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, January 28, 2011

Superintendent Search Stuff

I'm out of town now at a conference, but wanted to post the latest Amherst Bulletin article on the search for the new superintendent (  As I note in this article, the comments I've received (some to my personal email, others to the entire SC) have really been all over the map, with strong advocates for each of the three finalists.  To me, that is actually very encouraging, because it means that each of the three finalists is seen as having real strengths by at least some members of our community.  I am hopeful that the SC can have a thoughtful discussion about the strengths and fit of each of the three finalists when we meet on Sunday, February 6th, and that we will emerge with a finalist that all members of the SC feel comfortable supporting.  This is the most important decision the SC makes, and I believe all 10 of us are really focused on gathering information (from many sources) and making the best decision we can for the districts. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Education Week Study on School Districts' "Educational Productivity"

One of my blog readers sent me this fascinating study from Education Week, which I've posted below.  I've also found the summary of the research this article was based on, and have pasted all the highlights of those recommendations at the end of this piece.  I found this study very thought-provoking and believe some of my blog readers will as well.  I look forward to hearing thoughts!

Sweeping Study Weighs School Districts' 'Educational Productivity' (Education Week, January 20, 2011)

By Christina A. Samuels

A report from a progressive think tank measuring the “educational productivity” of more than 9,000 school districts around the country shows that districts getting the most for their money tend to spend more on teachers and less on administration, partner with their communities to save money, and have school boards willing to make potentially unpopular decisions, like closing underenrolled schools.

The study, from the Washington-based Center for American Progress, attempts to measure district productivity nationwide, according to its authors. Almost every K-12 school district in the country with more than 250 students was included, and the information has been included in a website that allows users to compare districts within states.

The attempt to drill down on productivity—what districts are getting in terms of student achievement in math and reading for their education dollar—is particularly appropriate now, as relief to districts from federal economic-stimulus dollars is petering out, and an economic upswing is not on the horizon, said John Podesta, the center’s president and chief executive officer.

“The results we found were striking. There was an enormous productivity gap among districts,” said Mr. Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. “Even controlling for demographic factors, there was no clear relationship between spending and results.”

This report is part of a series of reports from the center examining government accountability and efficiency. The analysis is intended to encourage a more sophisticated discussion rather than just suggesting district funding should be cut in the name of encouraging efficiency, said Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the center and the report’s author.

“Do we pretend that this problem [of inefficiency] doesn’t exist, so we don’t enter into this conversation? I think the answer is no,” Mr. Boser said. “In education, we think about achievement on one side, and spending on the other, and we need to marry that.”

Three Perspectives

The center’s analysis offers three ways of looking at district productivity, each of which offers slightly different results.

The report uses 2007-08 spending data, and state reading and math test results for the 2007-08 school year. Because state assessments vary across state lines, district efficiency can only be compared within any one state. Also, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Alaska, Montana and Vermont were not included in the analysis. The District of Columbia and Hawaii are single-district jurisdictions; Montana and Vermont did not have enough comparable districts, and Alaska was excluded because the authors could not sufficiently adjust for cost-of-living differences within the state.

The basic return on investment measure rates school districts on how much academic achievement they get for each dollar spent, relative to other districts in the state. Adjustments are made for students who are deemed more expensive to educate than their peers in general education: special education students, students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and English-language learners.

The “adjusted return on investment” is similar to the basic measure, but it uses a different form of analysis to be more sensitive to spending differences within states.

Finally, a “predicted” efficiency rating attempts to gauge how much more or less achievement a district produced, compared to what would be expected of a district with the same amount of spending and student demographics. By this measure, a district that is doing better-than-expected could get a high ranking.

The interactive website that accompanies the report allows some interesting comparisons. For example, the Eau Claire and Oshkosh districts in Wisconsin are about the same size—Eau Claire has around 10,800 students, and Oshkosh around 10,200 students. They serve similar student populations, and get largely similar results on state exams. However, Eau Claire’s total expenditures are about $8 million more per year than Oshkosh, which spends about $110 million a year to run its district.

