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, February 18, 2011

Amherst Bulletin: February 18, 2010

There are four pieces related to the SC/superintendent in this week's Bulletin which I thought would be of interest to my blog readers.

First, there is a piece describing Maria Geryk's new superintendent contract (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/198893/).  This is similar but not identical to the Gazette piece I posted earlier.

Second, there is a brief story about the Amherst elementary budget cuts proposed at this week's meeting (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/198851/).  I haven't done a blog posting summarizing that meeting, so I want to make three quick points:
  • there is still no written agreement governing how costs are divided between Amherst and Pelham:  so, Pelham with 10% of the enrollment and 25% of the elementary schools is still paying only 6% of central office costs and Amherst is paying 94% - which I still don't understand.  Apparently the new goal of the budget subcommittee (Irv, Rick, Debbie Gould) is to have an agreement in place a year from now.  
  • the Spanish program will be expanded to go from 1st and 2nd to 3rd grade next year, but with no increase in staffing, meaning that world language will only be offered 40 minutes a week (contrary to the recommendations of Sean Smith, head of world languages, to provide 1 1/2 hours a week).  Some members of the SC expressed concern about this lack of exposure to world language, given the goal of the policy to increase fluency by 7th grade so that students could move into 8th grade Spanish if desired.]
  • the enrollment numbers continue to decline, with 99 students fewer this year than last year and another drop of 75 students expected next year (and this could even be lower, since we were 44 students lower than projected last year).  We also discussed the marked climb in the percentage of kids on free/reduced lunch:  29% of this year's 6th graders are considered low income, compared to 52% of this year's kindergartners.  Rick noted that the number of kids on free/reduced lunch actually hasn't really changed;  what has happened is that the number of kids not on free/reduced lunch is decreasing. 
Third, the editor's column is entitled "Catherine Sanderson's Quest for Change" (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/198860/).  I appreciate the editor's kind remarks about my service, and just want to make a few corrections for the record. 
  • Anonymous comments on my blog had nothing to do with my decision to not run;  the week prior to my decision not to run, I learned that my older son's guidance counselor and teacher had send a nasty and name-calling email (identifying me by name) to many in our community, and had to spend a fair amount of time redoing his schedule.  This incident led me to really consider the toll of my service on my family.  
  • I do believe the SC members should send their own kids to the public schools (although there are currently SC members who don't choose to do this, and that has been the case throughout the time I've served on the SC), and although it is of course silly to imagine that anyone would opt for private schools out of lack of support for a given superintendent (and I didn't consider pulling my kids after I lost the vote for the last superintendent), I believe families certainly see the superintendent as having a major impact on the nature and direction of our schools.  Thus, to run for re-election, I needed to feel confident I could tell the voters that I would have my three kids in our schools in three years ... and I didn't feel I could make that promise, and thus I didn't think it was appropriate for me to run.  
  • I certainly agree that building consensus is essential in making progress on any committee, and that is why I'm so pleased that I was able to work with my colleagues to create such consensus on many important decisions:  closing Marks Meadow, redistricting, implementing Spanish language in the elementary schools, creating an evaluation policy, and requesting outside evaluations of math/special education/the middle school.  I'm surprised the editors didn't note that all of these accomplishments, which I consider some of the most important ones of my term, were unanimous votes, thus clearly indicating great consensus on the committee.  
Fourth, I also have a final oped explaining my decision to resign (http://www.amherstbulletin.com/story/id/198859/).  I believe this column speaks for itself, so I won't elaborate. 

70 comments:

Tom Porter said...

Catherine,
I read the Bulletin editorial and appreciate its attempt and covering the broad themes with a measure of fairness, although they waffle at the very end.

Having heard about the actions of your son's ARMS guidance counselor to malign you in communications to faculty and staff (although I don't understand what's meant by 'time redoing his schedule' as a result), I too was surprised that the editorial omits this as a factor in your decision not to stand for re-election.

I understand that your policy here is that you will not name the employee, but is this person still on the staff at the MS, and is s/he still counseling other students? If so, why - it seems atrocious and unprofessional, probably grounds for dismissal?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Tom - this guidance counselor was also one of my son's teachers - this person was in charge (ironically, as my son noted) of teaching students about respect for others, avoiding stereotypes, and avoiding bullying (and cyber-bullying). My husband and I were uncomfortable having this person teach my son, so my son is now spending one period each week sitting in the library instead of going to the class with this guidance counselor. I do find it odd that the Bulletin editorial didn't mention this very salient fact.

The principal and superintendent are aware of this person's actions. My understanding is that personnel matters are private, and thus I have no idea if this person will continue to work in our district. I imagine first amendment rights protect this type of speech, although, as I noted to the principal and superintendent, if my son had sent a similar email about his peers, I am quite sure he would have been suspended.

Anonymous said...

And why would this be grounds for dismissal? Does this guidance counselor lose his/her First Amendment right to free speech when they become a guidance counselor? Are all the staff of the Amherst Public Schools supposed to march in lock step and sing the praises of their school committee members? If this guidance counselor disagrees with Ms. Sanderson or any ther SC member and wishes to see them lose the election, they have every right to make their desires known to whomever they please. This issue goes to the heart of what makes our country great.

An ancillary point, all teachers have been maligned on this blog at one time or another and now this guidance counselor is being specifically maligned. Ms. Sanderson NEVER seemed to show any concern for the families of any staff person in Amherst and how the nasty postings on her blog might impact them.

And finally, this whole issue with the guidance counselor is just a smoke screen. This person never maligned Ms. Sanderson in conversatioins with her son. The idea that Ms. Sanderson felt she had to protect her son from a guidance counselor who expressed their opinion is a little over the top. A paranoid reaction perhaps.

Ms. Sanderson knew she was going to lose the SC election by a landslide and that is why she pulled out, pure and simple.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 7:53 - I agree that all staff members have full first amendment rights, and this person had every right to send that email and ask for it to be distributed widely. But there are rights, and there are norms of behavior. I've had students in my classes who have parents whose politics I strongly disagree with (daughter of Supreme Court Justice Scalia is one example). I would never imagine finding it appropriate to send emails widely criticizing him while she was in my class, although clearly I am allowed to do so.

I have never engaged in name-calling on this blog, in private emails, or in the press. This email was not a simple "I disagree with the politics of Catherine Sanderson"; it was personal, nasty, and extremely hostile.

Finally, I believe that given this person's hatred of me, it is difficult to imagine that this person could treat my son fairly. You may believe that is wrong, but I am a psychologist and there is a huge body of literature showing that negative feelings leak out in all sorts of unconscious ways. I don't believe my son should have to experience any of that potential negative behavior as a result of my decision to serve on the SC.

