My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Decision: Part 2

Two quick things to post.

First, I want to thank all of those who have sent kind words via email/text/phone throughout the day.  I appreciate hearing from many friends ... and also from those who I didn't even know were supporting me who understood my decision and expressed appreciation for my efforts.  I really, really appreciate it.  And don't worry:  I'm doing OK!

Second, there is a bit of an expanded article from the Gazette on my decision:  


Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for Farshid that he's still so clearly bitter, although I do find it ironic that he feels qualified to discuss how to conduct oneself in public. It's time he moved on to other things. I worry what he'll spend his time on now that Catherine is no longer running.

Farshid, your continued need to make mean-spirited comments about Catherine is sad and embarrassing for our community. She's moving on, and so should you.

Traci Wolfe

Sam I Am said...

Hi Catherine-

For the record, as you know, I do work in the district.

Over the years I have agreed with some of your goals, some I have not, but I have most often not cared for your methods.

In particular, blanket statements you have casually made like "considering the state of the schools" I found to be hurtful and counter productive. Painting negatively with a very broad brush was not a strategy I cared for. I don't believe that you really felt the schools were as terrible as you often sounded like you did, but that was what many others who did not know better picked up on..

I am sorry to hear you are quitting the race partly because you feel attacked by district employees and that you have concerns about the treatment of your children. I hate to bring up the "tone matters" comment again, but it really does. You discounted the great number of employees, at all levels, who felt you were being overly critical and "attacking" in your approach. You casually invalidated what all of those people were perceiving, yet when people were critical of you you quickly perceived it as "they are attacking me".

Of course, it takes two to tango. There was poor taste and negativity on both sides. I think it also became a case of perception becomes reality for a lot of the people involved.

I do know how hard you worked, I do think you meant well, but there were (in my opinion anyway) definitely aspects of how you went about things that really worked against the very progress you sought.

I wish you and your family some peace.

LarryK4 said...

And the quote Nick Grabbe used from Farshid to close the article sounded very well rehearsed.

Anonymous said...

Traci, thanks for pointing this out - I had forgotten 'til now, but one of the low points of Sunday's debacle at Town Hall was to see Farshid sated up front, alternately wincing & twitching like a low-life punk, then rollicking & giggling like a schoolgirl.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Sam I Am - I appreciate the general tenor of your comments, and I don't think it is productive to get into a he said/she said situation. I do believe there are many strengths in our schools, as I've said many times (including on this blog and in the paper and at meetings) - obviously I have three kids in the schools and if I thought the schools were terrible, I wouldn't have kept my kids in as long as I did. But I don't believe that our schools are living up to their full potential, and I believe that even daring to say that was seen by many as highly negative. I can't recall a time in which I said in any forum "our schools are terrible."

I am also certain I never called out a specific teacher (on my blog, in email, in a meeting, in the paper).

In contrast, at least three teachers in the building in which you work (ARMS) have called me out in highly public ways. One MS teacher started a public facebook page which consisted entirely of negative accusations about me and Steve Rivkin. Another MS teacher sent a widely-distributed email in which she called me (by name) names, and made other accusations about other members of the Amherst SC. I find these acts inappropriate at best by teachers and staff. And I am quite certain that if my 7th grader started a facebook page criticizing a classmate, or sent an email (with instructions to forward that email to at least 10 friends, as the MS staff member's email did) calling other MS students names, he would be suspended. For me, this sort of personal attack is beyond what any public official should have to endure - and I don't believe there is anything I've done in 3 years on the SC that is remotely close to this type of a personal attack on any district employee.

Larry - I found Farshid's comments odd, just in that obviously all of the things I got done were done using appropriate procedures and in public: I made motions to close Marks Meadow, redistrict, add Spanish, evaluate the MS, have a special ed review, have a math review, create a policy requiring evaluation, etc., and these motions were seconded and then discussed during SC meetings, and ultimately all of these motions passed (I believed unanimously). Farshid's attempt to imply that I haven't gotten anything done is obviously ludicrous, as is his attempt to convey me as behaving inappropriately (apparently he believes repeating such false accusations enough means people will start to believe them ... but hey, he may be right).

Anonymous said...

While I rarely agreed with some of the things you said, I'm sorry that you're children were affected.

Citizen A said...

Catherine @10:45 am:

This type of post that just escalates conflict and adds personal attacks where none existed is EXACTLY the reason people don't approve of the way you conduct yourself on the School Committee.

