Amherst? When are Amherst residents allowed to put themselves and the needs of THEIR children first? We elected you, Amherst SC members, to look out for OUR best interests. Please do the right thing; vote to withdraw from Union 26.

Anonymous said...

I agree that leaving Union 26 is in the best interests of Amherst - and since we have a SC that, for the most part, is willing to make difficult decisions - we probably should do it now.

And, I also feel compassion for Pelham -- that their enrollments are dropping to the point that they may not be able to afford to keep their elementary school open (even with choice) - and if Amherst leaves Union 26 they will have to fund their own supt which could put them under further financial stress.

But, it is crystal clear that at the ES level, Amherst has very different needs than Pelham and we should have a supt who can focus solely on aligning our elem curriculum and establishing programs that meet the needs of our significant numbers of struggling students.

I'd like to see the idea explored of having a supt in charge of the Amherst ESs and a supt in charge of the Region.

Anonymous said...

I strongly differ with your characterizaton that the conclusion of the regionalization report favored Leverett and Shutesbury leaving Union 28 and joining U26. Actually the conclusion was that the 4 towns should keep talking.

That was also the sentiment at the 4 towns meeting on Tuesday evening where the report was presented. Neither members from Shutesbury or Leverett expressed a strong desire to leave U28 and join with U26. The folks in both towns indicated a strong desire to leave things the way they are.

There was alot of conversation about what the future bodes for all four communities budgetaraily. That concern led most to want to continue to discuss governance issues so that we are not caught off-guard if the financal bottom falls out.

There was also a discussion of trying to coordinate U 28 and U 26 curriculum days to help with curriculum alignment across the towns. And a general discussion of trying to continue to align elem curriculum across towns.

NO ONE at the meeting favored Leverett or Shutesbury pulling out of U 28 and joining U 26. And the report did not favor that option either.

MaryAnn said...

Anon 11:35 here

I know folks are happy to have at least a first name attached to posts because its easier to keep track of same people when they comment. Somehow when I posted at 11:35 my name did not come through.

This is a long way of saying that I posted the Anon 11:35 post.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:35/Mary Ann - the power point presented (which can be seen on ACTV) ended with a slide called "observations". This slide said there are educational benefits of both Case 1 (expanding Union 26) and Case 2 (full regionalization), and then noted there are more governance and transition issues with Case 2. That seems like a pretty clear statement that Case 1 is preferable -- which seems odd to me since as an Amherst resident, I think the governance issues are at least as great in Case 1! Let's remember that this report was written equally by those representing all four towns ... meaning this report was written 25% by those in Amherst and 75% by those in the small towns. Of course there is a clear influence of the small towns' views on the conclusions, which is why these were the only two options considered (e.g., there wasn't an option considered that would be combining Amherst-Pelham as a region or Pelham joining Union 28). My concern, as I stated very clearly at the meeting, is that the interests of Amherst are DIFFERENT from that of the small towns, since Amherst has a very different student population and Amherst can afford to hire/pay a superintendent and central office staff on its own, whereas the other towns can't. The report is written as if all four towns are in the same situation, which they just aren't.

I guess what I find troubling is that it is seen as OK, and even desirable, for SC members in the small towns to look out for the interest of their residents (and definitely Pelham benefits substantially -- and more so than any other town in the state of MA -- from being in Union 26). But when Amherst SC members try to look out for the best needs of Amherst residents, we are highly criticized (and there is NO WAY that being in Union 26 is in the best interest of Amherst). That seems unfair.

MaryAnn said...

Catherine said:

This slide said there are educational benefits of both Case 1 (expanding Union 26) and Case 2 (full regionalization), and then noted there are more governance and transition issues with Case 2. That seems like a pretty clear statement that Case 1 is preferable --

I would counter that by saying that there are more governance and tranitions issues with Case 2 does not automatically lead to the conclusion that Case 1 is preferable. The conclusion was that neither case was ideal or one that anyone had any interest in pursuing. The conclusion of the report and the discussion was that we keep talking.

The power point presentation was just that..a presentation of the findings. It did not and neither did the report, indicate that one case was preferable to another.

Further, I do not believe that pulling out of U 26 is in the best interests of the children of Amherst...and there are many other Amherst residents who feel the same way. So, your argument that why is it that the other towns' SC can look after the best interest of their kids but Amherst cannot does not hold water. The reason there is so much push back on the SC's very obvious desire to leave U 26 is because there are so many who just to do not see leaving the Union as something that will benefit the children of Amherst.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

MaryAnn - we can disagree on the report and its recommendations and conclusions. We can also disagree on what the SC wants to do, and what the pushback is about (e.g., I am getting as much pressure to STAY in Union 26 as I am to get OUT!). But my question was simple: Do you think that the Amherst SC should support expanding Union 26 to include Leverett and Shutesbury?