Would I have won or lost? I've had people tell me both in the last week. It is certainly possible that the loud, negative voices who oppose me would have led me to lose. It is also possible that a "silent majority" would have elected me (I had numerous people tell me they would vote for me but couldn't be public about their support). But ultimately, I decided that even if I won, I couldn't guarantee that my kids would be in the schools three years from now, and therefore it didn't feel fair to me to ask voters to support me. I know all SC members don't feel that having their kids in the public schools is important; but I do.

Brain said...

Catherine Sanderson wrote:

"... I didn't consider pulling my kids after I lost the vote for the last superintendent ..."

This is a telling comment, isn't it? Catherine, you did were not running for Superintendent. You did not lose the vote. Your chosen candidate, John Baylessm lost the vote.

Your inability to separate yourself from your preferred to policies and your inability to compromise and work as a team for the better good has always been your achilles heel. For god's sake, you and Steve could not even let go of your pride long enough for a show of unity in hiring the new superintendent.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, I hope you know that many who disagree with some or more of your policy decisions still find these personal attacks highly disturbing. Our community should be better than that. As you said, you would never have widely criticized Scalia while his child was your student. Doing so would have been highly uncomfortable for the student and would have resulted in, at best, a perception of bias against that student.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Brain - I believe I did lose the vote - when you vote one way, and you don't win, that feels like losing. I lost the vote for Al Gore a few years ago -- although I am not Al Gore.

And yes, compromise is very important - that is why I really appreciate Steve and Rob's willingness to compromise on their preferred candidate (Kohn) to try to get a candidate that could have gotten the full support of the SC (Bayless). That is why I compromised and delayed closing Marks Meadow for a year, and why I compromised on my initial proposal for the elementary world language program. That is indeed how the SC should always work together - with some people giving up their preferred positions to reach a consensus.

Anonymous 8:45 - thank you for these kind words. I agree that this behavior is inappropriate, regardless of how one feels about me, and it is disappointing to me that staff members have engaged in it. I appreciate your understanding of how disturbing this experience was.

Anonymous said...

I am worried about the story about the guidance counselor being a mis-representation of what actually happened.

I do not believe that this e-mail was sent to school staff and was certainly not sent on a school e-mail account. Perhaps I have my facts wrong, but I understand it was a personal e-mail sent on a personal account to personal friends, all outside of school. I believe that staff have a right to have a life outside of school and to do the same personal things that many people engage in.

To have used school time and/or resources, would have been inappropriate. But since I do not believe that was the case, I feel this employee is now the one being slandered and their actions mis-represented. If anyone can clear up these facts that might not be the real facts but are getting spread around as if they are......


On another note,Catherine you said:

"Finally, I believe that given this person's hatred of me, it is difficult to imagine that this person could treat my son fairly."

Awhile back you wrote something abut how happy your son was at the MS and I think that he likes his teachers very much. Do you think its possible that one or more of those teachers actually don't like your politics or your methods, yet are able to be completely professional and NOT take it out on you or anyone in your family? As mentioned in the editorial you and your methods have been a lightning rod in both good and bad meaning of the word. I would expect some negative feelings from school employees towards you have been created. But I think it is very unfair of you to assume that they would be as unprofessional as to take it out on your family.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a constitutional scholar, but I can read. Here's the First Amendment:

"Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Employers aren't the government. The Congress isn't abridging any rights here.

Teachers don't have the right to say things that adversely affect the functioning of the school -- singling out a parent of a kid in the teacher's class seems to adversely affect the mission of the school.

Here's the ACLU link on that:
http://www.aclu-wa.org/news/free-speech-rights-public-school-teachers

There are plenty of limits on speech -- some good and some bad. FERPA & HIPAA are specific, government mandated, limits on speech. I like the privacy protection in both.

The question is always about what's acceptable speech for certain employees in certain situations. A blast email maligning a student's mother cannot be defended under any circumstances. Any teacher with any integrity wouldn't dare demean the First Amendment by cloaking such childish and irresponsible actions behind it.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 10:38 - I believe your facts are correct: the guidance counselor sent the email on personal time from a personal email account. However, this email included the phrase "please forward to 10 friends," meaning it was obviously going to be widely circulated in the community - in fact, that was the precise intention of the email. As I noted before, I would never send an email with a request to spread that email widely in the community criticizing a parent of one of my students. I wouldn't do that on my free time using my personal email account, because I would think it was inappropriate. You may believe that it a fine and appropriate thing for an adult in charge of teaching kids about bullying and respectful behavior to do on their free time. I don't, but again, we just disagree.

I have no idea if that staff member, or other staff members, have or have not treated my children fairly. But I have a PhD in psychology, and I certainly know that people's feelings about someone can often leak out in unconscious ways (this is often how racially-biased behavior is seen), and can have negative consequences. It is hard for me to believe that a person who would send such an email about me would be able to treat my son fairly.

I am certain that my children have had or currently have teachers who disagree with some/many/all of my actions on the SC. But I believe there is a difference between having those beliefs and sharing those with close friends/family/colleagues and sending an email widely in the community with instructions to others to send it widely to even more others. So, I guess that is where I draw the line for my family.

I have a 12-year-old son who is in a new school this year in which he is aware that one staff member created a public facebook page criticizing his mother by name and that his guidance counselor sent a widely distributed email making negative accusations about his mother by name. I believe it is hard to imagine how difficult it must be for him to walk in that building every day believing that a number of adults hate his mom, and I feel terrible about that for him - even if none of these adults ever treat him in an unprofessional way.

Anonymous said...

I can see how your son would be struggling with being in school in Amherst. Who wouldn't be struggling if he was on the front lines of this difficult past 3 years?

You set yourself up for that when you came thundering into the school political scene with a "take no prisoners" approach.

Think about how many times various people have brought to light the idea that your aggression is way over the top.

Whether you or any of your supporters see it that way, there are a great deal of people who do. And when so many people in the audience react the same way, then the performer, you, needs to figure what is causing that.

It appeared that you were just going to keep bashing away until you got what you wanted, on all fronts. The people you were bashing, everyone who works for a very successful school district, by and large, got tired of it and pissed off. And now that the other side has adopted your approach, "take no prisoners," you balk.

Kind of reminds me of when the Democrats finally stand up to the over the top bashing from Republicans. Despite Fox News best effort to belittle, when The Repubs get it back they are suddenly appalled.

Now, your family is suffering some of the backlash from that approach.

If you had taken another road on this polticial venture of yours, a teacher may not have posted a facebook page decrying you, if indeed that is actually the case.

I believe you are suffering the classic fallout of your own hubris.

Think about it.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:33

I find your post to be astonishing. We constantly hear about our heroic and wonderful teachers who are better than most teachers. They're simply the best.