The measures also show that high-spending districts are often inefficient. The report notes that only 17 percent of the Florida districts in the top third in spending were also in the top third in achievement.

Also, students from disadvantaged backgrounds nationally were more likely to be enrolled in highly inefficient districts, even taking into account that such students tend to cost more to educate.

Donna Cooper, a senior fellow at the center, who assisted with the report, said she hopes that state and district officials move past defensiveness to seek out real change. “If you address these challenges, you can boost achievement,” she said.


Note from Catherine:  You can read the full report by going to:   And here are the summary points:
  • Many school districts could boost student achievement without increasing spending if they used their money more productively. An Arizona school district, for example, could see as much as a 36 percent boost in achievement if it increased its efficiency from the lowest level to the highest, all else being equal.
  • Low productivity costs the nation’s school system as much as $175 billion a year. This figure is an estimate; our study does not capture everything that goes into creating an efficient district. But the approximate loss in capacity equals about 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.
  • Without controls on how additional school dollars are spent, more education spending will not automatically improve student outcomes.
  • Efficiency varies widely within states. Some districts spent thousands more per student to obtain the same broad level of academic achievement. After adjusting for factors outside of a district’s control, the range of spending among the districts scoring in the top third of achievement in California was nearly $8,000 per student.
  • More than a million students are enrolled in highly inefficient districts. Over 400 school districts around the country were rated highly inefficient on all three of our productivity metrics. These districts serve about 3 percent of the almost 43 million students covered by our study.
  • High-spending school systems are often inefficient. Our analysis showed that after accounting for factors outside of a district’s control, many high spending districts posted middling productivity results. For example, only 17 percent of Florida’s districts in the top third in spending were also in the top third in achievement.
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be enrolled in highly inefficient districts. Students who participated in subsidized lunch programs were 12 percentage points more likely to be enrolled in the nation’s least-productive districts, even after making allowances for the higher cost of educating lower-income students.
  • Highly productive districts are focused on improving student outcomes. We surveyed a sample of highly productive districts to learn more about their principles and practices. The districts that performed well on our metrics shared a number of values and practices, including strong community support and a willingness to make tough choices.
  • States and districts fail to evaluate the productivity of schools and districts. While the nation spends billions of dollars on education, only two states, Florida and Texas, currently provide annual school-level productivity evaluations, which report to the public how well funds are being spent at the local level.
  • The quality of state and local education data is often poor. In many instances, key information on school spending and outcomes is not available or insufficiently rigorous, and this severely impedes the study of educational productivity. For instance, we did not have good enough data to control for certain cost factors, such as transportation. So a rural district with high busing costs might suffer in some of our metrics compared with a more densely populated district.
  • The nation’s least-productive districts spend more on administration. The most inefficient districts in the country devote an extra 3 percentage points of their budgets on average to administration, operations, and other noninstructional expenditures.
  • Some urban districts are far more productive than others. While our main results are limited to within-state comparisons, we were able to conduct a special cross-state analysis of urban districts that recently participated in a national achievement test. After adjusting for certain factors outside a district’s control, we found that some big-city school systems spend millions of dollars more than others—but get far lower results on math and reading tests.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm Running

I had originally intended to complete the superintendent search, and then make a decision about whether I felt I had the energy/drive/motivation to continue serving on the School Committee for the next three years.  The weather-related delay in the search has given me time over the last few days to really think through what I'd like to accomplish if re-elected, and to talk with family and friends about this important decision. 

And I've decided to run for re-election. 

I'm very proud of the many things the School Committees have accomplished during my first term (e.g., saving a million dollars a year by closing Marks Meadow so we could save art/music/intervention/small class sizes, eliminating the massive inequity in low income schools between our elementary schools, adding elementary Spanish, and conducting reviews of math, special education, and the middle school).  I still feel there is important work that needs to be done to make our good schools the best they can be.  I believe I have the experience, energy, and drive to help create change, and I look forward to working with my Amherst and Regional School Committee colleagues (and whoever the superintendent will be!) to accomplish more great things for kids over the next three years. 

