The papers to file to run again for my seat on the Amherst and Regional School Committees are completed and stacked neatly on the corner of my desk. The deadline to turn them in is 5 PM today.
I have been outspoken and activist on what I feel needs to be improved in the Amherst schools: educational accountability, transparency and community involvement and fiscal responsibility.
During the last three years we have been successful at bringing real change to a stagnated system. Some of these changes, such as eliminating mandatory study halls and closing Marks Meadow to maintain small class sizes, intervention support, and music and art in elementary school, had the potential to improve my children’s education. Most would make no difference for them. My children went to preschool, they were not in the school that required redistricting for economic equity, they have not struggled on MCAS tests, and I am quite capable of ensuring that they take 8th grade algebra and exceed the minimum high school graduation requirements for math and science.
There is a tremendous amount of hostility toward me in the community, which makes it unlikely that I could have any real impact as a member of the School Committee in the future. If I said I thought we should have healthier food in the cafeteria, then there would be public accusations that my brother is an organic farmer, that this change in food was just for my kids, and that this change was all about me. It has never been about me. My career is as a college professor, not a school committee member (and certainly not a politician). For me it has always been about what is best for all the children: Not what feels good, but what yields good educational results.
Some events of the last week have made it clear to me, and to my husband, that whether I would win or lose, running for School Committee would make it untenable for my children to stay in the Amherst public schools. It is not about the superintendent selection; it is about mean personal public attacks, including attacks from school personnel. Since my motivation for serving was to better education for my children, along with all the children of Amherst, this sets up a difficult conundrum.
So in the end, the papers will remain on the corner of my desk, not to be filed at Town Hall. I wish the best for the Amherst and Regional Public Schools; it has been an honor, if not a pleasure, to serve.
Here's the Gazette story on my announcement: http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/02/09/catherine-sanderson-reverses-announcement-wont-seek-reelection-0
And here is the Masslive story on my announcement (which includes a link to my press release announcing this decision): http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/02/maria_geryk_still_undecided_co.html.