BUT, a parent who dares to change the schools better beware that these brilliant and dedicated educators might make the lives of the children of parents who criticize the schools difficult. These wonderful and dedicated teachers will take the fight to the children as retribution for the actions of the parent.

Think about that.

Anonymous said...

to anon 1:20

I am not anon 11:33 but I do agree with their basic point to Catherine. I have a much bigger problem, though, with your words in your response to 11:33:

"These wonderful and dedicated teachers will take the fight to the children as retribution for the actions of the parent.

Think about that."

That is such an irresponsible and inflammatory thing to say. Where do you get to say what teachers will do. What evidence do you possess that could possibly back up that statement. For teachers it IS ALL about the kids, that is who they are there working so hard for, and I can not accept your certainty that teachers would "take the fight to the children as retribution" with anything but shock and sadness. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Right, it's all about the kids.

What about the teachers who told kids in ARHS that they might not be able to write them letters of recommendation for college if the override didn't pass?

That happened. Multiple kids and parents reported it. Super professional behavior.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:33/1:41 - I guess I'm an idiot, but it actually never did occur to me that teachers would engage in nasty, name-calling emails and facebook pages about me. I didn't support George Bush, but I never would have done either of those things. I am also a teacher, and I guess I see even in my interactions with college students that I need to be professional and that I shouldn't do anything that would create an uncomfortable environment for them - which I think criticizing their parents would clearly do. Obviously you believe that my actions on the SC (trying to improve the schools for all kids) merit this type of a response from teachers and guidance counselors. That is certainly your opinion, and I respect it, although I disagree with it.

Anonymous said...

So, Anon 1:41 wants to know where I got that idea. Gee, I guess I read it in the post from Anon 11:33, who wrote:

"It appeared that you were just going to keep bashing away until you got what you wanted, on all fronts. The people you were bashing, everyone who works for a very successful school district, by and large, got tired of it and pissed off. And now that the other side has adopted your approach, "take no prisoners," you balk."

Hmm.

Anonymous said...

to 1:50 (and presumably 1:20, too)

While I did agree with 11:33's basic message I don't agree with all of the words they chose to deliver it.

I think, though, that the paragraph you just quoted DOES NOT specifically ever imply that teachers will take retribution out on their students. I don't think that is what the original poster intended to say (at least I hope not)although that I understand that that is how you read it.

The good news for me is I trust that teachers would not do such a thing, whether either of you say it.

Call me naive if you must.

Anonymous said...

anon 11:33

"Now, your family is suffering some of the backlash from that approach."

does anyone else think this is a disgusting and vile comment to make? an elected official (who received a majority of votes in her last election) takes controversial positions and someone thinks it's appropriate or to be expected that her family, i.e. HER KIDS, should have to deal with "consequences"?

When we start making our kids part of the political casualty for our "grownup" childish political wars, that's the real hubris. or organized crime.

The irony is this is the School Committee, who supposedly has at its core focus: the present and future of our children. I may not have liked every position CS took as a member of the School Committee. But I abhor adults who claim that it's acceptable for anyone's child to be snared in this discussion.

Amherst, you're a hot mess. And you cannot blame it on Catherine Sanderson.

As Joseph Welch asked: Have you no sense of decency?

Brain said...

So tell me, how did it benefit the schools, the children, the town, and our future for you and Steve to abstain in the final vote?

11:33 said...

Hi, 11:33 here.

I did not intend for anyone to believe it's ok to bash kids. Of course, it's not.


What I did intend was to say that if one uses the aggressive approach in trying to get what they want, as a lot of people have stated here is their problem with Ms. Sanderson's approach, then that person should not be surprised when someone uses that same approach toward them.

People here appear to be stunned that anyone would be aggressive in their retort to Ms. Sanderson's work on the SC.

Is decorum suddenly important to Ms. Sanderson? Our teachers shouldn't publicly disagree because it doesn't look good?

In that case, think about the decourum example you are setting when you come so strong from the beginning.

Her kids are naturally feeling all kinds of fallout from the past difficult 3 years.

Of course, it's not appropriate for anyone to bring kids into this.

However,it is completely appropriate for teachers as people living in a free society to post web pages stating whatever they are free to state.

Ms. Sanderson has had plenty to say about all aspects of our schools, often with the over the top negative tone.

Expect people living here to respond. Try toning it down a few notches and I think you'll find a very different response.

For the record: I don't condone bashing yours or anyone else's children. But if you're grown up enough to dish it out, then expect to learn how to take it coming right back at you.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Brain - I have always taken the stand that I felt was right, even if I knew it would have great personal costs, because I believe elected officials should be able to stand by their votes and defend those to others.

I voted to close MM knowing I would get huge heat. I voted to redistrict knowing I would get huge heat. I didn't take a position on the override knowing I would get huge heat. I voted for David Sklarz knowing I would lose. I voted for John Bayless knowing I would lose.

You are right - a skilled politician would certainly have voted for Maria to join the crowd, and that would have felt good to such a person. In fact, I would have done so on Sunday, February 6th, knowing that not doing so would cause me great heat.

I'm clearly an awful politician.

I didn't cast a vote for precisely the reasons that Tom Porter has laid out so eloquently on this blog (perhaps in response to another post). I felt abstaining was my only option, and I continue to feel this was the right decision.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 2:49 - I am pretty sure you and I disagree on this, but I think an elected official has a responsibility to point out issues parents have raised about the schools (e.g., the middle school, elementary math, special education) and ask for these things to be addressed. Is that aggressive? I guess that strikes me as a strange way of describing problems parents have identified and asking for them to be fixed.

And I don't think there is anything remotely similar about an elected official identifying problems and asking for them to be fixed (without name-calling towards any teachers or staff members) and teachers sending nasty name-calling emails about broadly in the community and posting facebook pages with various accusations. I focused on policies and programs and curricula, not PEOPLE. The emails and facebook pages weren't about "I disagree with Catherine's idea for solving the extensions issue; I believe it would be better to do X"; they were nasty, name-calling, personal emails about me.

It is 100% fine for anyone to disagree with me about a program/policy/curricula, and I'm glad to have that discussion with anyone at any time (as is clear at times on my blog).

But I think it is totally inappropriate to engage in nasty name-calling personal accusations about people - which I haven't done, and which others have done about me.

You might dislike me -- although you probably have never met me -- but I hope you can see the difference between disagreeing on an issue and attacking a person, and I would hope you would share my belief that personal, nasty, name-calling emails and facebook pages are inappropriate.

Tom Porter said...

And Brain 2:43:

Please tell me, what would you have recommended for Catherine and Steve, had they voted unanimously with the majority for the sake of comity -

Sainthood?

Anonymous said...

I've posted on this blog anonymously for a while. I choose to remain anonymous because of my kids. I do in fact fear retribution from ARPS employees (teachers, administrators, etc.). Maybe it's completely nuts of me to feel that way, but I do.

