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.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

One Year Appointment for Maria Geryk

Here's the gazette link of the article:  And here is the Masslive article:  And here is a more updated Gazette article:

It was nearly a 5 hour meeting, so I am not going to appoint to summarize it.  The gist is that all non-Amherst members and Rick Hood supported Maria Geryk and the other 4 non-Amherst supported someone else (initially two for Kohn - Steve, Rob, and two for Bayless - me, Irv, although Steve and Rob both changed their votes to Bayless after the first ballot).  The final vote occurred because Irv (who is on region and Union 26) agreed to a one-year term with Maria.  That vote passed 6 to 3 on Region (me, Rob, Steve opposed) and 4 to 2 on Union 26 (me and Steve opposed).  Maria will be evaluated by January 1, 2010 and at that time either will be released from her contract or her contract will be extended for a longer term. 

Here is my statement that I read, just FYI:

I’ve given this vote a tremendous amount of thought over the last few weeks, as I know all of my colleagues on this board have done.  There is no greater responsibility for the SC than choosing a superintendent, and I know we all take this role very seriously. 

For me, there are two real challenges in making this decision:  first, anyone we choose is a bit of a “leap of faith” in that you never know exactly how someone will be in the job until someone is doing that job (and we have one candidate who in fact has been doing this job and two who have not been doing this job – at least in Amherst), and the second is trying to focus on the totality of the information about the candidates (public opinion, references, prior work and educational history).  As we saw with the closing of Marks Meadow, there are often a small number of very loud voices with one view, and it is easy to assume that view represents the entire community.  So, I’ve tried very hard to consider the totality of information I’ve received from many sources (both in the Amherst area and from outside our immediate area). 

In thinking about my decision, the most important thing for me is where I see the schools right now and who do I see as the person/people who can help us build on our strengths and address the challenges we face.  I see real problems in the Amherst schools – and I know the problems in the Amherst elementary schools are frankly not the same ones seen in the elementary schools in Pelham, Shutesbury, and Leverett but many of the broader problems (achievement gap, finances) are seen in our elementary and regional schools. 

  • In the Amherst elementary schools, we’ve seen a drop of 99 students this year compared to last, and this is 44 students fewer than we projected, with 30 students fewer than expected in kindergarten.  In addition, we are seeing a massive change in the demographics in our elementary schools:  over 50% of kindergartners currently in our schools are on free and reduced lunch (compared to 37% of overall elementary students, marking a dramatic shift).  I find this really concerning, as it indicates to me that a growing number of families are opting out of our public schools. 
  • I see a big achievement gap in our elementary schools.  In our elementary schools, only 30% of African American students, 38% of Latino students, and 30% of low income students reach proficiency on MCAS math tests. 
  • One of our three elementary schools (Fort River) showed declines in both ELA and Math MCAS scores for all students – the aggregate and most subgroups – from last year to this year. 
  • I see problems in special education, with about 40% of parents not satisfied with their participation in their child's IEP, communication with staff, and the staff's responsiveness to their needs and concerns.
  • I see huge budget problems now and in the foreseeable future, as indicated by Representative Ellen Story at the Four Towns Meeting last Saturday.
So, when I think about choosing the next superintendent, my primary concern is who the best person is in terms of moving our district forward as we face these pretty immense challenges in terms of achievement, demographics, and finances. 

I know that many community members and teachers have very positive feelings about Maria Geryk, and I hear this passion.  And I really wish I could feel good about supporting her candidacy, because in many ways, that would be the easiest choice since she is already here and known by our community.  But voting for superintendent isn’t supposed to be the easiest choice – it is supposed to be the choice that is best for our community moving forward, and as much as I appreciate the work she has done on creating instructional rounds and being visible in the community, I also have real concerns about her ability to handle the very real problems we face.

  • We have a big achievement gap, and students who were failing MCAS were identified in September, yet the Achievement Academy didn’t start until January (half-way through the school year), which seems less than ideal.
  • We have one school (Fort River) that is showing declines in both math and ELA MCAS and she hasn’t developed a plan to address this.
  • We have real concerns from some parents in special education, and she hasn’t attended SEPAC
  • We have major budget challenges, and it is February and we’ve not seen a budget at Amherst or Regional (and she has already cancelled the budget presentation set for Tuesday).  This is two months later than what we had with Alberto.
  • We have had a report on math in our district from an outside expert in October, and it is February and we have had no action plan on dealing with this recommendation, despite the fact that we have a major achievement gap and lower MCAS math scores in 3rd grade than the state average.  I haven’t seen any sense of urgency from her in addressing these long-standing concerns.
  • We had, at the time of her appointment, a very divided SC, and I have seen no interest or willingness on her part of trying to bring the SC together, which is really sad to me.  I didn’t vote for Alberto Rodriguez, yet when he arrived, he reached out to me and met with each SC member individually each month, and really worked to understand all of our concerns.  I haven’t seen this type of interest in getting to understand those who disagree with her from Maria.  Relatedly, I know that Maria has reached out to some community members, but I feel that reaching out has been to those who support her – and there hasn’t been a willingness to do the same for those who have real concerns – about math, about special education, etc. - and I find that really unfortunate. 
So, when I look at Ms. Geryk’s performance over the last year, a year in which she was clearly trying to put her “best foot forward” in terms of getting the superintendent’s job, I have serious concerns.  And those concerns unfortunately make it impossible for me to take a leap of faith and vote to make her the permanent superintendent.  I feel really bad about this, as I know this vote in many ways would be the easiest one for our community, since she is of course by far the most familiar choice, and change is scary. 

