So, the localocracy voting has been fascinating -- and apparently there has been more action on this topic of Union 26 than on other topics they've posed! The voting is pretty much tied as of now (though with relatively few voters on either side -- 10 to 15 people on each). I am finding two things very informative:
First, the reasons people give for getting out of Union 26 are pretty much what one might expect -- concerns about Amherst subsidizing another town and concerns about Amherst tax payers being denied equal representation. However, the reasons people give for staying in Union 26 largely focus on two issues: it has worked well for years (this strikes me as somewhat debatable, given that Amherst does subsidize Pelham!) and that we don't like/trust the current SC. It is obviously fine to dislike me (or Steve, or all of us), but I hope all voters remember that this isn't about the current SC and whether you like them. It is about whether you believe Amherst voters should have the right to vote in SC members they do like, and then whether you believe those SC members should have the right to choose a superintendent (since Amherst pays 95% of the superintendent's salary and has 90% of the kids). I hope that everyone who votes to stay in Union 26 is sure they would still support that vote if in a few years they really liked the new Amherst SC.
Second, the majority of people who have voted to stay in Union 26 have clear ties to the current school administration, whereas none of those who believe Amherst should exit Union 26 have such ties. Several current or former teachers/principals - or their spouses - have voted to stay in Union 26 (Aaron Kropf, David Mullins, Russ Vernon-Jones, Carol Sharick), as have several former SC members (Elaine Brighty, Alice Swift). It is clear that the Union 26 arrangement has felt quite comfortable to those who have long ties to the Amherst educational system.
It is clear from the voting patterns, and reasons provided, that some people in Amherst are really split on this issue (and probably on many), although it is entirely unclear where the silent majority really falls. I continue to believe that public officials need to hear from as many people as possible - hence my desire to do this blog - so I really hope that all of my blog readers who live in Amherst will sign up for localocracy (go to http://localocracy.org/#), which just takes a minute (they ask for your name and birthdate and address to verify that you are a registered voter in Amherst). You can then read the full issue I've proposed, and you can vote YES or NO (and give a reason if you want). Before you submit your vote, you can choose whether to use your name or to be anonymous (so, I was wrong about this before -- you CAN vote anonymously) . Again, there are many people in Amherst whose voice is not being heard, so I encourage all my blog readers to vote (either way -- I want honest and objective information on what the public thinks) and to send the localocracy link to their friends/neighbors/colleagues and encourage them to sign up and express their thoughts as well! This is a very easy way to participate in politics in Amherst (even anonymously!) and we all benefit from hearing more voices.
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.