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.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Education Updates from Amherst: Superintendent Search, Math, Study Halls, and More

This week's Amherst Bulletin was full of education news, so I wanted to get those stories posted quickly.

First, there is a longer version of the story I posted earlier this week from the Gazette on the superintendent search committee ( I am honored to have been chosen by the Amherst School Committee to participate on this committee, and think this is a great group of people to conduct the screening interviews. I look forward to our interviews on January 11th and 12th--and to announcing the three finalists to the School Committee on Wednesday, January 12th.

Second, there is a story on the discussion about elementary math from the last School Committee meeting ( We had a long discussion about this issue -- one I know is of concern to many parents -- at our meeting on Tuesday, December 21st so I encourage those interested to watch the meeting on ACTV. I really hope that the administration chooses to appoint a broader council to review the elementary recommendations in particular (the current math curriculum council has no representation from Wildwood parents at all), and that an action plan is developed to implement changes in our math program in time for the start of the 2011-2012 academic year. As I noted at the meeting, the dissatisfaction with elementary math has been widely-known at least since 2007 (when Jere Hochman first appointed a math curriculum council, of which I was a member), and these kids don't get to make up these lost years that we spend discussing what to do.

Third, there is an article describing the issue of study halls in the high school, as discussed at the last Regional School Committee meeting (  I remain concerned that students at ARHS have had mandatory study halls (sometimes as many as 2 per year) whereas students in other high schools in our area haven't had such a requirement.  It certainly seems like students should be able to fill their school day with classes (which could also allow kids to broaden their exposure to things like art and PE), and I hope the budget proposal we receive in January includes no required study halls. 

Finally, there are a few brief assorted updates on school issues that may be of interest to parents and community parents ( This story includes the names of those on the 6th Grade Task Force, an announcement that Steve Rivkin will be out of the country for about a month and a half on a Fulbright scholarship, and Kip Fonsch's recommendation that the schools steer some students to trade schools instead of the high school.

Note: I'll be away for much of the next week, without consistent access to email, so apologies if responses aren't posted quickly. Best wishes to all for a relaxing holiday season!


Ed said...

these kids don't get to make up these lost years that we spend discussing what to do.

If there ever is a response to the critics of Catherine Sanderson, to those who argue that only one issue should be addressed at a time or that we should spend time thinking about stuff, this is it.

And she isn't the first person to say it -- a couple years back the head of the Springfield Teachers Association (union) was on the news saying the exact same thing. And I think he is a teacher, isn't he?

Anonymous said...

Math: Thank you to the SC for pressing for expediency in making changes to the math curriculum.

Study Halls: In the AB article on study halls and in Jim Oldham's column a few weeks ago, it was stated that because of the override, mandatory study halls were avoided. However, from what I remember, even after the override passed Mark Jackson presented a budget that included mandatory study halls and it was the SC members who rejected mandatory study halls. Can someone clarify this for me? If it was the SC that pressed for no mandatory study halls then I think they should be the ones getting acknowledged for the decision.

Supt: Also, glad to hear CS's enthusiasm for the supt search -- given the heart-breaking process that we all witnessed last time.

Ed said...

Catherine -- for the record (or please check & tell us) are the superintendent interviews public events?

Can we go watch these people? Do we get to ask them questions ourselves? This is what UMass does -- there is an hour or so where anyone who wants to can come in and ask anything that he/she/it wants to ask.

Transparency is important -- will the public get to see the candidates?

Anonymous said...

What math curriculum is used at the middle school and high school? And is there satisfaction with that curriculum?

Ed said...

As to math curriculum -- and curriculum in general -- I suggest that we also need to find out who is hiring those ARHS grads -- those who go to college, those who go to trade school, those who go directly to work -- we need to find out who is hiring them and ask those people what THEY think of what our graduates know and go from there.

This is particularly true relative to our minority students. Never forget that the Dodger's hired Jackie Robinson not because he was black but because he was so good that they wanted him in spite of the fact he was black.

A decade ago, the UMass Computer Science Dept started teaching the "C" programming language because several big computer companies made it clear that they would leave Massachusetts if UMass didn't produce graduates who knew it.

If you want your children to stay in the area, they have to find jobs and in order to do that, the local schools have to have a reputation of producing graduates who have the skills to make employers money.

Math curriculum thus becomes relevant -- particularly for those not going on to grad school -- as what the grad will need to earn a living...

Anonymous said...

Didn't the SC vote to reduce the ARHS allocation by a few hundred thousand dollars below the administration's requested budget because they couldn't see what the additional money would go for? Is it fair to say that contributes to the study hall issue?

Anonymous said...

"Ed": I couldn't agree with you more, the public should be able to attend the interviews of the 3 finalists for the superintendent possition, and have an hour or more to ask anything they want. Do you agree, Catherine?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:56 - the public can certainly attend any of the public events and ask whatever questions they'd like. The official interview is conducted by the SC and specific questions will be asked that will be the same for all candidates so that we can more effectively compare their responses. I encourage all community members to actively participate in this very important process.