I had hoped I could vote for Dr. Kohn and feel comfortable taking a leap of faith about his candidacy.  I liked his commitment to social justice and achievement for low income kids and kids of color, and I liked his ability to make major changes in struggling districts, and I liked his experience as a regional superintendent in MA.  But I understand that for many people in the community, and some of my colleagues on the SC, voting for Dr. Kohn would require too much of a leap of faith, and I can understand and respect these feelings, and therefore don’t feel comfortable supporting his candidacy either. 

However, after reading all of the comments from parents and teachers and community members and outside references (who have known Dr. Bayless for years), I feel quite comfortable taking the “leap of faith” necessary to offer him the permanent position. 

  • He has considerable experience as a superintendent (11 years), meaning he’s dealt with precisely the types of things we are going to deal with (budgets, instruction, evaluation, etc.). 
  • He has huge amounts of experience in business – he has a certificate in business and has served as an associate superintendent for business in three different districts, and has worked in California (a state with huge budget problems).  The Amherst and Regional schools have a budget of 50 million – and we really need someone with experience making difficult budget choices and gaining community support for such choices. 
  • He is new to Amherst, and MA, but the challenges we face are precisely the types of things ALL districts face, and he has support from people (e.g., Rob Detweiler) in understanding MA laws and finances.  I believe the long-term knowledge and experience he brings is really valuable, and more than makes up for what he doesn’t current know in terms of specific MA laws/regulations.
  • He has a strong focus on evaluation, and the importance of evaluating what we are doing to make sure that it is working.  This is NOT a strength of our current district, and I really think his focus on doing this would be invaluable.
  • He is clearly dedicated to low income students and ELL (many Latino students in CA) students, and discussed a number of specific ways he had worked to improve achievement in these groups.
  • He has intensive experience in developing strategic district plans, which is also not a current strength of our district and I believe could be really advantageous. 
  • He has a very nice manner in terms of bringing people together – his idea of bringing together small groups of SC members (with different views) to discuss things is excellent, and is precisely the type of thing that I believe would have been really, really helpful over the last year. 
Will there be a learning curve if we offer the job to Dr. Bayless?  Yes.  But I believe that giving a couple of months to Dr. Bayless to learn our schools and towns and administrators and MA laws is a very small price to pay for gaining his extensive knowledge and background with finances and evaluation and bringing people together.  I feel 100% comfortable that Dr. Bayless has the ability to help all of our schools build on their strengths and work on their challenges and bring our communities together.  

UPDATE:   It has been a very long day, and I don't think anonymous potshots at me or Steve or anyone on the SC is helpful or constructive or brings the community or the SC together in any way.  If anyone wants to share private thoughts with me, please send them to my private email:  But I'm not going to continue to provide this forum for mean-spirited attacks. 


Tom Porter said...

Thank you Catherine for your great effort.

I voted for you based on your principles, and I know from experience last year - with Mr. Rodriguez - that you will support Ms. Geryk this coming year on principle.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for all your hard work on this. I know that you have spent countless hours researching, talking, thinking and contemplating this. Thank you for that! Bayless would have gotten my vote, but now Maria will get my support because I believe that a unified community is in the best interest of our children. I hope that Maria can move our schools forward in a positive direction.

Anonymous said...

Maria deserved better. She followed the process that SC members said was so vital to appointing a permanent Superintendent. We are at a loss, if she is insulted by the offer of 1yr. I would be. Very costly search for meager result, on behalf, of a very personally self invested few claiming to represent the voiceless.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, the best person got the job. For complaining about Union 26 so much it helped you in the end. Congrats

I'm not going to be sorry when you lose re-election and Maria's contract is extended. The people of Amherst will choose her over you. You can criticize the search all you want, but clearly Maria was the top choice.

Happy trails

Anonymous said...