Here's the interesting thing to me. Lots of teachers and other ARPS employees post really nasty stuff on this blog anonymously. They claim that they fear retribution from CS or the SC if their names are known.

But, there's never been any negative consequences for teachers and staff who have organized public campaigns criticizing Catherine, Steve, Rob, and Irv. Maybe it's their right to do so, but the fact is that no one on the SC or in the ARPS administration has ever done anything to them for expressing some pretty nasty stuff publicly.

So, can we all agree that CS and the SC have literally zero power over ARPS employees?

Okay, then why the anonymous posts?

I post anonymously to protect my kids.

Teachers and staff do so to avoid taking responsibility for their nastiness and even hateful speech.

It's time for the anonymous posters who are critical of CS and SR and anyone else who dares challenge the status quo to give us their names.

What possible reason is there to post criticisms of CS anonymously now? The only possible reason is that you don't want your friends and neighbors to know just how nasty you really are, especially if you're teaching our kids.

Anonymous said...

Hi -- I'm a different Anonymous; haven't posted before. In response to your column, Catherine, I just wanted to say that you're so right: quiet, polite voices often don't get heard. Although I haven't agreed with you on every issue, I have deeply appreciated your willingness to speak out and ask the hard questions on behalf of us quiet folks.

Anonymous said...

11:33

I want to be clear: I am not an apologist for Catherine Sanderson. I disagreed with some of her positions, and often I was unhappy with her tone and her process. But I always appreciated her interest in explaining her point of view.

You said: "However,it is completely appropriate for teachers as people living in a free society to post web pages stating whatever they are free to state."

yes, teachers have the same rights as anyone else. Just like bosses in offices. But that doesn't give either one the right to ignore - or abuse - the position of power they have in their work environments. For teachers, they wield power over our children. No one is saying they don't have the right to free speech.

However, I am saying that given their power over students AND their position of authority in a child's daily existence, at the very least that teacher demonstrated exceedingly poor judgment. Surely she or he knew his efforts were in the public domain. As a parent, I would be concerned that such poor judgment might find itself in my child's classroom experience. Why wouldn't it? The failure of that teacher to exercise a respectful LIMIT on her or his speech (based on an understanding of the position of power she or he has) should worry all of us.

This is an important topic.

Anonymous said...

The people who are anti-Catherine are the nasty ones???? I beg to differ.

Anonymous said...

I'm no math expert, but approximately 3000 students K-12 vs. approx. 120 in Pelham; Isn't that 4%?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:26 pm:

You have stated very effectively what I believe is the big lingering question that emerges from the political events of the last few weeks: just what limits on free speech do norms of professionalism impose on school employees? I would concede that reasonable people can disagree on this. Apparently, some folks think that the answer is: none. Although school employees apparently feel picked on in this community (see Stephen Brewer's comment on Gavin Andresen's always provocative blog, gavinthink.blogspot.com), I hope that they recognize that they have considerable power over our lives.

I don't think one has to lionize Catherine to share some of these concerns. To be clear, I thought that the raising of the Union 26 issue was a political bridge-burning too far, and her references to "mistakes" by prior SC members was in itself a huge mistake on her part.

But I also believe that she has a fairly large constituency of predominantly silent parents, a group which I know preexisted her term on the Committee. It wasn't invented or created by her, and I will think of it going forward as the Sanderson Underground. These people will still live amongst us, although their strategies involving the education of their own children may be different in the future.

Unlike Rick Hood who told the Gazette that the level of involvement of school employees in the selection of the superintendent was ok with him, I have continuing concerns that a line was crossed here, and that the political environment has been contaminated for some time. (I think that the responsibility for this contamination is widely distributed, by the way; I've made my share of mistakes in the dialogue.)

We don't have consensus on whether that line exists, and, if so, where it is. But I think that the net effect is that some people have been intimidated.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

if all of us, pro-catherine anti-catherine inbetween-catherine cannot agree that kids are OFF LIMITS - protected - not to be made a consequence of adult behavior.... and that includes having to face teachers who have attacked (verbally or physically) their parent, what kind of town are we?

Implying that a kid's comfort level in school is collateral damage from grownup squabbling is unacceptable.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 5:04 - the division between Amherst and Pelham is just elementary (K to 6), since Pelham, Shutesbury, Leverett and Amherst all contribute to the regional schools (7 to 12). There are currently about 1200 students in Amherst elementary and 120 in Pelham - so, about 90% to 10%.

Anonymous said...

I think the post from Anon 5:04 says it all. It may be a truly honest mistake. The poster just didn't understand what Union 26 is. That's totally okay.

But, that poster was snarky and tried to be superior about how silly those of us who believe Amherst is getting a raw deal are.

This town is loaded with people who know very little about the things they have very strong opinions on.

There is a tremendous disconnect between Amherst's image of itself as intellectual and progressive and the reality of its small town superstitious and ignorant behavior.

The deep suspicion of outside experts and anger at suggestions that everything isn't perfect are based on an arrogant cluelessness which I used to think was just a hallmark of dimwits like George W. Bush.

Anonymous said...

The teacher was stupid to send that email but entitled to his views of you. I'm wondering - how does your son know about the teacher's activities on email - from you? Did your son on his own feel like he was treated differently by this teacher or did you suggest to your son that he was? Is there any evidence other than your Ph.d-informed suggestion that bias 'leaks'?? (Or, here's an idea, maybe your own bias about that teacher 'leaked' to your son. Nah, that'd never happen - you're too professional, and a public school teacher couldn't possibly be as professional as you.)
Sounds like you find public service much harder than other elected officials who come under fire for their decisions. You're not the first s.c. member who's had kids in the system, and you are certainly not the first s.c. member to advocate unpopular ideas. But it's been harder for you, it seems.
(There are about one and half guidance counselors at the ms at this point. Was it necessary to identify the emailer's job description, or are you inviting attack on him?)

Anonymous said...

Wow, so now we're in full "blame the victim" mode.

Ugly, ugly behavior.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 9:55 - I hope you will re-read your post and ponder whether you would feel comfortable posting those comments as written using your actual name. Given the tenor with which your comments were written, I'm actually not going to respond. However, I want to be clear that I have deliberately not given a gender for the guidance counselor precisely to protect that person's identity -- and you have given that person a gender (you identified that person as a "he") and that is an assumption you are making, which I am not validating or refuting out of a desire to not identify this person by name (in contrast to this person's identification of me by name).

You can ridicule my PhD, or you can ridicule the idea that unconscious biases leak out and influence behavior (although truly a very brief review of research on wikipedia would reveal that to be true). I certainly had no idea even who this person is/was so it would be difficult for my beliefs about this person to have been conveyed to my son (or anyone) since I had no beliefs about this person (or even knowledge of who they were).