During the campaign, this blog will continue to serve the same purpose it has served over the last few years -- to provide parents, teachers, and community members with a safe place in which to share ideas, concerns, and suggestions with me and others in our community about education in Amherst.  It will not focus on the campaign or particular candidates (although I will of course post information about School Committee candidate forums and newspaper articles).  For those who want to learn more about my campaign, including my goals for a next term and ways to help with my re-election, please refer to my campaign website:

And one more thing:  it is very difficult in terms of time/energy/emotion to run for elected office in Amherst, and I believe all candidates for SC deserve respect from all members of our community.  I will therefore not engage in negative campaigning against my opponent(s), and ask that others not to do so on my behalf.  I know first-hand how difficult these types of attacks are, not only on those who choose to run, but also on their families (especially their kids).  

So, blog readers, please learn more about my background/experience/goals, do the same for my opponent(s), and then vote for the person who best shares your own goals and who you believe will best help our schools become the schools you'd like to see.  That process should not involve negative attacks (on blogs, in the paper, or via email) on any of the candidates for SC (and I won't post negative comments on my blog about any other candidates).

Thank you for helping to create a positive election season in which we avoid engaging in personal attacks on adults, and instead focus on creating the best schools we can for all kids.

An update:  Here is the gazette story on my announcement:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Still Disappointed: Our Children Deserve Better

I'm attaching the most recent article describing the attempt to sabotage the process of selecting a superintendent, with real hopes that those who are driving this push will have the respect for all members of the community (especially the students) to allow this process to continue (  Again, I know this campaign is being carried out by a small number of people, and it does not reflect the broader views of the Amherst (and small town) communities -- but I am hoping we can all as a community encourage these efforts to stop immediately. 

I'd like to outline a few key points that many who are pushing this rush to judgment seem to be missing. 

First, Ms. Geryk was appointed in March of 2010 at a meeting in which selecting a new superintendent (interim or otherwise) did not appear on the agenda.  The public (parents, teachers, community members) had no notice that this appointment could potentially occur;  School Committee members were not given any notice that this appointment would occur.  The appointment proceeded only by a very divided vote:  although all members from Pelham, Leverett and Shutesbury voted for this 16-month appointment, only 1 Amherst member did so (Andy Churchill, who had already decided to not seek re-election).  The other 4 Amherst members (including the only two members of color on the SC) opposed this appointment. 

Second, Ms. Geryk has never been through any formal or informal review process in her role as an interim superintendent.  So, reports that she is doing a great job, or a not so great job, are just individual people's opinions based largely on their own personal experiences.  The SC has never examined how well Ms. Geryk has led the district towards accomplishing the district goals that have been set out, and/or how effectively she has performed as superintendent. 

Third, community feelings about Ms. Geryk's performance are certainly mixed (and I'm not speaking to the percentage of views that are pro versus con, or whether these views are accurate or biased on either side).  Those who have concerns about Ms. Geryk's performance need to recognize that some members in our community feel very positively about her efforts (including some special education parents).  Those who feel very positively about Ms. Geryk's performance need to recognize that some members in our community feel quite concerned about her efforts (including some special education parents).  As a member of the SC, I need to pay attention to both of these views, and to try to understand both of these views (and I would hope that members of our community on both sides would try to do the same). 

But I'm concerned that some of those who feel Ms. Geryk is doing a great job therefore seem to feel that the process should end immediately, without giving any consideration to the two external finalists (although the SC voted to conduct a full and open search last September).  I believe these efforts are entirely inappropriate, just as I would believe that efforts to end the process prior to her interview and immediately appoint either Dr. Kohn or Dr. Bayless would be entirely inappropriate. 

