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.

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:  SandersonForSchoolCommittee.com

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.

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An update:  Here is the gazette story on my announcement:  http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/01/25/sanderson-run-re-election-amherst.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now were talking.

Caren Rotello said...

Hurray! You have my vote!

Anonymous said...

Very happy to hear this!!!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Thanks to those for the kind words (Anonymous posters and Caren!).

One more note: Clare Bertrand, my opponent's campaign manager, makes a number of statements in the Gazette article regarding my SC service. I'd like to encourage all blog readers to go directly to my campaign website (sandersonforschoolcommittee.com) and click on the FAQ tab if they have any questions about my SC service (e.g., my position on the override, my blog, school committee interactions, etc.). For example, Ms. Bertrand's quote implies that I opposed the override (e.g., didn't support) whereas in reality, I (along with 80% of the Amherst SC) didn't take a position on the override. I hope all community members will really take the opportunity to educate themselves on the positions, experiences, and goals of each SC candidate over the next 2 months.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully we can all agree with Catherine to leave the children out of it. They are children (by definition), and we are adults (by definition) -- they are not mature enough to understand what is going on and they should not be dragged in as pawns into our disputes.

Everyone benefits if we all agree to leave the children out of this. No one's child is going to get dragged into this if everyone agrees that the children ought not be involved.

Of course the kids are going to be supporting their parents and handing out cookies at the events and the rest, can't we all agree to be adults and be polite to the children and save our policy disputes for the candidates themselves?

If the Mafia can agree to do this, can't we?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 4:56 - I just want to clarify that my children, and I know my opponent's children, are old enough to read the paper and thus will likely read comments about the campaign. I know my oldest child has read the Bulletin at times and said to me "Why do people hate you?" and that just breaks my heart. So, I'm not going to say anything hurtful about any of my opponents in an attempt to win an election because I don't want other people's kids to read negative comments about them in the paper. I am therefore asking that everyone associated with my campaign focus on what they like about what I've done, and not what they don't like about any of my opponents. I hope people associated with other campaigns will make the same choice, but that of course is not within my control.

Anonymous said...

Read your last post and felt good about everything until.....that last sentence. Was it really necessary to suggest there was a possibility your opponent's supporters would not also travel the high road you described? How does such innuendo help? Couldn't you have stopped a sentence sooner?

Anonymous said...

I don't know where Ms. Bertrand's experience or her conversations with others take her. But there has been real unhappiness out there about the schools, and it's NOT because of some evil, despicable desire to trash the schools indiscriminately.

Prior to Dr. Sanderson's time on School Committee, such unhappiness was expressed only by minority members of the Committee. But the feelings of dissatisfaction were more widely distributed than that.
Dr. Sanderson has tried to respond to them, yes, aggressively.

And, for that, Ms. Bertrand tells us, she should be thrown out of office. We'll see what the voters say, BUT the feelings of some parents are not going away.

As you can see, the prime irritant for many is the blog.

Anonymous said...

Here are Clare Bertrand's words, copy and pasted from the online article: "Bertrand criticized Sanderson for not supporting the tax override last spring"

I think you need to take people's words at face value and not interpret them. Catherine, you are correct when you day that you did not oppose the override. And Clare Bertrand is also correct when she says you did not support it either. When you take no public position on something it is accurate to say you did not support it and you were not against it.

As Ed likes to say so often, FACTS MATTER. Clare Bertrand's statement was accurate...you were the one who interpreted it incorrectly, for your own purposes. Not the first time this has happened.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 5:30 - I'm glad you generally like what I wrote. And I share your hope that the campaign can focus on issues about education. I didn't mean to imply my opponents wouldn't share our desire to have a positive campaign -- I just needed to acknowledge that that is a decision they will make, as I have made my own.

Anonymous 5:45 - I ran for SC in 2008 because I heard dissatisfaction (from minority parents and others), and my hope is that I have helped improved the schools in tangible ways over the last three years. I certainly don't think voicing concerns is bashing the schools. I also think it is good for people in the community to know how their elected officials think and why, and my blog has indeed meant that people understand why I'm voting in particular way. I have found this blog extremely useful in understanding parents' views and in discussing many complex issues.

Anonymous 6:41 - I believe the statement "didn't support the override" can be interpreted in multiple ways (either as not supporting or as opposing). A clearer way to present it might have been "Catherine didn't take a position on the override last year" or (as you suggest) "Catherine didn't support or oppose the override". That's why I am suggesting people who want to understand what my actual position on the override was read my FAQs, in which this precise question is addressed.

Anonymous said...