But I don't believe it is unreasonable to assume that someone with such a hostile attitude toward a parent would potentially treat that child in different ways than other children, nor do I believe it is unreasonable to assume that I would not feel comfortable talking to this person if/when my son experienced difficulty (which would naturally be addressed with a guidance counselor).

I don't know of any other SC members who have had nasty and name-calling emails circulated about them by staff members in their own children's building at any time, but I share your belief that this shouldn't ever happen - and I certainly believe that all elected officials need to balance their willingness to serve and their desire to protect their families/children from such negativity. Perhaps this is why some members of the RSC (current and past) opt to send their own children to schools not in our system.

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt that biases 'leak.' The question was whether you too let that happen.
Since your son's experience - which you refer to many times on this blog - is a major part of your decision not to run, I was curious. Didn't think it was in appropriate to ask.
Not ridiculing your Ph.d. Not questioning your decision to have your kid change guidance counselors. Don't know if counselor's a he or she - used the word he as a default.
Whether you needed to identify the job description of the offending teacher - yes, that I question. And your implication that you have a better handle on controlling your biases.
These seem like fair questions for a psychology teacher, school committee member and blog owner.

Anonymous said...

Blame the victim then retreat and spin.


What next?

Anonymous said...

I think the school district needs to craft a clear policy on what is and what is not acceptable for on-line posting and email and texting, for on- and off-campus, for staff and students. This is a good time for it, as we are all entering a new age of awareness of cyber-bullying.

From a recent article:

In American Medical Response (AMR), a Connecticut ambulance service company terminated an employee after she posted negative comments about the employer and her supervisor on her Facebook page.


Here is the link (but we can't read it as we don't have access, but you can see it's a real article).

http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=b928037f-d328-4446-b46b-7c76b3d9ce38

maryd said...

Anon 2:11, the schools do have these guidelines in place for students due to the new anti-bullying law. It should be a no brainer that the teachers should follow them too.
If my kids teachers were speaking publicly about me in such a negative way I wouldn't feel comfortable with my child with them either.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:03 - I guess I'm puzzled by your question about "leaking." There are two issues here. The first is whether my son's teacher who had such negative feelings about me that he/she wrote a nasty and name-calling email about me with instructions to send it to 10 friends could behave (even unconsciously) towards my child, which could then influence his feelings of comfort in the school, his grade, etc. I think we agree this seems possible.

The second question is whether I have greater control over "leaking"? Of course I don't - no one does ... that is why they are unconscious! But I guess your real question is whether my negative feelings about the guidance counselor having sent such a nasty and personal email could influence what I say to my son which could then influence how my son reacts to the guidance counselor? Ummm, sure - and this wouldn't even be unconscious, since I very directly said to my son that this was an inappropriate act by an adult in the building, and I was really sorry it happened. I talked to my son about it directly (although I did not show him the email) since I needed to ask him whether he (a) wanted to switch guidance counselors, and (b) whether he wanted to opt out of the class with his person (he did on both fronts).

But my son's negative feelings (if he has them) about this person wouldn't impact this person's grade or job since he is a 12-year-old and this person is an adult with power to control grades and discipline, etc. They aren't on a level playing field, so again, I guess I don't understand why you think my son and this person are in the same situation at all.

And I actually believe this person's job title is highly relevant - this person is a guidance counselor who teaches kids in ARMS about bullying, respect for others, handling disagreements respectfully, and cyberbullying. Yet I'm pretty sure that if my 7th grader wrote an identical email about one of his classmates with instructions to send it to 10 people so word got out, he would be suspended. So, I guess I think it is relevant that the person who is in charge of teaching my son these rules about respect for others doesn't seem to be following them in his/her own personal life.

Anonymous said...

I still think you're spinning the numbers to support your hypothesis. Central office staff works for all 3 districts. I believe you are the one who mentioned other districts divide using a simple formula of percentage of students. You can't leave one of the districts out to make the numbers work the way you want. I believe the region has more than half the students, though I don't have the exact number, so it stands to reason they should pay more than half the central office expenses.

I thought we were trying to be polite here. Contrary to the 5:26 reply, I was simply pointing out what I believe to be a fair division, only to be labeled "snarky". It seems one can't share a differing viewpoint without others resorting to name calling. I was trying to participate in a sincere manner, but I seem to overestimated the desire of others to have a discussion without resorting to nastiness and name calling, so this will be my lsat attempt, which may be just the desired result. Pity.

I do understand what Union 26 is, and how it fits into this discussion. It was Ms. Sanderson who mentioned using student percentages, and if that's the case, central office staff are shared by all three districts.

But let's stay with the line reasoning that says Union 26 should pay half, and region half. Since Pelham has 10%, their half is 5%, not 10% as Mr. Rivkin has been asserting. Mr. Spence had it correct.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 5:54 - I'd love to know what numbers you think I'm spinning. The agreed upon (although never written down) formula is 50% region, 47% Amherst, 3% Pelham. That formula is how the superintendent's salary is paid, for example. That formula is based on the idea that the superintendent is chosen 50% by region and 50% by Union 26 (Amherst and Pelham).

Now, you may believe that the Region should not pay based on 50%, but pay based on enrollment, which I'm fine with. Currently, the region has 1574 students (54%), Amherst has 1242 students (42%), and Pelham has 120 students (4%). That would be a fine solution - and it is an option that the Amherst SC asked for the budget subcommittee to consider last fall, but they have not yet done so. Again, under this scenario, Amherst would pay less (we would move from 47% to 42% of elementary), and increase our share of the 4% increase from 50 to 54% at region), so it is probably a win for Amherst overall. Pelham would clearly pay more (they would increase from 3% to 4% at elementary and increase their share of the increase from 50 to 54% at region). Again, I'm fine with this - but no one has suggested this change either.

When Steve was speaking, he specifically said that Pelham should pay 10% of elementary (or Union 26), or 5% of the whole (as Rob noted) - so they were in agreement.

My concern is that Amherst is overpaying now, and Pelham is underpaying, and this seems really unfair ... and this has been identified as an issue for many months, and there is still no resolution.

I believe doing it by enrollment is fine - that is how Union 28 does it. But other districts do it by number of buildings (e.g., 3 elementary schools versus 1 - since meeting with a principal and managing that building is a job). The superintendent attends the same number of SC meetings each month for each district - one for Region, one for Pelham, one for Amherst. But I can't find any reason for why the current 47 to 3% split at the elementary level is fair to Amherst, nor has anyone been able to explain how or why this is the agreed upon formula.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't we having a discussion about whether or not it is appropriate for standing SC members to send their kids out of the district? This implies that they are making decisions about the schools that don't affect their own children, if of course, they have school age kids at the time. Hmmm. This concerns me. Does it concern anyone else?