MaryAnn said...


Right now I don't know the answer to your question. I want to read the report through again, perhaps watch the meeting on ACTV (though I was there I am interested in seeing it again) and then mull it over.

Again, right now Leverett and Shutesbury have no desire to leave U28. So I think it's unnecessary to decide whether to support them joining U 26 when they have no desire to leave U 28. It seems unprodutive to spend time deciding whether to support something that no one has suggested be done and that people have said they specifically don't want to do.

What I do think would be very useful is to enourage the 4 towns' elementary schools to work on trying to align curriculum as much as possible. A first step toward that goal would be trying to line up the curriculum days so that they all occur on the same day. That is something I would very much support. Having the 4 towns work toward curriculum alignment would benefit the children of all 4 towns.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

MaryAnn - I strongly encourage you to read the whole report, in which the potential break-up of Union 28 is described SEVERAL times (as well as the desire for Leverett and Shutesbury to avoid being forced to join a regional district other than Amherst. Since it is quite clear that Leverett and Shutesbury can't hire/pay their own superintendents, the break-up of Union 28 would very likely lead to these towns wanting to join Union 26 (and this option is vastly preferable to these small towns than full regionalization since they would maintain total control over their local elementary schools). I've read the report thoroughly, and this possibility is specifically mentioned on pages 4, 11, and 12. In addition, Michael DeChiara (the Chair of the Shutesbury) attended a recent Amherst SC meeting and specifically mentioned this expansion of Union 26 as a viable option. Thus, it is certainly not the case that this option is not very much on the table, and in fact is actively being explored by at least one (possibly more) of the other towns.

I therefore really would like Amherst residents' thoughts on this issue - are we in favor, should Shutesbury and/or Leverett request this change -- of expanding Union 26 so that Amherst pays 90% of the bills, has 90% of the students, and has 25 to 33% of the vote in choosing and evaluating the superintendent?

Anonymous said...

Mary Ann what do you see as the benefits to the Amherst elementary schools of staying in Union 26?

MaryAnn said...

Catherine, I do indeed plan on reading the report again and mull this over. You are correct that the possibility of U 28 breaking up and Leverett and Shutesury then looking to join U26 is discussed in some detail. I imagine that if that were to happen, the 4 SCs would get together to see if they can hammer out an agreement whereby Amherst is happy and yet the small towns do not feel disenfranchised. As I have said a few times now, the report does encourage the towns to continue talking with each other and this issue, in my opinion, should be one of the things that is discussed. I do not think, though, that it is something Amherst needs to decide now or decide on its own.

Anon 1:21

I like to frame the question in these terms: "How does being in U26 hurt Amherst students?" I cannot think of anyway that they are hurt. I guess I just don't see that the Super that Pelham ES would want is so much different then the Super that Amherst or the region wants. We all want excellet schools for our children. Do you really think Pelham wants something different for their elementary students than what Amherst wants for their K-12 students or that Leverett, Shutesbury or Pelham wants for their 7-12 students?

Let me remind the readers of this blog of how U26 votes for the Super. If the vote is tie, ie, all three of Amherst vote no for a particular candidate, and all three Pelham members vote yes, and the Regional committee votes yes, that candidate is not hired because the 3 Amherst members voted no. This is what puzzles me about the strong push to leave U26. Amherst already as veto power over a candidate if they vote in a bloc. They lose their veto power if one Amherst member votes with the 3 Pelham members.

And yes, it does work the other way. Pelham could veto an Amherst choice. And the Region could veto a choice if the majority voted no. And, if Amherst were to leave U 26 do you think Pelham will go out and hire an entirely separate Super for their ES? No, they will piggy back on the Super that is hired by the Region and Amherst. And they will still have veto power. Pelham will hire a piece of the Super and pay a piece of the cost of the Super. So, nothing is gained by Amherst leaving U26.

Anyway, bottom line, I just don't see that Amherst's wants and desires are so diametrically opposed to what Pelham or Leverett and Shutesbury for that matter would want in a Super.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

MaryAnn - just to clarify: If Leverett and Shutesbury join Union 26, there is NOTHING to hammer out -- the state law REQUIRES that each town have equal representation, so each town would have three votes. That is totally clear, and there is nothing left to debate about that. I believe that if Amherst is willing to have four towns in Union 26, we should be clear that this "Case 1" option is viable. If we believe that this is NOT possible, we should also be clear to the towns about that, so that people don't waste time/energy considering something that Amherst won't agree to. That is why I think this is THE essential question right now (since this is one of the only two options on the table for doing something different, and it is quite clear that the other option -- regionalization -- isn't very likely at all).