Finally, and as I've noted before, we have three finalists who have varied strengths in terms of years of experience as a superintendent, education, familiarity with our community, etc.  To me, that means the superintendent search committee (of which I was a member) has done a good job in presenting the community, and the SC, with three distinct choices.  And it is clear that there is not a single "right choice" since each member of our community, and indeed each member on our School Committee, may evaluate the finalists' pros/cons in different ways, based on what he/she sees are the most important characteristics our community needs moving forward. 

But here's the key thing:  all members of our community owe it to themselves, and the students in our schools now and in the future, to learn as much as possible about each of the three finalists (and this should include the external finalists - who are obviously much less familiar to our community - and the internal finalist - who different people in our community see in quite different ways).  This is a very important choice for the future of our schools, and I continue to hope that all members of our community will allow this very important process to continue in a way that is fair, open-minded, and welcoming to all three finalists.  Our children certainly deserve no less.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Two School Updates: Dr. Kohn's Interview and an Update on Elementary Language

The second of the three finalists visited Amherst this week, and I'm attaching the story from the Gazette on Dr. Kohn's interview (  As noted in the article, the third and final candidate (Ms. Geryk) will interview on Tuesday, February 1st, and the vote will take place on Sunday, February 6th. 

I'm also attaching an oped from Steve Rivkin from this week's Bulletin on the elementary Spanish language program (  I know some parents and community members have had questions about this program, and hopefully this piece will be helpful in clarifying how and why this program was established. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Disappointed By Some in Our Community: PLEASE Give the Process a Chance

I believe some of the best things about living in Amherst should be having a community in which there is an openness to all views, an acceptance of and respect for people from diverse backgrounds, and a real willingness to listen to all sides.

Thus, I've been dismayed to see a campaign to disparage our two external candidates with long and distinguished careers in multiple districts and to promote our  internal candidate.  Surely we can only make the determination of who is best for our district if we approach all our  finalists with an open mind, ready to learn more about their backgrounds and experiences and ask any questions we might have.  I hope that citizens who have received email blasts and read statements in the newspaper and/or on blogs on behalf of  a specific candidate will reserve judgment until they have heard and thoroughly researched each candidate’s record.  Surely our kids deserve better than this type of rush judgment.

Throughout my time as a member of the School Committee, and before that as co-head (with Steve Rivkin) of ACE, I have pushed for more community voices to be heard.  But I have never told people what those voices should say.  ACE has never supported a single School Committee candidate or superintendent finalist;  emails sent out to that listserv have always said simply "here are opportunities to learn more about these people and to share your view;  please let your view be known".  Similarly, I have never pushed a single School Committee candidate, or superintendent finalist;  I have simply informed people about opportunities to learn more about candidates/finalists and encouraged people to share their views (whatever those views might be).

Choosing a superintendent is an extremely important decision -- this choice will impact our schools and our community and our kids for a VERY long time.  I therefore continue to hope that all parents, teachers, and community members will take the time and energy needed to get to know more about the background, experience, and vision of all three finalists (through newspaper articles available on my blog, resumes and essay responses available on line at, and the interviews available on ACTV) ... and then, after reviewing this essential information, I hope to hear from as many people as possible about the pros/cons of each of the three finalists (emails can be sent to  Each School Committee member can then individually balance the relative pros/cons of each finalist noted by the community, our own individual impressions, and the considerable additional information we have (e.g., more extensive information about prior experiences, reports from numerous references) to make the best vote possible when we select a superintendent on Sunday, February 6th. 

Note:  I posted a quick version of this post yesterday and then felt I needed to give the post more thought and reflection -- then I posted a revised version of this post that was quite brief (as I was rushing out to the superintendent interview and then driving last night to New Jersey for a conference AFTER the interview).  I've now posted basically the original version -- but with slight revisions.  Will post all comments -- but please be respectful and do NOT comment on any of the finalists!