This is the most telling part of your entire post:

"We had, at the time of her appointment, a very divided SC, and I have seen no interest or willingness on her part of trying to bring the SC together, which is really sad to me."

Catherine, it is not the job of the superintendent to bring the SC together. It is the job of the SC to work togeher. That means you. I watched all four+ hours of the SC meeting tonight and it is you, YOU, who are dividing the SC, the schools, and the town. It is not Maria Geryk's job to force you to play nice.

Even after the SC voted to hire Maria Geryk and give her a one-year contract, you refuse to get behind her and insist on running right to your blog to post 1,793 words (I counted) on why John Bayless should have been hired.

Talk about divisive! The search is over! Geryk has been hired. How about a little reconciliation? How about congratulating Geryk and wishing her the best in her job?

I'll be surprised if you post this...

Anonymous said...

Hey, guys?

You won.

Can't stop the hating, can ya?

Anonymous said...

"there are often a small number of very loud voices with one view, and it is easy to assume that view represents the entire community"

Well said, Catherine. Think about it!

Tom Porter said...

Anon 6:30:

I trust that Maria will not be insulted by the one-year offer with chance for review. It was the only way that the SC was going to advance her candidacy. And anyway, she's had an 11-month audition so far, and pretty soon, it's time for that 'annual review.'

Based on Maria's energy exhibited in the Feb 3 interview, I assume she will be delighted to have her Superintendency legitimized with a formal appointment contract of whatever term.

As far as insults go, the hand-wringing makes for good theater, but skins run pretty thick in this community. I think there were some, Irv Rhodes comes to mind - who were insulted by Ms. Geryk's disregard for those of opposing view - and this in a community that gives such lip service to "inclusion" - and to a concerning pattern of withholding, delaying, parsing or misrepresenting data findings. And yet Mr. Rhodes was able to measure the situation and broker a deal that broke the logjam to offer the appointment to Maria.

If Maria watched the proceedings as closely as she watched the Jan 19-20 interviews with her competitors, and applies the same level of preparation in learning from the feedback given today, she should have every advantage to guarantee a winning performance in 2011. And if she wows us all, she will get a rousing performance review.

SC: please note, January 1 is Rose Bowl day - let's see the evaluation a bit before New Year's Day!

6:56 and 7:15. Sore winners?

Sam I Am said...

i have to agree with Anon 7:15 that I am sorry you felt the need to post on the blog what you read at the meeting. You already said it publicly and that should stand. To put it out as an "FYI" after the decision is over feels in poor taste, and contradictory to earlier posts where you asked people to please rally around and support the eventual choice.

Your very first act, instead, seems to imply otherwise, or at the very least that you wish you could put a "Don't Blame Me, I Voted For Bayless" bumper sticker on your car.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the one year contract is insulting and yet I hope for our schools and students sake that she takes it. The divisive politics of the Amherst School Committee need to be set aside. Please stop undermining the new Superintendent before she's even been offered the position. Now is the time to create a atmosphere of collegiality.

Caren Rotello said...

I watched the entirety of the (broadcast) meeting, and I have a new appreciation for you and the other members of the SC. Thank you for your effort - you did your best.

If I were on the Amherst SC, I would make the dissolution of Union 26 a top priority for the next year.

Anonymous said...

Tom Porter said:

"6:56 and 7:15. Sore winners?"

No. It's not about winning and losing. That's what you and Catherine don't get. It's not a game, or a war.

I am just looking for a little courtesy and professionalism from Catherine. You know, bury the hatchet and wish the best to Maria Geryk in her new, "permanent" job. Set the tone of moving on and working together. Apparently that is too much to ask of her, and of you.

Taylor said...

Whether you support Maria or not, do you realize that this makes Amherst continue to look like a bunch of world class morons? For a group of supposedly highly educated group of people, this particular committee is coming off as a group of incompetent Keystone Cops. You spend 60k on a national search, then hire the local candidate and offer her a 1 year deal? Think of the possibilities Maria might say no and due to this complete non-sensical process Bayless will have no interest in moving across country to work for this group of mental midgets, or Maria takes the job and is then relieved of her duties after one year and we spend 70k for another national search that will yield no one because no one will want to work for the Fools Committee, or my favorite Maria gets a 3 year deal at the conclusion of the 1 year deal, because the committee without a clue knows they would like fools to reopen for the 3rd time in 3 years. Oh, what a mess and what a bunch of incompetent donkeys we have elected.

One other point, while I think Sanderson and Rivkin have at times offered some reasonable alternative views, their handling of this process has pretty much signed their death warrant at the polls. Sanderson has replaced Larry Shaffer as the most polarizing figure in Amherst and is now the least popular town official. Maria, for better or worse enjoys immense public support. That vote will turn out and vote Sanderson out. Rivkin is pretty much thought of as an aloof,out of touch elitist. He's toast too, which will further shift the balance of power on the Fools Committee.