Regardless of the personal attacks that did or did not happen, in person, online, on Facebook, etc. it DOES NOT HELP when you continue to perpetuate the conflict by writing long diatribes that start with, "Yes but he said!...." here on your blog comment page.

Your public gossiping and mutual criticism with Larry about the actions of an audience member (and former SC member) is juvenile at best.

Anonymous said...

Farshid.......we hardly knew ya.

Anonymous said...

No, Sam I Am:

ANYONE who comes to School Committee with a criticism of schools will be taken down. It's not just Catherine. So all of the "the way you went about it" claims are a smokescreen. If you take on this administration, ultimately you lose.

Anonymous said...

Catherine believes she knows the answers, but clearly knows very little about change and developing consensus. This is the key to sustainability. Her fear of a "hostile" campaign was correct, but it would have been her that made it hostile. Sadly, she was a bully, not a leader, and bullies rarely stick things out when the power balance shifts, as it clearly has.

Anonymous said...

I think that your spearheading the decisions to close Marks Meadow, redistrict, and to frost this cake, close open-enrollment were moves that hurt more than helped! The awful effects that are yet to be realized by this system. Why not claim 2 million saved, or two trillion before you leave this arena?
Teachers campaigning to defame your name is just inexcusable and I am surprised that they suffered no consequence to what may be perceived as cyber-bullying. I am upset to know this is happening in the schools I trust my childrens well being to on a daily basis!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Note: I'm posting this comment, which I edited to eliminate a couple of slams at district personnel:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "My Decision: Part 2":

As a parent with kids in the district, I have to say that every time I hear about Catherine's tone or her failure to build consensus, I want to scream.

(And, I have to post anonymously, because if the teachers and staff can drive away an SC member and make going to school difficult for her kids, what will they do to mine?)

Too many teachers and administrators have zero interest in consensus or compromise. They want to do what they want to do. If you question them, you're a bully. If you say anything publicly that challenges the status quo, you have bad tone.

Teachers can threaten Catherine's kids and go after other SC members, but asking about the fact that the HS doesn't actually seem to be in compliance with state law over the study halls makes you a big fat bully. Hell, "some staff member" is famous for yelling at parents. But, if you complain about "that staff member" yelling at you, you're the bully.

At this point, I could give a crap about the teachers' morale. They have good paying, comfortable jobs and if they immediately attack anyone asking them for even the most basic accountability, it's clear that they know that they're not really doing a very good job.

Is that teacher basing? Sure. I'm tired of the way the teachers and administrators bash parents all the time.

Why are Amherst teachers the only people in the world immune from criticism? And, please, don't give me the "you get more with honey" bs. Nothing, nothing, nothing the parents wanted ever happened under previous SCs when parents were polite and deferential. We got absolutely nothing with honey. So, parents helped elect Catherine and many teachers smeared her, whined about their morale and even made it difficult for her to keep her children in the schools.

Oh, but Catherine is the problem.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, if the three MS teachers behaved as you said they did, that is inexcusable. Have you spoken to Mike Hayes? If so, what was the response?

Anonymous said...

First I want to say how sad I am that you will no longer be on the school committee. I believe that you are the first person who really asked the hard questions and pushed for change. I have never seen your behavior as bullying in any way and continue to be baffled by this accusation.

Will you continue to keep this blog up? I hope so as I have found this to be a great source of information, and though people are snarky at times, a great way to communicate.

Thank you for all you've done for our schools!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 9:56 - Mike Hayes (and the superintendent) are aware of all the incidents. I do not know what actions are/have been taken (those are confidential personnel decisions), although my son's guidance counselor was changed (so that he is no longer with a staff member who had written an email personally attacking his mother).

Anonymous 10:30 - thanks for the kind words. I am planning on keeping my blog up for the duration of my time on the SC (6 weeks to go!), but then will no longer keep it up. Since the purpose was to provide a way for me, as an elected official, to share my thoughts and hear questions/comments from the public, obviously it wouldn't serve that same purpose once I'm not on the SC.

Anonymous said...

Soooo glad I moved my kids out of the public schools several years ago. There will be no change. The teachers and administration are bullies. Best thing I ever did, get my kids out of these schools.

Anonymous said...

"The teachers....are bullies".

Another generalization that implicates ALL.
Another helpful comment on this blog that
furthers the divide!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that Catherine Sanderson took unpopular positions at at a time she was also seeking re-election. That's guts.