Anonymous said...

"But I can't find any reason for why the current 47 to 3% split at the elementary level is fair to Amherst, nor has anyone been able to explain how or why this is the agreed upon formula."

But two of your fellow SC members have been sitting on a committee to look at the issue and although admitting that they have been negligent in not presenting their findings to the larger committee in a more timely manner, have offered the conclusion that determining a "fair" split in costs is not as straightforward as simply looking at enrollment percentages. They have promised to present their findings at an upcoming meeting. Why the need to stir up the perception of unfairness before getting the report from your colleagues who have been studying the issue? Do you not trust them?

Ed said...

"I understand it was a personal e-mail sent on a personal account to personal friends, all outside of school. I believe that staff have a right to have a life outside of school and to do the same personal things that many people engage in."

As I understand the law, if I sleep with an 18-year-old student in the school I am teaching in, that constitutes rape. And if you (not a teacher) sleep with the same 18-year-old, it is consensual sex.

And what is the difference between me sleeping with her and you sleeping with her -- I am one of her teachers and you aren't.

Do we not understand this little concept, or are you arguing for teachers being able to sleep with students too???? After all, sleeping with cute girls is part of "the personal things that many engage in."

And are you all so incredibly unprofessional that you don't see why you have to shut the teacher's room door before you bash students' parents???

Anonymous said...

"However,it is completely appropriate for teachers as people living in a free society to post web pages stating whatever they are free to state."

REALLY?!?!?!?!?!?!?

OK, let me push this right to the margin - does anyone have any problem with a teacher posting web page about how much he would like to sleep with assorted girls in his classes? OK, lets make it 16-year-old girls, or 14-year-old girls or even 6-year-old girls.

Does anyone have a problem with this?

Yes, there are members of the public who post how much they would like to sleep with 6-year-olds, they are called "perverts" (or worse) and we have a police department to keep them out of the school parking lot and away from the children.

Teachers, by contrast, are already in close contact to the children.

And does anyone not see the difference?

And there are districts in Florida where they have gone so far as to say that if a teacher has a facebook account, she will be fired (they have had too many teachers posting topless pictures of themselves...)

It is called "moral turpitude...."

Teachers do not have an absolute right of free speech. For those who wish to argue otherwise, publicly state that you wish to have sex with a particular student. Let that student's parents find out about this.

I really doubt that you will find your speech protected....

Ed said...

One other thing -- if Catherine had said anything about the daughter of a SCOTUS justice, she would have had the Secret Service all over her -- and as a certified teacher, I personally think that a 51A ought to be filed against the guidance counselor -- we have rules in this society and there are things that you aren't supposed to do.

And I really REALLY hope that the parents of this town wouldn't have to tolerate what I suggested in my last post -- the parents in no other district ever would have to -- although this is Amherst, and we did have the high school principal who liked little boys a little bit too much.....

Anonymous said...

Leave it to Ed to equate a teacher/guidance counselor sending and email to a number of acquaintances about their choice for SC member with teachers having sex with their students, or posting on Facebook that they want to have sex with a 6 year old or posting nude photos of themselves on FB.

And leave it to Catherine to publish such rubbish on her blog. And then she wonders why she has such little support in this town. And why the staff in particular are so vehement in their disgust of her.

This blog cannot come down soon enough.

Anonymous said...

'They aren't on a level playing field, so again, I guess I don't understand why you think my son and this person are in the same situation at all.'
I DON'T, and never intimated that. My question (unclearly posed) was about your public assertions about leaking bias and your consequent doubts about how your kids would be treated - since that's a key reason you're not running again. And that assertion tars more than just the guidance counselor.
I should have written it that way initially. And I am indeed sorry for my tone. One must be very careful.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 8:42 - for as long as I've been on the SC, some members of the SC have chosen not to send their own kids to our public schools. Obviously that is their right ... I just personally wouldn't feel comfortable asking people to vote for me for another term if I didn't feel I could promise to keep my kids in the public schools.

Anonymous 9:34 - there frankly aren't that many unions in the state, and all of them have written agreements about how to allocate costs. I don't believe we need to "re-recreate the wheel" here - I believe we should have gotten these formula (very easy to do - I contacted towns myself and all were very willing to send documentation), and then use one of these. It would have taken a couple months, and it would have been very simple. I understand this wasn't a priority for the budget subcommittee, as they have acknowledged - though I'm not sure what that has to do with trust? But the two Amherst members of the budget subcommittee don't have kids in our schools, so they may feel a different urgency - when those of us with kids in the schools understand that an extra $50,000 to $100,000 (which clearly it would be for the Amherst elementary schools) would allow more music or art or Spanish, etc. I am disappointed this issue was identified nearly a year ago and apparently will take another year to resolve.

Anonymous 8:14 - two quick things. First, the email wasn't at all about their choice for SC, which would be totally fine. The email was about their choice for superintendent, and for some reason felt that they needed to slam not only me but 4 other members of the Amherst SC in a rude and name-calling way and calling me a bully. This was not an email saying "I don't support Catherine Sanderson for SC for the following reasons" as you seem to imply. Second, you are totally free to not read this blog for the next month, since you don't like to read some comments (and yes, I do publish all comments, including yours, which don't directly name or identify a district employee, because I believe in free speech).

Anonymous 10:34 - my older son is in a building in which one teacher posted a public facebook page attacking me by name and another wrote a nasty and name-calling email identifying me by name. I believe, as I think I've clearly stated, that it would be very uncomfortable for a 12-year-old child to spend time in a school believing that some adults hate his mom - and I believe that if I were not on the SC, these actions would not have occurred by these teachers. I also think it is at least a possibility that adults in that building we hate me will treat him differently than they would another child - not intentionally, not deliberately, but at least unconsciously, and I worry about that for him. I worry that he will feel less welcome and supported in a building in which there are some staff members with such widespread dislike (remember, a letter signed by many MS teachers, including some of his current teachers, was published in the Bulletin a couple years ago directly accusing me and Steve of bad behavior). You may feel my concerns are unwarranted - and you have the right to feel I'm wrong. But I have to protect my kids, and I believe the best way I could do that was to not run again.

Anonymous said...

Catherine said: "I understand this wasn't a priority for the budget subcommittee, as they have acknowledged - though I'm not sure what that has to do with trust? But the two Amherst members of the budget subcommittee don't have kids in our schools, so they may feel a different urgency "

Yet another mis-representation of the facts from Ms. Sanderson. The Budget committee did look at this issue and the two Amherst members clearly said that when they studied it with the budget committee they determined that the 4% amount paid by Pelham was an accurate and fair amount based on the Pelham usage of items making up the budget. They admitted that they had not made it a priority to explain to their fellow School Committee members what facts led to that conclusion and they promised to have a more detailed presentation of those facts at a later meeting. This issue has not been ignored by the budget sub-committee and I think it is incredibly poor form to say that the fact that some SC members don't have kids in their school colors their service on the SC or colors their decisions. And here you are, Catherine, faulting Maria Geryk for not bringing members of the SC together. How could she, in the midst of these kinds of comments from you. 30 days and counting.

