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 (http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/01/community_group_urges_amherst.html). 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.
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.