Anonymous said...

And why would we want to dissolve Union 26? Steve, Catherine and Irv used it to their advantage today.

They were the ones thwarting the majority on the regional committee that wanted Maria. Seems like they used the Union to their advantage. Why get rid of it now?

Anonymous said...

I'm curious how the dissolution of Union 26 would have helped this situation. Does anyone know? The region would still have gone to Geryk, so wouldn't Amherst still be in the same pickle? I think Debbie Gould made that point at the meeting when Steve was commenting on the ability of Pelham to have such influence over Amherst's choice of super.

Abbie said...

My thanks to the Amherst school committee. I saw it as a very difficult decision, I don't know how I'd have voted and happy not to have had that responsibility.

I now wish Ms Geryk the best in her efforts to improve our schools. I think the one year contract is a reasonable compromise. Those that disagree, either discount the major issues raised by ALL the Amherst School committee members about Ms. Geryk's performance as interim or they just don't care. I hope that Ms. Geryk takes those comments seriously because they meant something important. Many of the weaknesses raised were related to the management of the elementary schools (that non-Amherst regional committees would not be a part of). Some issues raised were lack of transparency, forthrightness, and the need to address difficult issues (and not hide or ignore them).

I hope Ms Geryk accepts the one year contract, learns and acts on the criticisms offered and leads us to greater achievement for all our students.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all you do for our children and our schools. It's unfortunate that you repeatedly take the blame for having an opinion and being outspoken. You have both my support and respect.

I hope that moving forward Maria will take some of the comments/criticism that has been expressed and act on it. In particular I hope that she makes addressing the issues of the elementary school math curriculum a priority.

My biggest point of frustration from yesterdays results is that I feel like the hilltowns kicked and screamed and dug their heals in until their candidate won and have no interest in compromise or cooperation. It's particularly frustrating because they represent such a small number of people.

Finally, several people have mentioned that Maria had the support of 85% of the population. I'm wondering if you know where this number comes from? Was a survey done?

Todd Rees said...


I express to the entire SC my ire, and am embarrassed that our college town has such disregard for higher education (and specialized experience). As I'm sure your own research has shown, you need a Ph.D. these days just to be a Principal in States like Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota (you know, those states with routinely high performers). And I find it sadly humorous that a town that votes 87% progressive, won't take a similiar stance on this issue. We're teaching our children to live in their comfort zone.

Personally, I am absolutely confident that you have acted in the best interests of the children of Amherst. Thank you for the years of exhaustive effort, and the open discussions. I've never seen anyone try so hard to explain and enlighten our citizenry.

Very Best Wishes

Curious observer said...

If Union 26 dissolves, the Amherst School Committee would have a full vote on selecting the superintendent. So the Regional Committee could pick one candidate and the Amherst School Committee could reject that candidate or select another. Maybe there could be two superintendents for the different committees, not so common but doable. The benefit to having Amherst School Committee select a superintendent is that they represent the 90 percent of kids in Union 26 and would have more power and control over the selection. Seems only fair.

Also, where does this $60,000 figure for the superintendent search come from? Just saying it in a meeting doesn't make it so. The search firm was paid about $20K and then there were travel expenses for two candidates, plus some extras.

Rick said...

I want to say that I have the greatest respect for all school committee members, who all worked so hard on this and gave thoughtful consideration to all candidates and simply voiced their opinions and their choice. Yesterday was no more and no less than that.

We need to not castigate any school committee member. It’s not cool and it’s counterproductive.

I also want to reiterate what I said last night that this is not the end of anything. It is the beginning of a new phase in the continuous improvement of our schools. My opinion is that Ms. Geryk has a unique gift that can help us do that. But I also voiced the opinion that we need to rid ourselves of any vestige of the “ignore it and it will go away” attitude that I believe has been at least a part of the culture of our district.

Now that the search is over, which took over a huge amount of our time, I look forward to working with all school committee members, the Superintendent and the community in making our schools the best they can be.

Anonymous said...

I greatly appreciate Rick's leadership at yesterday's meeting and Irv Rhodes taking a stance that finally allowed the committee to move beyond the stalemale (if he had not done so... would the meeting just have continued to drag on and on), and I appreciated that people were willing to vote on a "compromise solution" which was not ideal by anyone's standards.

That said, I think the Ms. Geryk should be offered at least a two year contract instead of one.