More and yet more mis-representation of facts. It is my sincere hope that blog readers here do NOT rely on what Catherine says here to be the truth about any thing.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:23 - you should watch the meeting ... Rick and Irv both apologized for not having figured out the formula, and said a formula would be in place for 2013. They did NOT say the current arrangement was fair - they said it was complicated to figure out a formula so it took more time than they imagined. In addition, the formula that we are going with is 3% to Pelham, not 4% as you stated in your post. You should watch the meeting - and not misrepresent what occurred.

Anonymous said...

I did watch the meeting. And they said that based on what admin expesnes were directly related to Pelham, the current amount is fair. They said it is VERY complicated. I did mis-speak when I said 4%, it is 3%.

You are mis-representing what was said at the meeting.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 11:47 - the budget subcommittee was asked to come up with a written formula, which all members of Amherst and Pelham thought was important. There is no written formula, because the amount agreed on is not determined yet. Irv said at the meeting that there would be a formula in place for 2013 - a year from now. If the amount (3%, which it isn't - since it is actually less than that, which Steve pointed out) had been determined, there would have been a written policy prepared, as all other unions have, stating the % to be paid by each district. The budget subcommittee hasn't done that, which is what was requested,and if and when they do that, the amount paid by Amherst may well change. I suppose you are comfortable with Amherst paying more than Pelham based on enrollment - which is fine. FYI - we are the only district in the state of Massachusetts who does this.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, you are not answering the question about the "poor form" you are using in regards to the two members of the Amherst SC without kids in the school. Calling out their lack of urgency related to this is precisely the kind of insinuating and insulting tone that you use that people get irritated with. Maybe you don't call people names on this blog, but you certainly find ways to belittle and discount the opinions of those you disagree with. Yet you say you're a "collaborator"? And, as the prior poster noted, have the nerve to call Maria Geryk out for not working to bring people together? Unbelievable. And for the record, I appreciate that there are people willing to serve on the SC who don't have as direct and personal a gain to be achieved in their work on behalf of "all kids", as do those whose children are in the schools. There is a certain objectivity that that position affords that I value. I also value that they care enough about "all kids" to be willing to put in the tremendous time and effort it takes to serve on the school committee. There is a selflessness in that that I admire. Which is I why I voted for them. We need people who care about and are willing to invest in our public education system regardless of whether they or their children are going to realize a present benefit from it. Irv and Rick stand out to me as community members whose contributions (and the motives behind them) we should be celebrating, not calling into question.

Sure, it would have been better if the report from the budget sub-committee was delivered in a more timely fashion. They've acknowledged and apologized for that lapse. But, apparently, in their deliberations about this issue, they hit on some issues that complicate a simple percentage split of central office costs. Lets wait to hear them out on what they discovered before tossing more stink bombs.

Ed said...

"Leave it to Ed to equate a teacher/guidance counselor sending and email to a number of acquaintances about their choice for SC member with teachers having sex with their students, or posting on Facebook that they want to have sex with a 6 year old or posting nude photos of themselves on FB.

First, I said "topless", not "nude", and words do mean things. And not that one need be confused by the facts, but a fair-minded person might find it enlightening to see what teachers are being FIRED for in other parts of the country.

Take, for example, Ashley Payne, a now-24-year-old English teacher who posted some truly innocent pictures of her drinking wine & beer during her 2009 trip to Europe (when she probably was still a college student). See http://www.gadailynews.com/news/61845-teacher-ashley-payne-fired-for-posting-picture-of-herself-holding-beer-on-facebook.html -- and note that she is fully clothed in those pictures.

Then there was case of Tamara Hoover, an Art teacher whose lesbian partner took nude artistic pictures of her -- pictures which would be defined as having "artistic merit" and thus "not of a "purient" nature and thus not obscene. She too got fired. http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2006-06-23/378611/

And for a very good summary of the issues involved -- and how this relates to Catherine's kid -- see http://ethicsscoreboard.com/list/hoover.html. Describing a variety of things that a member of the general public would be free to do with impunity, but which a teach would not be, the author states that "[a]ll of these are Constitutionally protected speech, and all are guaranteed to call into question a teacher's seriousness, judgement, dignity, and fitness for molding impressionable minds."

That, boys 'n' girls, is what the problem is. As Denzel Washington said to Bruce Willis in The Siege, "I am not questioning your patriotism, I am questioning your judgment.http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi1274675481/

I am not saying that citizens don't have the rights of free speech, only that teachers ought to exercise judgment in how they exercise it.

Much like I exercised my judgment that I very much would like to have the grandmother (who didn't like to drive in the snow and after dark) riding along with the team so that she could see her granddaughter play JV basketball in what would be a trip to North Adams from Amherst - over roads every bit as bad as the hairpin turn. And this was before cellphones -- back in an era where we sometimes had to send the cops out looking for someone's parent with an urgent request they sign the permission slip so their kid could receive medical treatment.

Yes, I was happy to drive 5 miles out of my way (on my own time) to pick her up and drop her off, all I asked was that she know how to set the emergency brake, shut off the engine and open the emergency exits because I might not be able to do so myself. But I already knew that some of the more mature 12-year-olds knew how to do all of this and that isn't why I wanted the grandmother on board.

It is called judgment. I wasn't going to do anything but drive the bus upcountry and back -- and get the free meal at McDonalds (there is a reason why all the buses stop there after the game). It is called judgment, that it would "look better" to have an adult female on the bus, even though all she ever would be needed for would be to be in charge if we had an accident and I was dead.

It is called judgment and I think that is sadly lacking in the ARSD.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 12:48 - two quick points.

1. I expressed my disappointment about the lack of a report (requested by all members of Amherst and Pelham last September) to Irv and Rick at the meeting. I am disappointed, and I think it is appropriate to express that (at the meeting and on my blog). You, on the other hand, are accusing me of things but you are staying safely anonymous. I would not think it fair for me to criticize Irv and Rick anonymously, but you apparently feel it is fine to criticize me anonymously. So that is where we differ in terms of what is appropriate.

2. I certainly agree that those without kids in the schools experience the consequences of SC decisions in very different ways. I would certainly be much more patient about wanting to see changes in the schools if I didn't fear the consequences right now for my own kids (and their peers), so yes, Rick and Irv have the luxury of not experiencing personally the consequences of decisions about our schools. Perhaps that means it would be better if Select Board members didn't live and pay taxes in Amherst, so they would be more objective when considering budget allocations.