Catherine:

Have you ever stopped to think about how badly your supporters have trashed Maria Geryk, especially in the last week. How do you think her kids feel about the way she has been treated? About the things that have been said about her? Or how would your kids like it if someone said they were declaring war against you, as you and Steve Rivkin declared war against Maria Geryk? It's nice to see you say you want civility but your past actions and those of some or your supporters have been anything but.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, Thank goodness you are running again. You have helped to get more accomplished for the schools in one SC term, than anyone has in the decade before. You listened to parents and did something -- made sure important issues got put on SC agendas, asked for the administration to provide reports, data and assessments on programs (sometimes you didn't get it and sometimes you did). But, no one before you ever got as much done, and we parents have talked to teachers, principals and superintendents & SC members before, and not much action happened. Thank you for your service to our kids and to our schools. I don't care if you ruffle a few feathers in the process, this is not a coffee-klatch, this is our childrens' futures. You have my vote!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 7:24 - I have never trashed Maria Geryk (or any other superintendent we've had) in the press or on my blog. I don't control what other people say, and I agree that it is very hurtful for people to say rude things in the press about members of our community. That's why I haven't done it before, and I'm not going to do it.

Anonymous said...

I have a few questions. You credit yourself, in part, for the establishment of an additional prek class for low income students. Have you visited the class? Has any data been collected as to how this "isolated" group is performing? As an outside observer, in my opinion, it is clear that these children would be better served if they were integrated into the other prek classes. Which, by the way, are not primarily for students receiving special education services (has to be 51% not on IEP). Keep 6 prek classes but do so a way that is more representative of the classes that they can expect to transition into for kindergarten. The importance of peer modeling can not be emphasized enough here. The "lower income, at risk" children that are lumped together based on this specific criteria are not being served any social justice when a large percentage of class time is consumed with teachers dealing with behavior management.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 7:43 - thanks for your thoughtful post. I haven't visited the preschool, but can certainly see that your point makes much sense (this is exactly what research points to). In fact, I believe Steve Rivkin raised this same point at one of our fall meetings.

The SC, however, doesn't control the implementation of any programs, including the preschool, so the decision about how to group these students was made by the superintendent. I suggest you send your suggestion (which could potentially be implemented for next year) to Maria Geryk (gerykm@arps.org) and/or the entire SC (schoolcommittee@arps.org). Thanks for the great suggestion!

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:30 back again!

You say, "I just needed to acknowledge..." and I'm left wondering why you needed to do this. It feels like you are calling them out. What's going on? Is this how a campaign of mutual respect begins?

In hindsight, do you think stopping a sentence shorter would have helped lead to a more positive campaign?

I'm not in any way involved in their campaign. In fact, I voted for you last time. But, I'm having trouble with the discrepancy between what you say and what you say.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 5:30/7:48 - I'm interested in talking about education -- ideas, goals, vision, etc. I would like to have a positive campaign that focuses on kids. If you have ideas you'd like to share with me about our schools, I'd love to hear them.

Cathy Eden said...

I just visited your website sandersonforschoolcommittee.com and it is great! I plan to send copies of your FAQ to several friends of mine who have been the victims of misinformation and hearsay about your tenure on the SC. I'm so glad you are running again -- Thank you for your hard work for our schools.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Cathy - thanks for the kind words ... and I'm glad you found my website helpful. I am absolutely comfortable with people not supporting people, but just hope they will take the time to learn the truth about what I've accomplished before making a decision (since there is indeed much misinformation out there). I'm also glad to respond to other questions (and post the answers), so if you (or others) have other questions they'd like to have addressed, just let me know!

Tom Porter said...

Catherine,
I'm delighted to know you will run for re-election, because the past three years of SC activity have been the most fruitful in memory.

Important issues raised - some many years overdue. Bold decisions made, real measurable benefits obtained. Difficult (Administrative leadership transition) waters navigated. Key issues given full and welcome airing (the blog); lively community dialog and transparency the result. Excellence within reach.

Thank you for your conviction to outcomes of excellence for all students, and for using your energies to shove this school system toward its potential. And thank you for keeping to the high road, always, in your SC work and in your campaign. We in this community are fortunate to have your leadership!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Tom - thank you for the kind words. I like your slogan: Excellence Within Reach!

Anonymous said...

Could you start by answering the questions that Anon 5:30 and 7:38 asked?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 10:07 - I'm moving on to focus on children and education in Amherst, which is a positive focus around a very important goal. Send me a question on that topic and I'll respond!

LarryK4 said...

Since so many regional officials seem to fear the power of your blog and would rather shut it down than simply fight fire with fire (or bandwidth as the case may be) via their own, I'm kind of amazed the Amherst Regional School system doesn't harness the power of the Internet by offering online courses.

Hadley already offers 35 online courses to kids at Hopkins Academy and tonight they are talking in that town about starting a "virtual school" that could attract students away from ARHS (and we know well how they love to whine about those evil Charter Schools siphoning off students.)