In terms of whether Amherst and Pelham want the same thing in a superintendent - I don't think it is likely that they would (of course, that is just my opinion). Do you think New Haven, CT and Greenwich, CT want the same thing? Those are both towns in CT, who presumably want excellent schools, but different people define excellent schools in different ways. It is 100% clear that Pelham and Amherst face different challenges/issues in their schools, and thus I would imagine that could lead to different rankings/priorities of different aspects of a superintendent's experiences.

And one more clarification - I do believe Amherst should have veto power over a superintendent, since we pay 80% of the cost and have 80% of the students. But I do not believe Pelham should have this power (with 67 students in total and paying 3% of the cost). And if Amherst were its own K to 6 district OR if Amherst and Pelham were to regionalize, Pelham would NOT have veto power. That is why either of those options are better to me than the current arrangement - and also these options would both simplify the superintendent's job and budgeting (reporting to 2 SCs, not 3).

MaryAnn said...


You are absolutely right about the state mandated representation if Leverett and Shustesbury were to join U26. My bad!! I knew that. :)

I want to respond to your other points...but will have to wait til this evening...I really gotta get some work done this afternoon.

To be continued!

lise said...

Mary Ann said:

"And, if Amherst were to leave U26 do you think Pelham will go out and hire an entirely separate Super for their ES? No, they will piggy back on the Super that is hired by the Region and Amherst. And they will still have veto power. Pelham will hire a piece of the Super and pay a piece of the cost of the Super. So, nothing is gained by Amherst leaving U26."

My understanding is that Pelham would have to go out and hire their own Super, or join some other Union. If U26 is dissolved Pelham would NOT be able to hire a piece of the Amherst/region superintendent. Hiring a piece of the Super, and paying for a piece of the Super, is the definition of what makes a superintendent union.

So my question is why don't Leverett, Shutesbury and Pelham want to get togehter to form their own union. They have the most common interests of any of the U26 or U28 towns. Was that idea considered?

Finally, Mary Ann please answer the question if you can, because no one has been able to articulate an answer. How does sharing an elementary Super with Pelham help the children of Amherst? What is one positive thing that comes out of it? I understand the don't waste time argument for not leaving U26, but I can't get my arms around how sharing a super is a good thing for the Amherst schools.

Anonymous said...

Expanding Union 26 to include Leverett and Shutesbury would put the schools closer to potentially having a unified K-12 curriculum. This has been a critical point in recent years, particularly with regard to continuity of the core curriculum, as pointed out by Ms. Donta Venman. It potentially could create efficiencies in the Central Office and Special Education, as all schools would be administered under one umbrella (and for Amherst and the Region, those administrative costs have been ballooning the budget). The issue of the 25% vote is kind of irrelevant, given the governing structure of each town retaining their own school committees, with all five representatives from Amherst on the Regional Committee. I think people should think of this as like the Senate & Congress: Does California feel disenfranchised by Rhode Island in the Senate? Is Senate representation a violation of the Voting Rights act? However the likelihood of a four town Union 26 happening is slim given the political climate created over the Amherst/Pelham split. More likely: Shutesbury and Pelham will form a separate Union, all three towns will continue to draw school of choice students away from Amherst, and the Paolo Freire Social Justice Public School will set up shop in the former Marks Meadow to add to the on going economic drain on the Amherst Schools (so says my gloomy crystal ball!).

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Lise - you are basically right about what would happen if Amherst left Union 26 -- Pelham could join another union (e.g., Union 28), hire its own superintendent (or have their principal also serve as superintendent), or Pelham could REGIONALIZE with Amherst (which I think is the best option, since then the voting could be hammered out and would be at least somewhat of a better proportion in terms of town population).

I have no idea why the idea of Pelham/Shutesbury/Leverett forming their own union wasn't even mentioned at all in the report, which does seem like a logical solution. However, this would be less good for Pelham (since then they would have 33% of the vote, not 50%), and it would clearly increase costs for those three towns (e.g., Pelham would pay 1/3 of the cost instead of 3%, Leverett and Shutesbury would each pay 33% instead of 20 or 25%). Again, these towns are currently in good situations and really should have no need to switch (unless forced by the state) -- whereas Amherst is clearly disadvantaged in terms of hiring (and paying) a superintendent.

One more thing: Gavin and Rich -- I think a major thing that you both don't note in your posts is that superintendents see reporting to 3 SCs (and going to three sets of SC meetings and going to three sets of Town Meeting and managing three budgets) as undesirable. That was repeatedly mentioned during the last superintendent hire, and seems pretty obvious. So, it is clear that Amherst is reducing the number of people who would want to be superintendent by virtue of being in the current arrangement -- that may not be reflected in the final voting (e.g., Amherst versus Pelham versus Regional split), but that would clearly be reflected in the number (and potentially quality) of candidates who apply (that just wouldn't be obvious to the general public).