I also do sincerely hope (though unfortunately am not so optimistic) that yesterday's meeting will serve as a turning point for the committee and the relationship between the hilltowns and Amherst folks with regards to the regional schools. There were many critical (and some unproductive) comments made at yesterday's meeting including about other school committee members and it is important for everyone to take a deep breath and really, sincerely be willing to move on and work together to make our schools the best that they can be. The bottom line is that we all want the best education possible for our children (given our ever present financial constraints and other limiations). I hope that the committee members can move beyond the bickering and keep their sights on that bigger picture, and work together and with Geryk.

amy wasserman said...

catherine sanderson - you are an embarassment to this commmunity. your arrogance and self serving behavior are unconscionable. you had an agenda prior to the search - you wanted an ivy trained PhD and would settle for nothing less. you don't listen to your constituents either. many SC members mentioned that maria had overwhelming support from parents, community members AND staff. you ignored all of it. you are a disgrace and i hope your loss in the upcoming election is HUGE.

as for comments about you being outspoken, you are not outspoken. you are a BULLY. you only do things for your own ego - not for the common good. you didn't even look at maria during her interview. for all i know, you were doodling on your notepaper the whole time. i never saw you look her in the eye. how can you possibly know what she had to say if you weren't even listening????

you are a LOSER.

maryd said...

WOW! I can't believe adults are acting like this.

Ed said...

I think that Maria Geryk needs to show that she actually knows her stuff and a good start would be in explaining what she thinks the OCR's letter of guidance on discriminatory bullying (a) means and (b) obligates the district to do.

For those not aware of it, it can be read at

And I remind all that both sexual orientation and gender expression are protected under State law and not Federal law -- which is just one of the reason why this document is causing so much discussion nationwide.

Maria -- I still would like to know what your interpretation of this document is.

lise said...

@amy wasserman

You are the embarrasment to the community. Catherine has been critical of programs, results and budgetary decisions in the schools. She has backed every position with data and logic. She has never engaged in personal attacks such as your diatribe. She has never commented on the personal comportment of any SC member or school staff member. Nor has she ever engaged in namecalling. That is the domain of bullies and losers of which our community apparently has no shortage.

Anonymous said...

Amy Wasserman, you may be brave enough to use your name but your comments are inappropriate for a public forum. Talk about bully - if you feel this way about catherine Sanderson, say it to her face. As a reader of this blog, even infrequently and not necessarily a Sanderson supporter, your comments are offensive. Please stop.

That said, a one year contract for Superintendent is not acceptable. As an Amherst resident, I expected after spending the money on a search we would have stability in the system. A one year contract does not achieve this. I urge Catherine, as a Geryk opponent and as an expression of support (& reconciliation) for the SC choice, to consider submitting a resolution to extend the contract to 3 years with annual reviews.

And let's start modeling appropriate behavior for our children, please. No bullying in person, and no bullying on the blog.


Anonymous said...


I'm glad the blog is open to anonymous comments again.

I can clearly see why you wanted a break last night from moderating the individual posts, and in fact I think you should go back to letting people post in real time and removing offensive posts when you catch them.

This thread clearly shows that you are willing to let hostile attacks on you pass through to be read by all.

You won't get any credit from the negative people for proactively blocking posts which attack others in the school system, so you may as well save some time for other worthwhile activities.

I think it is very sad that there seem to be many in town who view any difference of opinion on complex issues as rude, arrogant, embarrassing,etc. Perhaps these views don't represent the majority and the rest of us need to speak up more.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous only because I don't want to put my kids in the middle of this.

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone,

Regardless of our feelings, can we stop calling each other names like "loser" and "bully."

We are supposed to be the adults, remember?

Citizen A said...

Hey everyone,

Regardless of our views, can we stop calling each other names like "loser" and "bully?" This is not helping at all.

We are supposed to be the adults. Remember?

Anonymous said...

I hope we as a community can now turn our attention away from the bickering and jockeying for position in the Superintedent search and just focus on supporting our current Superintendent and School Committee as they move forward together to make our schools the best they can be. And I hope our Superintendent and School Committee can do just that, move forward TOGETHER to make our schools the best they can be.

Anonymous said...

Can you outline what happens if Maria declines the offer of a 1yr contract? Does the SC reconvene and vote again for another candidate? Or does the SC enter into contract negotiations with Maria?

amy wasserman said...

definition of bully: "To treat in an overbearing or intimidating manner". i would tell catherine to her face but she has a nice ability to not let someone voice their opinion in her presence which i experienced firsthand. we did not have a conversation because i could not get a word in edgewise. her manner WAS overbearing.

Anonymous said...

Now that the School committe has appointed Maria as our superintendent, it is incumbent upon the community to come together to support her. This is especially true for the School Committee. The School Committee has spoken and voted for her and we must do all in our power to support her and do all in our power to ensure her success. Irv Rhodes

Michael Jacques said...

