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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Final Post

So, this will be my final post on my blog.  The goal of my blog was to help me communicate my thoughts/reasoning to my constituents and to hear thoughts/questions/suggestions from my constituents, and therefore it doesn't make any sense for me to continue with my blog since I am no longer a member of the School Committee.  I am going to keep my blog up - as requested by several readers who appreciated the research/facts now available on this blog - but I won't have any new posts, nor will I allow any comments to be posted (as of midnight tonight).

I want to thank all of the people who have expressed support for my efforts on the SC over the last three years.  I have been truly touched by the emails and calls and letters I've received over the last few weeks, since announcing my decision not to run, and I thank all of those who have expressed such support.  I was extremely touched by the lovely words from Marylou Theilman, former SC member, at last night's Regional SC meeting - and by the letters she had sought from Senators Kerry and Brown congratulating me on my service! 

I congratulate Katherine Appy on her election to the SC, and hope that members of both the Amherst and Regional SCs will work on making the types of changes in our schools that many people in this town still want (even though they may be even more silent now).  In particular, we need to improve elementary math, understand why our per pupil costs are so much higher than those in other districts, objectively evaluate the effectiveness of our programs/policies/curricula, and use effective (proven) strategies for raising achievement in struggling students (from all backgrounds). 

Our schools have great potential - which is why I, and many others, moved to Amherst and have chosen to put our kids in the public schools. And although many students do in fact have good experiences in some (or even all) aspects of our schools, others have less consistently positive experiences - and we need to recognize this dissatisfaction and try whenever possible to solve the problems that still do exist in our schools (instead of pretending they don't exist and derogating those who raise them -- which doesn't make our schools better -- it just silences those voices).  I hope that all SC members and the superintendent will acknowledge that some parents have real and legitimate concerns about particular aspects of our schools, and will focus on developing and implementing specific strategies for actually solving these problems.  All kids in Amherst deserve excellent public schools ... and I hope all members of the SC and the superintendent will focus on helping our schools reach their full potential, not just in words, but in reality. 


LarryK4 said...

Somehow I can't picture you becoming one with the Borg Collective, a Stepford Wife or that perfect physical replica minus any personality that hatches from an alien pod.

Hold your head high, for you have accomplished more in your three years on School Committee than an entire generation of previous members.

Anonymous said...

Thank your for your service to Amherst, Catherine.

I think that anyone with a desire for progress in Amherst should find what happened here over the past three years a little bit disturbing. The range of acceptable opinion, i.e. opinion that is not shouted down in a rain of theatre criticism about tone and demeanor, continues to narrow.

Count me among the disillusioned.

Richard Morse

Anonymous said...

I know that this is an unpopular opinion on this blog...but tone does matter. These last three years have been among the most damaging to our schools in recent memory largely because of the combat zone and false dichotomies created by Catherine Sanderson.

Tom Porter said...


Your worthwhile service has been a lesson in commitment, perseverance, and grace. A lesson no doubt lost on some (ref. Anon 1:32), but inspiring to those of us who demand excellence and expect results.

Many of us give a great deal to the regional public school system - we give our considerable property tax contributions to the town, and we give our children to the machine - and for some, the payback is currently inadequate.

You have personally given so much more. Thank you, Thank you!

Curious observer said...

I wonder what role that lack of confidence and/or competence plays in the strong response to your criticisms, ideas and data? It seems to me that people who are confidenct and competent don't have to attack people or deny problems or avoid issues. They listen, think and respond calmly, even when disagreeing. I think how you were treated reflects on the insecurities and weaknesses of administrators, some teachers and school committee members.

It has been embarrassing to see how they have treated ideas by outside experts, outside job candidates -- or anyone offering a view that differs from their own. There is little or no debate involving data or outside experiences or even consdieratoin of other options.

You have tried to open up a closed, insular system that seems insecure and afraid even to even discuss issues. What a poor example for the children.

Jim Chumbley said...


A very large number of us are extremely appreciative of the contributions you have made to our schools. I have watched most of the School Committee meetings over the last few years. Your clear and informed contributions to the discussion were always made politely and respectfully. Unfortunately, some Amherst citizens view any disagreement or suggestion for change as disruption. Your courage and perseverance are amazing.

Best wishes for the future.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Catherine. Hopefully, in the future, excellent candidates for administrative positions who are familiar with Amherst will not say "no way" when asked to consider applying for a job here!

Sam I Am said...


Along with 1:32 PM, count me among those that think that while you did have some good goals and ideas, the way you went about things ended up working against reaching those very goals.

I also don't feel this was because you are a woman and a man would have been allowed to do the same things you were (rightfully) criticized for. I know you have recently made that assertion.

Thanks for trying, though, and for working hard at it. Enjoy your family time!

Anonymous said...

You have done such a beautiful job raising and framing issues, and grounding them in facts and data. Mille grazie.

After all you've seen, would you identify what you think are the 6-8 key metrics that indicate the health and progress of the school system? I recognize that tracking these metrics is not something the school system or the SC is going to do regularly and publicly, but nevertheless I'd like to follow the progress.

So if the ARPS system were to get a top-level report card, and it could only be 8 items long, what would these metrics be - and what is the baseline today?

Maybe a topic for a future post. I'll miss being able to comment, but won't miss the trolls....

Bravo CS,

Anonymous said...

If we get to the point where any new Hampshire College, Amherst College, and UMass professors are routinely told upon arrival by their new colleagues that they are best-advised to send their kids to private schools, then that will be a loss to our schools. It appears that we are already at or near that point. I know that some do not think that would be a problem, that it simply means more school resources for their child.

Anonymous said...

can you direct us to some data which supports this statement that "we are already at or near the point" where "any new hampshire college, amherst college, or umass professors are routinely told upon their arrival by their new colleagues that they are best-advised to send their kids to private schools"?

Anonymous said...

You were not criticized because you are a woman. You were criticized because of your tone. I agreed with nearly all of your positions -- but your strident tone and refusal to admit to even the smallest misstep lost me along the way.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

The President of Amherst College sends his kid to Deerfield Academy. At least one of the professors sends his kid to Bement. You think the professors don't talk to each other???? Of course new profs will ask, "where do you send your kids?", and when people start listing private schools, that's where the new profs will want to send their kid. It's not rocket surgery.

Anonymous said...

Only in provincial New England would people comment on someone's tone. You gotta love it. Some things never change.