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response:

Anonymous 4:03 - actually, creating a four town union would do little (if anything) to create a unified curriculum, since it would maintain four totally separate SCs -- and each could vote different policies, curriculum, etc. For example, right now Amherst is adding K to 6 Spanish and Pelham is not. What would create a unified curriculum, as Alison points out, is a regional system -- which the other towns have said they don't want.

Similarly, adding two more towns to Union 26 would mean people working in central office would get FIVE paychecks (instead of 3), and there would be FIVE separate budgets. That would actually increase cost-inefficiencies!

And if Pelham and Shutesbury want to form their own union, they would have to pay their own superintendent .... which would be pretty hard financially.

In terms of the Senate/House of Rep. comparison -- remember, that when we choose a president, each state does NOT get the same number of electoral votes: CA gets a whole lot more than Rhode Island! That is also true when a regional school system chooses a superintendent (e.g., Amherst has more weight than the small towns). However, in unions, Rhode Island and California are treated equally -- which is decided NOT how presidents are elected.

Just to corret two more inaccuracies in your post -- Shutesbury doesn't accept any School Choice kids at all, and U Mass already has plans to use the Marks Meadow building (no chance of any charter school opening up here).

Anonymous said...

Thanks Catherine. Some smaller school groupings have a single administrator who is Principal/Super, or Super/Special Ed Director, or all three. Keep your eye on this Charter Application(Paolo Freire Social Justice), due this month. It was noted in the Gazette in an article on Bob Brick that they were looking to site the school in Amherst. They are also looking for alliance/support with UMass. It's being proposed by Bob Brick & Ljuba Marsh, who started PVPA, and have successfully gotten other charter proposals through.

Mary said...

although I am not happy about the way in which considering U26 has been raised by you, Catherine, (sorry!), I am not in favor of doing anything that further dilutes Amherst's authority while inreasing our financial burden. If Shutesbury and Levertt want to join Amherst and Pelham than the option should be K-12 regionalization. If they fear they give up too much with that option, they need to find other solutions. A union with Pelham sounds fair. I would only support an expanded U26 (with Shutesbury and Leverett) if the voting power was restructured along with the money.

I may not favor getting out of U26 right now but I don't want to do anything that further weakens Amherst's position.

Thank you for inviting comments on this.

Cathy Eden said...

Mr Cullen's remarks about power vs ed effectiveness were convincing. Especially in regard to the Leverett SC member talking about how the loss of 1 (or 2?) students to a charter school is costing them their Spanish program!

I DO see that the loss of a small town's ES is a big loss - and so is the loss of rich educational programs. Perhaps Lev, Shu, & Pel could find other ways to create community in their towns if they decided to regionalize.

Thank you Sean Smith, and current Amherst SC for developing and implementing the Spanish language program that will prepare students to be able to take second year Spanish when they get to the MS. This is only an option because of the closing of MM - a difficult choice.

However, this could be a compelling reason for Amherst parents to keep their children in-district. Another example of the dedication of our current SC and their willingness to make hard choices that result in high educational effectiveness.

Ed said...

Since it is quite clear that Leverett and Shutesbury can't hire/pay their own superintendents

I don't see why. There *are* Superintendents who will work for far less than six figures, there are semi-retired folk who only want to work a few hours a day, or who genuinely like education and are tired of just being downtown in the city, or who were always only a principal and always wanted to be superintendent before they died.

If it takes a change in state law it takes a change in state law, but there are two other options. First, not a Superintendent Union, but a contract where Pelham (Shutesbury & Leverett) all bid for management services. If Amherst (or Northampton, or Springfield or whomever) gets the contract, that district provides services without the town having a choice as to whom they hire to do it.

The second is actually the way I would go. UMass has a Superintendent Certification Program -- people who are getting their doctorates so that they can be superintendents elsewhere. And they need money to pay for school - called an "externship", each town could hire one or two of these very qualified people at about $25K-$25K per year. They would get 20 hours per week of someone who not only is very qualified but also supervised by faculty.

I am from a small community, I know what it means to loose your school, but the simple fact is that Amherst can no more afford to subsidize the hilltowns than UMass can afford to subsidize Amherst.

Amherst residents' thoughts on this issue - are we in favor, should Shutesbury and/or Leverett request this change -- of expanding Union 26 so that Amherst pays 90% of the bills, has 90% of the students, and has 25 to 33% of the vote in choosing and evaluating the superintendent?

I don't think this is legal -- I asked the person who likely knows the most about the Voting Rights Act and was told that all it would take would be one complaint from one black Amherst voter and it would be all over.

And there is that little thing called the _Baker v. Carr_ decision and each person's vote supposed to count the same...