Amy Wasserman,

I must give you credit for using your name. Such an offensive insulting remark is rarely accompanied with someone taking credit for it. At least you stand by your belief no matter how much I loath it.

It is too bad you did not take Rick Hoods advice to heart. While I wanted a different outcome Rick's, and others, acknowledgment of the, “ignore it and it will go away" approach was very important to me. It was the honest assessment that sent a signal to the community who are concerned with this appointment. It says we hear you loud and clear, we won’t forget you, and we will make this a priority moving forward. This feeling of being ignored is noticed by many parents whether it be SPED families, minority, low income, or high achieving student families.

Catherine stood up for those families and all others for 3 years. She took the heat from people like you, never quit, and kept trying to find new solutions to existing problems. She has integrity, character, conviction, and intelligence far above what most of us and certainly you may ever experience. So tell me, what have you done in comparison?

I must also apologies to the blog community at large. I usually like to let things like this go but that comment went too far for me.

Irv Rhodes said...

Now that the school committee has selected Maria as our superintendent it is incumbent upon the entire community to come together to support her. This is especially true for the School Committee. The School Committee has spoken and now all School Committee members must commit themselves to supporting Maria to ensure her success and that of our schools. Irv Rhodes

Anonymous said...

I am curious about the timeline for hearing whether an agreement is reached with Maria for the 1-year contract. Thanks.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Amy Wasserman - I believe you came up to me at the end of one of the aerobics classes I was teaching to complain about how I treated Pelham (this was not a prearranged meeting about the schools). I believe we had a brief conversation about the inherent differences between the Amherst and Pelham schools, and that you made a number of accusations about things I had said and done (e.g., desiring to shut down the Pelham school) which were inaccurate, and I believe I corrected those misimpressions. I suggested we talk more and for you to be in touch if that was appealing, but didn't hear from you again. I am from New Jersey and I talk fast and loud - I'm sorry if you or others find that overbearing. I certainly wish you had taken the opportunity to talk with me personally (and privately) if you wanted to share your thoughts about my speech tone or style. I don't believe name-calling and accusations on my blog is the best way to handle complaints of such a personal nature.

Anonymous 1:28 - if Maria declines the one year contract, the SC would meet again to discuss whether we wanted to change the terms of the contract or make an offer to another candidate. My understanding is that she has not yet accepted this offer. I voted against the one-year offer, although I certainly appreciated Irv's attempt to bring us to a resolution, because I believe such an extension is very likely to lead us back to where we were for 5 hours yesterday (since those who currently have no concerns about her leadership certainly aren't going to develop concerns in the next 10 months and I haven't seen signs in the last 11 months under her leadership that would lead me to feel that the concerns all of the Amherst members raised would go away). That being said, assuming she accepts, she is the choice of the SC and obviously all members of the SC need to be able to work with her to support our schools moving forward or make a decision to step down from the SC.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Citizen-Parent - I would like to be able to post your comment, but I can't post something criticizing school employees. Can you re-phrase and re-send?!?

Ed said...

"Anonymous only because I don't want to put my kids in the middle of this."

This is sad - and not the first time I have heard something like this. It shows me how much Amherst is NOT a liberal community -- a true liberal (small "l") is someone who puts the humanity of the individual ahead of the disagreements of policy with the individual.

Or as a professor once put it, "a liberal won't kill someone for a good cause." And a liberal sure as h*** will leave the children out of it!

The reason why I truly don't care what most folk in Amherst think of me, why I have absolutely no respect for them, is that they simply are not liberals. It is not a right/left disagreement on policy issues, I could respect that -- it is the utter contempt of the most basic human values (leaving other people's children out of your disputes) that I find truly contemptable.

Anonymous said...

I think most people watching last night saw Debbie Gould start to concede a willingness to change her vote, so that there could be forward movement. Had Irv not countered with his compromise at that moment, the opportunity was there to get the vote to go for Bayless. It wouldn't have been easy, because, it would have needed to go back to Regional, and Rick Hood, for example, would have needed to change his vote...but it is probable he would. This may be 24 hour quarterbacking, but it was hanging in the air, and the opportunity was overlooked. The Amherst "anyone but Maria" contingent need to take responsibility for that. Maybe this was the outcome you wanted.

Anonymous said...