Superintendent Search Updates

I'm posting two pieces from the Gazette related to the superintendent search. 

First, there is an article on the first finalist's visit to Amherst yesterday (  I know not all people had an opportunity to meet or see Dr. Bayless, so hopefully this will be helpful in conveying some of his experiences and ideas.  His interview will also be shown on ACTV (and I assume available on "by demand" as well). 

Second, there is a letter from the three School Committee members on the superintendent search committee (me, Rick, Nora) on the search process which responds to the critiques raised by the Leverett Select Board (  I hope this will clarify the process for the community. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gazette Profile of Ms. Maria Geryk

I'm posting the third (and final) profile of the superintendent finalists from the Gazette (  And Maria Geryk's interview will take place on Tuesday, February 1st (same exact schedule as for the earlier candidates, with options to meet the public from 8 to 9 am at ARMS cafeteria and a 2:30 to 3:30 in the WW library, plus a two hour public interview).  I've also found out the interviews will be shown on ACTV (and I assume available on line).  The School Committees will then meet on Sunday, February 6th at 1 pm (place to be announced) to make their final selection. 

It is really important that we hear from all community members about their thoughts about these finalists.  Feedback forms are available at all of the events, and you can also email the School Committee with your thoughts directly at:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gazette Profile of Dr. Gerald Kohn

Here's the next profile of the superintendent finalists from the Gazette (  Again, let me encourage all parents and community members to come out and meet these finalists, particularly those who are less familiar to our community, and share your thoughts about their background, experience, and fit with the School Committee.  Feedback forms will be available at each public session (8 to 9 am, ARMS cafeteria, 2:30 to 3:30 WW library, 6 to 8 pm ARHS library), and emails can be sent to the entire School Committee at:

Delay in Superintendent Search

As I'm sure everyone now knows, the superintendent search process is delayed due to weather.  I'm attaching the most recent Gazette article on the search, which provides more information on the revised schedule (  I'm also attaching the letter from the Leverett Select Board which appeared in today's paper (

I will briefly note a few things:

First, I am puzzled that the Leverett Select Board's concern about a lack of community involvement in the process leads them to favor absolutely no community involvement and the permanent appointment of the current interim superintendent (who received no community input at the time of her appointment). 

Second, I am puzzled that the Leverett Select Board letter only notes the travel schedule of an Amherst member led to a rushed search, when in reality a Shutesbury member had already planned to be away, and therefore the Amherst member made plans (assuming that the search wouldn't be conducted that week).  I wish they had taken the time to ask Rick about the reasoning for the timing of the selection prior to making such an assumption. 

Third, I'm puzzled that the Leverett Select Board expresses concern that the School Committee did not eliminate an Amherst's representative's blog, when the search consultants did not in fact request the elimination of any blog (mine, Larry's, Rick's, or the community supported blog).  In addition, obviously the School Committee has no power over the first amendment right to free expression by members on the committee or in the community.

Fourth, I'm puzzled that the Leverett Select Board seems to feel the search committee representative from Leverett wasn't qualified to share her views on the superintendent search unless she was selected by the Leverett School Committee. There were three applicants from Leverett who applied to serve on the committee, and we chose the one who had by far the most experience with our regional schools (which I would think would make her the most qualified to participate).  There was absolutely no request at any time that the Leverett and Shutesbury School Committees would choose their own representatives;  the only request was that residents of both towns were chosen to participate, and this request was agreed to unanimously by the Regional School Committee.  

Finally, although I understand that the Leverett Select Board has expressed their strong preference for the current interim (a request made as early as last June at the 4 Towns Meeting), the Regional School Committee chose to undertake a full and open search to find the best leader for our district.  A search committee has identified three candidates, and I believe we as a community owe it to all three of these finalists to keep an open mind about who is the best fit, especially as we learn more about the backgrounds and experiences of the two outside candidates who are less familiar to our community.  I again urge parents and community members to come meet Dr. Bayless and Dr. Kohn this week, and to share their views with the school committee by filling out feedback forms at each event and/or by emailing the entire School Committee (  This is a very important decision, and I hope we can all focus on making a decision that is focused on what is best for kids and the future of our schools.

