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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

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.


Caren Rotello said...

I have heard that Maria Geryk's interview might be delayed until the week of February 7th. I urge the SC to hold that interview as quickly as possible, so that no candidates withdraw from consideration (having taken other positions) before an offer can be made.

It would be quite unfortunate if the decision about who to hire were dictated by the combination of a snowstorm and a significantly delayed interview.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Caren - I agree with your sentiment that this type of a delay is really unfortunate. Two of the members of the RSC are out of town all next week, but I believe the most recent plan is to have Maria's interview on Tuesday, February 1st (that is still to be confirmed, but I believe seems likely), and to hold the vote within the next week (this is also a bit hard to schedule). I agree with you that time is of the essence to make sure that we don't lose any of the three finalists (which was one of our reasons for trying to finish the search in January). I know that Rick and the search firm have been in touch with all of the finalists to explain the delay and believe they are comfortable with this brief extension (and we are working hard to keep the delay as brief as possible).

Anonymous said...

Given the delay, will the School Committee schedule a public hearing or some opportunity for the public (who wish) to verbally share their opinions on Supt candidates prior to the School Committee vote?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 8:39 - absolutely. You can send feedback to the SC via email or (for those who prefer verbally!) in person or by phone (all of our numbers are on the ARPS website) anytime prior to the vote. That should give the community ample time to share their views about any/all of the finalists.

Anonymous said...

I think holding the public meet and greet with Dr. Bayless this morning, while it might have been unavoidable, really did a disservice to him. He (and we) might have been better served by juggling his schedule a bit so that more parents might have been able to meet him.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 10:58 - It is too bad about the delay this morning, but I'm glad that parents have another chance today from 2:30 to 3:30 and can see his interview from 6 to 8 pm. I believe we can also learn about the finalists from the material posted on the web and the media coverage - which certainly gives much info on their backgrounds/experiences/interests. It simply wasn't possible to do juggling at this very late point, given how packed his schedule is today.

Anonymous said...

In response to your 10:42 response - could you please clarify something? This means there will be no public opportunity to hear other people's point of view on the candidates through a public session?

And is this evening's presentation a school committee interview so that the only time for parents to ask question is from 9-5?

thank you.

Anonymous said...

Will the interviews be broadcast on ACTV?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:48 - there has never been a time for public comment at a superintendent selection; not this year and not in the past prior to making the selection. The SC makes the decision, based on the information we receive from multiple sources, and certainly considers parent and community feedback very seriously. This evening's presentation is a School Committee interview, and will be televised. If you are unable to make the daytime events, please share your question(s) with me and I will make sure they get asked, and I will post the answer.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 12:06 - good question - I do not know the answer but I will find out and post the answer!

LarryK4 said...

No wonder the venerable Leverett Select Board wants to shut down your blog: you make them look as silly self-centered and obnoxious as they actually are.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Catherine for offering to ask the questions that those of us who work during the day cannot ask the candidates. My questions for Dr. Bayless: (1) what exactly about the Amherst regional school district drew him out of retirement? (2) What does he see - from whatever research he's done - as our strengths and weaknesses? and (3) What does he see as the biggest issues facing kids today? Thank you for all that you do, Catherine, including asking these questions and posting their answers.