I literally can not believe what I am reading. I thought the the discourse in this town could not get worse than it was last year with the closing of Marks Meadow. I am so, so saddened by what is occurring here. When I moved here 8 years ago, I believed it to be an accepting, welcoming community where people's differences are celebrated. I could not have been more wrong. This is humanity at its worst. Whether you like Catherine or don't like Catherine. Whether you agree with her politics, her style, her speech or not-- she is a HUMAN BEING. She has feelings and she has children. Amy Wasserman, I ask you to look at your own definition of a bully and then read your original post again. We should all be ashamed of ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Amy Wasserman,

I too, want to publicly state how mean-spirited your post was. For someone like yourself who has had issues with the public schools that you have taken some of your children out of the district and put them in private schools, I want to know who do you think is working harder on the SC than Catherine to make things better?

Catherine has the ideas and creativity to come up with new solutions, in addition to the energy to keep going the long haul, when others would have quit or just taken the easy way out, and settled for the status quo.

People do not seem to like change in this town, even when given options of candidates who have better credentials (yes, folks, credentials matter -- PhD's, experience in classrooms, principalships etc) and more varied experience.

I support Catherine's efforts to improve our schools, not for her ego, but for all the kids. She has a tenured position at Amherst College, I think her ego is intact. She believes in public education, and our district just isn't delivering all that it could be doing. Let's keep fighting for better schools, and not stick with the same old: ignore it and it will go away mentality. Thank you Rick Hood for acknowledging this.

Anonymous said...

anonymous @5:51 p.m.

Your information about Amy Wasserman's "children" is incorrect. She has one child who has never gone anywhere but the public schools. How much of the rest of your posts here did you make up?

Kathy P. said...

Catherine, thank you for your service to this community. It appears to me that you are one of a few people involved in our schools that has a moral conscience and keeps the focus on the children not more highly paid Administrators. I support you 100%.

Tom Porter said...

Maybe the steam has gone out of this thread, which might be healthy, but I'll attempt to answer Anon 8:31am's question about grounding the "85% of locals support Geryk" assertion.

The community was invited to make input. Some in the community did so, most did not. Of those who took time to offer feedback, we heard many characterizations: "a wide range of opinions was registered," "each candidate received support," "each SC member heard from people supporting each of the candidates," and one SC member noted that in certain cases "The very same statement by one candidate was cited as 'extremely positive by one respondent and extremely negative by the next'." (cit. Gazette articles, and yesterday's hearing).

We also heard that many, many people expressed support for Maria. I am absolutely certain this was true. We also know that the grassroots effort was generated and stoked, perhaps even in violation of town law by school employees

Think about it: a three way race between two recruited, out-of-town candidates and a local, high profile incumbent. Would the challengers even have a local ground game? Of course the feedback was disproportionate for Maria. That's politics.

It doesn't bother me because I think no one on either end of the SC see-saw was going to be swayed one way or the other whether Maria's number was 40%, 60% or 90%.

So it's important to note that the 85% figure is
1) a very loose approximation,
2) not projectable, and
3) manufactured

I attended a college tour today in another state, and by happenstance was joined by another Amherst family, including a Mom who works in the school system. She was passionate about Maria's vision and leadership, and I take her at her word. I was impressed by her reasons, and I appreciated hearing this from a school employee - it has more validity than when simply asserted as hearsay. So in my experience of Feb. 7, 100% of the people I spoke with loved Maria. Intriguing, but not projectable.

Will the whole region, or even anything close to 85% of it, fall in love with Ms. Geryk? It depends on the honeymoon I suppose: as Julie Andrews once sang, "It's Never To Late For Love."

Anonymous said...

Tom Porter,

What part of accept the decision, back the appointed superintendent and move on, do you not get?

Oh, and Maria Geryk was not elected. This was not a race. This was not politics. She was not the incumbent. She applied for a job and was offered the position. There's a difference that you and your buddy Larry Kelly fail to see. It's all a big game to you.

Speaking of Larry K., linking to his blog as a way of proving ethics violations is not exactly credible.

Tom Porter said...

Anon. 10:12

My post addresses the fallacy of the 85% claim. Also - in name of moving on - makes ample room for Geryk's popularity, cites a current first-person testimonial, and her potential to win over the people in the region who are not yet convinced. That will come through performance.

Even leaves room for romance. Who could ask for anything more?

Sure it also makes the connection to politics. If you don't believe politics were part of the process, you weren't watching any of it.

By the way, who are you, again? And are you OK?


Anonymous said...

In Sunday's meeting, Steve Rivkin mentioned several times that Maria Geryk asked the committee to hold off for one meeting the work on the School Committee preparing goals for her. Mr. Rivkin then said at the next meeting Ms. Geryk presented the School Committee with her own goals, written by her, when she presented the District Improvement Plan. I just spent some time skimming the District Improvement Plan. It is quite clear to me that Mr. Rivkin never read this plan. If he had, he could never say that Ms. Geryk wrote her own goals. The District Improvement Plan has nothing to do with Superintendent's goals. It is a set of goals for the district as a whole to aspire to. It is a very comprehensive and impressive document and I encourage everyone to read it. I found it as Appendix A in the 2011/2012 Budget document but I think you can also find it as a stand alone document on the ARPS website. So, once again, Mr. Rivkin mis-represented what truly occurred. The School Committee fell down on the job and never came up with goals for the Superintendent and then chastises her for not working on areas that they want her to work on.