Any chance the Amherst Schools will soon be coming into the 21st century with online offerings?

Anonymous said...

Catherine --
Very glad that you are running again and grateful for all the energy you put into the school committee and your blog, and the sacrifices you've made. Thank you! (& it would have been totally understandable if you had decided not to run again)

Ed said...

As Ed likes to say so often, FACTS MATTER. Clare Bertrand's statement was accurate

Facts do matter -- but only if they are complete. Is it not true that the School Committee was essentially ordered to support an override that they had not been able to comment on and which really didn't fund the stuff they most wanted to fund -- with the added issue that they would not be able to have their own override aftewards?

...you were the one who interpreted it incorrectly

Not if it was incomplete. Not if enough relevant facts are left out....

Wasn't there something about it not being the override that the School Committee wanted, not being for the stuff that needed to be funded, and the SC being bullied into accepting an override that was actually going to hurt some of the grades for reasons I can't quite remember?

Isn't there something about telling "the whole truth"?

Facts do matter -- Ed does say that -- and the complete facts matter as well. Tonight is a nice night to have a fire going -- but in the woodstove, not the living room sofa. (Opposition to having a fire going in the living room sofa doesn't inherently mean opposition to having a warm house...) Facts do matter, and complete facts matter as well....

Anonymous said...

Saving a million dollars...by closing Marks Meadow....You should be ashamed of that move. I think in all the years I have involved with schools and the educational system this is the single most devastating action I have ever seen a group of so called educated people involve themselves in. Talk about classism in action!

Anonymous said...

Anon. 4:21,
If you had paid attention to news outside of Amherst you would have seen how many school districts were forced to make the same tough decision all across the US. It was not an easy choice but it certainly was the right one to save the quality of our schools for ALL of the kids.

Anonymous said...

How can it be devastating to be able to preserve programs and services for ALL students in the district?!

How can it be classist to no longer segregate poor students in one school?!

Of course it is challenging for students and families to have to change schools - but devastating - no. Something devastating is losing your home or becoming seriously ill or not having the privilege of a public education at all.

Anonymous said...

saving a million dollars by closing the MM School?

I was neither a supporter nor an opponent of this action, but I'm wondering where these dollar amounts for the savings from this decision come from? has the exact amount of saving from closing this school ever been substantiated? if not, maybe we should stop using ever increasing numbers.

Anonymous said...

By classit I mean closing a high performing school, displacing students, and yes devastating families, in the name of all kids--I hardly think that phrase applies here--in the name of saving a musical instrument, or piece of clay work, or some other such not needed material or activity that all kids engage in anyway!! Get real here--not all kids can afford or even want to play the violin after school, or join the swim team or have the money to even play sports in this town!! Come on--I'm not making this up. Now it's a whopping million dollars that has been saved--prove it, because I don't believe it and never have! And anyone with half a brain wouldn't either. A million dollars--that's being soaked up by another administrator's administrator?? Really--just look at how the positions in administration have grown...and grown... jobs created out of no where...??? Read Rudy Crew's book--no school in the United States should ever be threatened with closure--never mind what this sad town has down to Marks Meadow. :-(
If I were you--I'd be running too....away...

Anonymous said...

To: February 1, 2011 7:31 AM

Free musical instruments are given to any kid who cannot afford one. Lessons are also free. Swim team helps kids who can't afford the fees. Get over yourself.

Amherst Voter said...

Regarding C.S.'s alleged statement as mentioned by a poster in this thread that CS has waged war against Maria Geryk, some clarification is required.

Farshid, in the Aug. 13, 2010 Amherst Bulletin opined that it was Steve Rivkin who was declaring war if (and only if) the current search for the MS principal and curriculum director was cancelled. It is not fair to state that CS was doing so. CS did state, according to Farshid that she was going to "go after Gini Tate" if the search was not cancelled. Not sure what Gini Tate had to do with it all. Perhaps CS can clarify that bit.

The quote below is from Farshid's Aug 13th letter to the editor in the bulletin.

"Steve Rivkin and Catherine Sanderson approached me in the parking lot on March 8 and urged me to impress upon Acting Superintendent Maria Geryk their desire to cancel the active searches for a middle school principal and a curriculum director. Mr. Rivkin told me that if Ms. Geryk did not comply, "it's going to be war." Ms. Sanderson followed up with this remark to me: "If the searches are not cancelled, we're going after Gini Tate. Tell Maria that!"

It is doubtful that Farshid would be so short sighted as to slander anyone in the press, so I think we can take his words as truth, and he CLEARLY states, again, that CS was only threatening to "go after" Gini Tate. NOT Geryk.