So, I've been an eager supporter of localocracy (localocracy.org), because I believe it is an essential way in which we can get more information about what the public thinks. But that is only true if people are reading the information provided and then forming an opinion. I am disappointed with how many people are voting (on either side) with misinformation and that doesn't help the discussion.
Here are a few examples:
1. Some people are voting to end Union 26 because of the inequity in budget spending between Amherst and Pelham. But that issue can be totally solved without dissolving the union. That isn't a reason in and of itself to end the union.
2. Some people are voting to stay in Union 26 because they feel that Amherst and Pelham should work towards great alignment in the curriculum and share the costs of a superintendent. Both of those goals can be entirely accomplished BETTER if Amherst and Pelham form a regional agreement, meaning they form ONE School Committee and the superintendent manages ONE elementary budget, than if they stay in the current union.
3. Some people are voting to stay in Union 26 because they dislike current Amherst SC members (including me!). But the issue of staying in Union 26 is much bigger than the current Amherst SC ... because in a few years, we might very well have quite different people on the SC, who are elected by Amherst voters with their own goals/ideas. Would people still want the Amherst SC to not have the power to select a superintendent if they liked those members (because if we don't get out, that will still be the case, no matter WHO is on the Amherst SC).
4. Most importantly, people don't understand that Union 26 has nothing to do with hiring Maria Geryk. In fact, if Amherst SC members want to veto Maria's permanent appointment as superintendent, that can happen right now in the current situation! The three Amherst members of Union 26 are Irv, me, and Steve (we all voted against Maria's appointment as interim in March). Changing Union 26 has nothing to do with hiring a superintendent in the next 4 months (it couldn't possibly happen that fast -- probably June 30, 2011 at the earliest). The question is not whether you are pro-Maria or pro-ending Union 26. The question is what is best for the town of Amherst, and in particular the children of Amherst. Is it better for the Amherst voters to be able to elect SC members who they want, and then to have those SC members be able to exert more than 50% of the way in their superintendent (given that Amherst pays 95% of the elementary bill)?
Again, I'd love to hear what voters think -- but I really hope all voters will actually read the information presented, and the questions posed and answered by various people BEFORE choosing a side. The point is not to amass points for one's view -- the point is to help inform people about the salient issues, and then have those people vote ONCE they've become educated. It is quite clear from reading the reasons given for various votes that this just isn't happening.
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.