Another point, unless I am missing something, the FY12 Budget for the Amherst schools was presented at the January 31st Amherst School Committee meeting and is on the website for all to read. Yet, Steve Rivkin said that Ms. Geryk has yet to present a budget. I was not at the 1/31 meeting so perhaps I am missing something here but the budget is on the website. If I am incorrect in assuming this is the budget and it is not then I stand corrected. But if it is our budget, then how does Mr. Rivkin reconcile the fact that she presented a budget that he said she did not.

Ms. Geryk is trying very hard to bring true school reform to the district and Mr. Rivkin is standing squarely in her path at every turn. He needs to get out of the way so the district can move forward with true reform on its way to being not an excellent district but a superior district.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr. Rhodes. All need to support the new supt, just as those whose candidate didn't win asked everyone to do.

This support needs to be modeled by all SC members or they should resign.

Anonymous said...

Public Service Announcement, particularly addressed to Anon 10:12pm Feb 7 (& 8:00pm Feb 6) since you seem to have a personal issue to work out:

There are two Tom Porters in the community, and I have met each of them.

Tom Porter of Belchertown runs Elite Home Health Agency in Amherst. This is a fine business and he's a great person. He is NOT the Tom Porter who posts on this blog.

Tom Porter of Amherst, who posts on this blog, is an ARHS grad and local businessman.

He's ALSO a great guy!

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response to Anonymous 6:02 - two quick things.

First, Maria created the district improvement plan entirely on her own. The SC wasn't involved in that process, as we had been the prior year with Alberto. That is what Steve is referring to.

Second, although you are indeed correct that the budget document reads "FY12 budget", it contains no actual FY12 budget documents. Those apparently weren't ready, and thus weren't presented at all (the SC still hasn't seen them for either the regional or Amherst, and two meetings have already been cancelled).

You may disagree with Steve, or me, or others, but Steve's points were entirely accurate.

Anonymous said...


Did Alberto create a district improvement plan? I never knew that or say it anywhere? Is it still around or did Maria just update his DIP? Or did Maria's DIP replace Alberto's?

amy wasserman said...

just to clarify a few points:
1. i only have 1 child who has always been in the public school. my husband and i are huge advocates of public education. and my favorite bumper sticker "it'll be a great day when all the schools have all the money they need and the military will have to hold a bake sale."

2. my interaction at the gym with cathy/catherine sanderson was not hostile from my point of view. in fact, when cathy started going off defending the schools, herself, SC, etc, i said that i refused to discuss it at the gym - it was not appropriate. getting a word in edgewise with her is very difficult if not impossible.

3. if bullies are not called "bullies" when they bully, they will continue with their abusive behavior. furthermore, bullies generally learn behaviors from their parents.

4. i e-mailed steve rifkin and posted on cathy's blog because he doesn't have a blog. cathy does. if you are a public official and you choose to blog, you end up with all sorts of public comments on your blog. create a problem - suffer the consequences.

5. finally, cathy, today's post made my day!!! thank you for your decision!

Anonymous said...

Amy Wasserman, you wrote:
3. if bullies are not called "bullies" when they bully, they will continue with their abusive behavior. furthermore, bullies generally learn behaviors from their parents.

Do you somehow not consider yourself a bully at all in your very hostile attack on Catherine on her own blog? You may want to take another look in the mirror.

Kudos to Catherine for both posting such a vicious attack ("You are a LOSER") and for taking time to actually respond to it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all your service to Amherst, Catherine.

And to Amy Wasserman, I hope that when your daughter googles you (which she will someday), she will find your post online. I would hate to have to explain to one of my children why I think it's appropriate for me to call people names like "loser" when I would be disappointed and horrified if they did the same to someone they know. That should be quite the teaching moment.

I feel so sad for our community that people have attacked Catherine and her family on a personal level because of her public service. I'm sure that will encourage so many more people to serve our town.

Thank you again, Catherine, for dealing with all of it, especially people like Amy Wasserman. I hope she or her child never have to suffer someone doing to them what she did to you.

Traci Wolfe

P.S. To the person who questioned Bart posting anonymously, I'm doing what he did. If you don't have an account (and don't want to spend the time setting one up!), you have to post anonymously and then sign your name. No secret plot, I promise. Just a lack of time and patience for stuff like this.