Anonymous said...

And once again Catherine totally misses the point of what people are trying to say to her. I cannot believe she can really be this obtuse so I can only surmise she intentionally pretends to miss these points. Which is her perogative, entirely. After all, this is her blog.

The point I am trying to make is that Catherine continually being unresponsive to these pointed questions and "missing the point" so frequently is the reason why people are thrilled she will be off the School Committee in just 30 short days.

Ed said...

There is an interesting PhD thesis about counselor bias http://etd.auburn.edu/etd/bitstream/handle/10415/1438/Adams_Lisa_22.pdf?sequence=1

What the researcher did was take photos of weight-appropriate models and use Photoshop to make them look obese. She then found an increase in morbidity, comorbidity, severity of morbidity and "snap decision making" -- with the same set of facts -- when the picture shown was the modified obese-looking one.

And while this is not my field, she appears to cite a whole bunch of legitimate references to other people who have done the same thing. Unconscious bias.

And then we identify a child as being that of the hated Catherine Sanderson and we don't expect there to be bias? What would one infer from research like this?

The more I think about this, I think that the guidance counselor should recuse himself/herself/itself and the district pay for a counselor from a different district to come in for her child.

Just like was done for Judge Ryan's assault trial -- they had to bring in a different ADA and a different Judge. And there isn't a part-time guidance counselor at any of the adjacent schools who wouldn't love a few extra hours pay???

Anonymous said...

Catherine, it's one thing to be "disappointed" in the lack of a sub-committee report and quite another to call into question the suitability of your colleagues (based on the fact that they have no children in the schools) to serve effectively as school committee members. That's what I'm criticizing and offering as an example of the kind of tone and tactics that have riled so many in your constituency.

And, if you're not comfortable with anonymous comments you should disable them, rather than picking and choosing which, of the many on this blog, meet with your approval.

Lastly, your Select Board comparison is a poor one. It assumes that those in the community without children in the schools have no meaningful stake in them. What truly devastating consequences there would be for the future of public education if that were true. Luckily in this town, it is not.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:24
I'm sure you will be happy when we are all in the dark again. We won't be able to even have these conversations debating issues. Without Catherine's blog, we'll get no information except the PR put out the Central Office.

What are the teachers so upset about? They have great jobs, great pension, and except for the newest teachers, can't be fired. What is so scary to them about Catherine Sanderson?

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:37.

This is Anon 1:24.

I did not say anything about teachers being scared of Catherine Sanderson. I did not even mention teachers in my post. Not sure who you are talking to but you are surely not responding to my post.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 2:11 - I didn't call into question the suitability of my colleagues to serve on the SC, and that is a ludicrous suggestion. I said that they may well see less urgency because their own kids aren't impacted by the cuts Amherst must make to subsidize the Pelham school. Obviously different people see different things as more or less urgent - it doesn't make someone bad or good or suitable or not! It is a question of priorities.

Then, I noted it was odd that you felt comfortable criticizing me anonymously, but feel it is unfair of me to note Irv and Rick may have had different priorities ... it just strikes me as unfair to take pot shots at me anonymously for owning the criticism I have of my colleagues - which wasn't that they are bad people ... just that I wish they had made sure this got done in the last 6 months, as I had assumed it would.

But I'd love to discuss Union 26 or anything related to education - and I'm also disappointed that your focus seems to be on how can I take this opportunity to criticize Catherine anonymously and point out to her and others how bad she is and how glad we are that she is gone. I'm not running. I won't be on the SC in 5 weeks. I won't have a blog. So, all of this discussion will stop. In the meantime, wouldn't it be more worthwhile and interesting to discuss actual education issues in Amherst than discuss how I could be a better SC member, American, person, etc.?!?

Anonymous said...

"In the meantime, wouldn't it be more worthwhile and interesting to discuss actual education issues in Amherst than discuss how I could be a better SC member, American, person, etc.?!?"

Yes. And if you can keep the personal pot shots about how others "could be a better SC member, American, person, etc.?!?" out of the equation I, and I'm sure a lot of others, would be happy to follow.

So, how about we follow my original suggestion that we wait till the sub-committee report is in before making assumptions about what it or isn't fair and why or why not certain SC members may see it that way?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 3:29 - here is my original post: "there is still no written agreement governing how costs are divided between Amherst and Pelham: so, Pelham with 10% of the enrollment and 25% of the elementary schools is still paying only 6% of central office costs and Amherst is paying 94% - which I still don't understand. Apparently the new goal of the budget subcommittee (Irv, Rick, Debbie Gould) is to have an agreement in place a year from now." As I've noted repeatedly, Amherst is paying more than our share of costs based on enrollments (a standard measure used in other districts, such as Union 28 of which Leverett and Shutesbury are members). Obviously we will now wait and see what the subcommittee finds so any problems can be fixed in 1 1/2 years. I believe that identifying a fair formula should have happened by this point because children in Amherst will experience the consequences of having fewer resources THIS YEAR if there is a problem with this division. That was my point, and still is my point.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, I don't know how you do it. You repeat over and over the same numbers, and there are some stubborn people who don't like the numbers you present. They either choose to ignore them or disagree with them. I could never do what you do. I would have blown my top a LONG time ago. I wish you the best of luck in the future. You've worked hard for this community, I appreciate it, and I know a lot of others appreciate it too. Thank you! Ali

Anonymous said...

If I was a Pelham school committee member, I wouldn't be in hurry to see a $50k to $100k cut in my school budget. Why not let Amherst carry some Pelham staff for another year and cut its own teachers?

And if I didn't have kids in the elementary schools, I probably don't even know the staff being cut-or worry that my child will have less art, music or Spanish.

Hey, what's the difference with another year not dealing with a money problem?

Anonymous said...

Here Catherine goes again with her aggressive annoying personality -- pointing out actual problems in our school system that continue to be ignored and unresolved. And doing it with facts. What nerve!

Anonymous said...

No, No, No. These are not actual problems she's talking about. She is merely engaged in "negative messaging".

If we can just get the "negative messaging" to stop, there will be no problems with our schools as far as the eye can see.

If a problem occurs in a desert of public dialogue, did it really happen? Nah.

Anonymous said...

Catherine,
I hope that when your term on the SC is over and you're no longer contributing new items for your blog, that that the blog web site will not disappear right away. Your postings containing data on the Amherst schools and your numerous links to educational practices and research have been a great resource and one that I, and no doubt others as well, would like to be able to reference even after your service on the SC is finished.

Thank you for all the time you have put into the blog and your work as part of the school committee. Enjoy all the extra free time you will have after the March election.