I was a strong supporter until last year, when she used this blog to comment negatively about my daughter's 8th grade English teacher. She lost us then.

I'm really sorry that she felt the need to throw stink bombs on her way out by suggesting that she might pull your kids from ARPS. That's her personal decision, and I don't need to know it.

For an example of a gracious exit strategy, please read Al Gore's concession speech.

Anonymous said...

Wish I had the option to put my children in private schools. The teachers who do bully and sadly there are more of them out there than not, make it tough for the ones who don't. It's pretty sad that when you get down to nitty gritty this is how the system is run!!

Anonymous said...

All I have to say is ... enough drama! Let's get back to the business of helping our kids.

Bert Fernandez said...

Bottom line Catherine: It is not your message people object to, it is your attitude.
Amherst is an open minded community accepting of diverse ideas. All school systems have room for improvement but change takes time.
You can make it sound pretty and reasonable on your blog but the disrespectful way you approach people smacks of elitism by the self proclaimed owner of the only right path.
Good luck finding better public schools for your children!

amy wasserman said...

i wanted to issue an apology for name calling feb 7th on this blog. i was really angry, but in hindsight, it didn't solve anything. i realize now that name calling is not a good role model for our children. my anger was the result of the situation in the school committee and as a concerned parent with a child in the school. i know there are always better ways to channel my anger. i hope people can accept this apology. thank you.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has also apologized in the blogosphere for something I posted and thought better of, I salute you, Amy Wasserman.

Let he or she who has never uttered a word in anger on a matter of public policy cast the first stone.

These are things that matter and, therefore, people bring their passions rightly or wrongly to them. I don't fault either Ms. Wasserman or Professor Sanderson for that. I'm still waiting for Mr. Hajir to admit that he's taken this just a little too far.

Eventually, folks may come to accept that those of us who were supportive of Catherine were sincerely concerned about our schools, people who felt that the mistakes of tone that occurred were mistakes of enthusiasm and passion, and not reflective of deep character flaws. (I've yet to see either side cornering the market on civility.) But I'm not holding my breath for that.

What I think has been sacrificed for a long time to come is a coalition of people who, however they felt about our schools, were willing to band together to expand our tax base. That's now in the dumper, thanks to the infighting among parents and others over this School Committee. I think that THAT political price was one not worth paying.

Richard Morse

Anonymous said...

"Amherst is an open-minded community accepting of diverse ideas"????

Well, now, there's an evening's discussion over several grain-based adult beverages.

Certainly that's what we'd like to believe.

Susan said...

Serving in a public post is always a challenge particularly when you want to work toward change. Thanks for your courage, tenacity, and wisdom in trying to effect your vision of better schools fpr Amherst. You can be proud of your service and your legacy.

Citizen A said...

I applaud Amy Wasserman for apologizing for her actions. We all do things in the heat of the moment that we regret later. Not all of us have the courage to admit our mistakes publicly. I hope Catherine Sanderson, Larry Kelley (see his blog for reference) and all others who have dragged Amy Wasserman's name through the mud can now move on to more productive activities and that we can all keep in mind that we have a common goal: working together as a community to provide the best education for our children.

Anonymous said...

Just how did Catherine drag Amy's name through the mud? She posted that comment here herself. And in looking at Larry's blog he removed his posting of it in return for an apology to Catherine. Not a very heartfelt one now, is it.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it all always Catherine's fault? If she wasn't alive, no one would have be forced to make angry, regrettable posts.

Anonymous said...

Amy Wasserman has made several posts slamming Catherine, on this blog. Her apology seems hollow in that she realizes the backlash she created, and is sorry more for the backlash than what she said.

Anonymous said...

she is not sorry about what she said, only that her name was on it. Read Larry's blog...

Anonymous said...

You're right about Amy just not wanting her name attached to the post. How hollow is that???? Isn't she from Pelham?? Way to go hilltowns. And don't you love how Pelham realized the backlash and then wanted to distance themselves from Amy?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Catherine A. Sanderson said...

I just want to say that I don't believe Amy Wasserman's comments should reflect on the entire town of Pelham. She made them, and they are hers alone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for again taking the high road. And again.

Anonymous said...

Yes Catherine, thank you. You will forever go down in Amherst history as the one who took the high road and who fought for positive change. Thank you Catherine! Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Anonymous said...

i'm praying the above comment is meant to be read as sarcastic. either way it's amusing.