Gazette Profile of Dr. John Bayless

I'm pasting the Gazette profile of our first superintendent finalist, Dr. John Bayless to help the community learn more about his background and experiences (  I hope all interested parents and community members will come meet Dr. Bayless on Wednesday (8 to 9 am, ARMS cafeteria, or 2 to 3, WW library, or 6 to 8 pm, ARHS library).  Feedback forms can be completed at any of these public forums.  All School Committees can be reached with comments at:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Questions Arise Over Amherst Superintendent Search

I'm posting a story that will appear in tomorrow's Gazette on some questions regarding the superintendent search (  I will say I share Irv's concerns about the letter from the Leverett Select Board and find it very unfortunate that they have chosen to engage in such a hostile act. 

I'm surprised that the Leverett Select Board apparently believes the fairest process is to appoint an interim superintendent effective immediately when that person was chosen without a single bit of public comment, at a meeting in which the selection of a superintendent wasn't even on the agenda, and on a vote that was opposed by 80% of the Amherst School Committee members (which represent 75% of the students in the elementary and regional schools).  That hardly seems to me to be the process that is most inclusive of the community. 

The summary of the timeline is as follows:

1.  In March, a superintendent was chosen to serve for 16-months without any opportunity for public comment.  At that time the discussion focused entirely on whether we should immediately search for a permanent superintendent or wait a few months;  no one on the SC suggested this might be a permanent appointment.

2.  In July, the SC discussed plans for starting on the search, as planned.  Only one person (Kip Fonsch, from Leverett) suggested cancelling the search;  no one agreed with this idea.

3.  In August, the SC discussed moving ahead with the search (no one disagreed, although Kip wasn't there).

4.  In September, the SC discussed (on a surprise motion by Kristen Luschen from Shutesbury) calling off the search and appointing the interim permanently.  The motion to call off the search failed 4 to 5. 

5.  In October and November, the SC met with HYA, held numerous focus groups, received over 400 responses to an on-line survey, and developed a time line.  That time line involved holding interviews on the 18th/19th/20th and choosing a finalist on the 20th.  We also developed (and agreed by consensus) membership on the search committee:  3 SC members (representing each committee), two teachers, two parents, and a government official.

6.  In November, Kip requested that we make several changes to the search committee;  adding members from Leverett and Shutesbury, adding an administrator, allowing teachers to choose their own representatives.  We made ALL of those changes in order to increase the community's voice in the selection.  At no time did the SC even discuss allowing the school committees of Leverett and Shutesbury to select their own town's representative. 

7.  In January, the search committee met three times to review and interview the candidates.  This was an active and thoughtful group of people who took this job VERY seriously.  I appreciated the insights of each person and believe that we all approached this task with an open mind and focused entirely on kids.  We chose 3 finalists.

8.  Concerns were raised about not having adequate time to gather feedback on the two outside finalists, so Rick switched the schedules around so that we would have 24 hours after seeing Dr. Kohn (and 48 hours after seeing Dr. Bayless) to get feedback from the community.  Again, this change was done to allow for more gathering of feedback and reflection on the two outside candidates, which seems entirely appropriate (since the community and the committee obviously has much more extensive knowledge about the internal candidate).   

Now, after all of this time, we are hearing that the process is unfair because the Leverett SB (who has no say whatsoever in the selection of a superintendent) wanted a different person from Leverett on the search committee.  In addition, they would like me, Nora, and Rick to resign because we developed this process, and they would like the interim to be appointed permanent superintendent (which they somehow feel allows for much more community voice in this selection, although I find it hard to believe that many Amherst residents have contacted the Leverett Select Board with their thoughts about the qualifications they'd like to see in a superintendent and/or their thoughts about Ms. Geryk).  I find this all very discouraging.

