My apologies for the less frequent updates here ... this is a hectic time of my semester, so I'm not as up to date on my postings as I normally am. But I hope my blog readers will enjoy these three pieces related to education in Amherst.
First, here is a link to a thoughtful piece by Lisa Kosanovic published in the Amherst Bulletin about the current math debate (http://amherstbulletin.com/story/id/189691/). I found her observations very insightful (particularly since she is both a math teacher in Holyoke and a parent with kids in the Amherst schools).
Second, here is a link to my November Education Matters piece, which focuses on the School Committee's role in managing budgets in a way that is responsible to tax payers (http://amherstbulletin.com/story/id/188918/).
Finally, here is a link to a Gazette story on the characteristics identified by the search firm as needed for the new superintendent (http://www.gazettenet.com/2010/11/24/amherst-panels-eye-skills-schools-chief). I believe it is always helpful to have an outside perspective, and certainly agree that an effective superintendent needs to be able to work to bring boards together around a common vision -- something the Amherst School Committee actually has done quite well (and has been doing for sometime) but something that Regional School Committee has struggled with at times (and certainly it is more challenging to bring people together on a larger board with more diversity of opinions and views).
But I'd also encourage community members - and indeed prospective superintendent candidates - to actually check out the meetings on ACTV ... because the vast majority of meetings (even at the regional level) are in fact constructive and respectful (even when we disagree). At last week's meeting, we had a pretty long debate about expanding the membership of the search committee, and ultimately the motion to move to 10 members (and include residents of Leverett and Shutesbury) passed unanimously. Last night we had a long discussion about a motion by Steve Rivkin about gathering information on the effectiveness of the two different math programs in the high school -- and this motion ultimately passed by a large (though not unanimous) majority. So, is there active and vigorous discussion? Absolutely. But ultimately I believe this type of debate leads to better decision-making, and thus better outcomes for kids, which I think is something parents, teachers, School Committee members, and superintendents should want.
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.