I believe we all have to focus not on politics, but on education for kids in our schools.  A thoughtful search committee (including parents, teachers, a SB member from Shutesbury) has selected three finalists to bring to our community.  I believe we as a community owe it to these three finalists to treat them with respect and to get to know them.  There are two public forums each day in which these candidates will respond to questions, there is extensive information from the candidates themselves (essay responses, background summary) on the web, and there will be two lengthy interviews (which can be seen live on the web and/or in person).  The community will have multiple times to give input, and that input will be seriously considered (along with the extensive other input the SC will have, including more extensive biographical data and many references).

I believe we all need to focus on selecting the very best superintendent to lead our community, and this can only occur if all members of the community approach this process with a fair and open mind, and do not prejudge any of the finalists without even meeting them or attempt to sabotage the long-established process.  I hope members of all four towns will join me in engaging in a fair and objective process this week and vow to fully support whoever is chosen as our next superintendent.  I didn't vote for Dr. Rodriguez in the last search, and I was disappointed when my preferred candidate, Dr. Sklarz, wasn't chosen.  But from the moment the SC made its decision, I vowed to work collaboratively with Dr. Rodriguez, and I believe we had a very good relationship throughout his time in Amherst.  I believe all members of the SC, and all community members, need to have the same commitment to supporting our next superintendent, whoever that person is.  We owe our kids this much, and I have to believe that all of us must share the same goal of choosing the best person to provide our kids with the excellent education they deserve. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Change in Superintendent Finalist ORDER

Just FYI:  Dr. Kohn will now interview on Wednesday, January 19th, and Ms. Geryk will interview on Thursday, January 20th.  This change was made to allow more community feedback on the less familiar candidate prior to the vote selecting a superintendent on the 20th.  Again, I encourage all community members and parents to attend the public sessions (8 to 9 am in ARMS, 2:30 to 3:30 in Wildwood) and/or the interview (6 to 8 pm, ARHS) and share their thoughts with the School Committee.  Feedback forms will be available at each session;  comments can also be emailed to the School Committee directly at:  This is a very important decision for the future of our district, and I hope all members of our community will take the opportunity to get to know each of the three finalists and share their thoughts. 

No Change in Northampton Start Time

In case anyone is able to concentrate on anything OTHER than the superintendent search ... I'm posting an article from the Gazette on the decision by the Northampton SC to not change the start times for next year (  There is a subcommittee on the Amherst and Regional School Committees meeting now to examine the issue of start times;  a report is expected later this spring. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Education Matters: Change Doesn't Come Easily

I'm posting the link to my final Education Matters column in the Amherst Bulletin (  I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts about education in Amherst (and elsewhere) with Bulletin readers, and appreciate the dialogue my columns have fostered.  I'd be interested in hearing what my blog readers think about the issues raised in this final column -- as they strike me as the key ones we are now facing as a community (as we hire a superintendent and embark on what already appears to be a very heated School Committee race this spring). 

Gazette Profile of Dr. Gerald Kohn

I'm posting a link to a story in the Gazette about Dr. Gerald Kohn, the superintendent finalist we will see on Thursday, January 20th (  I will just remind blog readers that I believe all three finalists deserve a fair treatment by our community (and whichever person is selected should be warmly welcomed by our entire community).  I really hope all parents/teachers/community members will take the time to attend the various sessions and talk directly with Dr. Kohn to learn more about his background, experience, and vision for our schools. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Superintendent Finalists Announced

So, I am delighted to announce that the search committee has chosen three finalists to move forward in our search for the next superintendent of the Amherst and Regional schools.  Let me start by saying that I am honored to have been chosen by the Amherst SC to serve on the search committee, and particularly honored to have worked with the 9 members of this search committee:  Rick and Nora (from the Regional and Pelham SCs), two teachers (Stephanie Joyce from CF and Mark Moriarty from ARHS), a principal (Mike Morris from CF), one community member (Elaine Puleo, Shutesbury SB chair), and 3 parents (Eva Rosenn - HS parent from Leverett, Navneet Marwaha - FR parent, Pat Ononibaku - HS parent from Amherst).  This was a great group of people who I truly believe were focused on bringing forward the best finalists to our community.  Thanks also to John and Al from HYA, who brought forward a great group of candidates for us to consider;  the money we spent hiring this firm was money very well spent.

The three candidates are:

Tuesday, January 18th - Dr. John Bayless (BA in Science and Social Science, Minor in Biology, and MA from Cal State U - Pomona, EdD from USC), who has served as a superintendent in many different California districts for many years.  He has also worked as a teacher and principal, and has achieved certificates in business and personnel.  (see full bio at

Wednesday, January 19th - Ms. Maria Geryk (BA from Westfield State College, MA in School Psychology and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from U Mass), who has served as an interim superintendent in Amherst over the last year.  She has also worked as a director of special education, school psychologist, school adjustment counselor, and special education teacher.  (see full bio at

Thursday, January 20th - Dr. Gerald Kohn (BA in Biology from Princeton, MA in Teaching from Montclair State College, EdD in Education Administration from Harvard), who has served as a superintendent in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts for over 20 years.  He has also worked as an assistant superintendent, director of desegregation, math department coordinator, and teacher. (see full bio at

I hope we can remember that we are trying to make a good impression on all three candidates, as they are choosing us just as we are choosing them!  So, let's focus on the many positive experiences and attributes of these three finalists, as we try to choose the one who is the very best fit for the Amherst and Regional schools at this time.

I encourage all parents, teachers, and community members to meet the candidates when they are in town next week.  There will be feedback forms available at all events for those who attend to complete;  this information will be given to the School Committee for consideration.

The schedule of events on each of three days is as follows:

8:00 am to 9:00 am - Coffee with parents/community  in the ARMS cafeteria
9:00 am to 9:30 am - Central office welcome and quick tour
9:30 am to 10:30 am - Administrators/Superintendent's Council
10:30 am to noon - Tour of ARMS/ARHS (by principals)
Noon to 1:00 pm - Lunch with chairs of Pelham and Amherst School Committees
1:00 pm to 2:30 pm - Tour of elementary schools
2:30 pm to 3:30 pm - Reception with parents/community members at Wildwood
3:45 pm to 4:45 pm - Meeting with teachers at ARMS Library
4:45 pm to 5:45 pm - Dinner
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm - School Committee interview (ARHS Library)

 Now, let's please all keep fingers crossed for NO snow days next week!

Finally, the selection meeting in which the Regional and Union 26 School Committees (both must agree) will take place starting at 8:30 pm on Thursday, January 20th, in the ARHS library.

Just adding a brief update, which is to attach the Gazette article on the finalists:

I also want to note that I will not post any remarks that comment (positively or negatively) on any of the three finalists:  people who have questions and/or comments should review the candidates full credentials (to be posted soon on the ARPS website), and attend events with the candidates next week.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Even More News About Math in Amherst

I'm posting three quick pieces - one article (Gazette) and two opeds (Bulletin) - involving math in our district. 

The Gazette piece ( describes the search for more parents to be added to the Math Review Panel.  I appreciate the administration's decision to expand this group (as I requested at the December meeting).  Given the interest many of my blog readers (and indeed many parents in Amherst) have on this topic, I very much hope that many applications will be received.  Interested parents can apply directly to Superintendent Geryk at 

I'm also posting two opinion pieces on math.  The first of these is by Curriculum Director Beth Graham (, who proposes that any changes to the math program (including following the recommendations of Dr. Chen) be made following a process of review and evaluation.  The second of these is by parent Debbie Gabor (, who encourages more urgent action on behalf of the administration.