Committment to Schools

We have a great public education system in Amherst, and as a candidate for Select Board, I am committed to maintaining its quality.

In June 1998, we purchased our home in Amherst, and like many of you, we bought less house for a lot more money than we would have paid in many other communities. We accepted that because we knew the Amherst schools were very good, and we'd been enjoying the amenities of this community since our arrival in Pelham as renters in late 1996.

When I first ran for Amherst School Committee in 2002, I really meant it when I said "I suppose I am fortunate to be running for School Committee when there is a financial crisis at hand. This situation forces us all to take a hard look at how our limited Town resources can creatively be used to meet our very high standards." What I didn't recognize then is that the Amherst financial crisis had become chronic, and having spent most of our "rainy day" reserves, here in 2007 we face another year of cuts and no long-term plan for climbing out of the hole.

Our superintendent refers to engagement, achievement, and membership. In 2005 I called it "Learning for Each * Achievement for All." The budget cuts we are facing for FY08 will impact student learning and achievement. We've cut professional development funds for the very teachers we expect to meet every child's needs in larger and larger classes. We're already forcing every high school student to take one study hall out of the 15 choices they have per year, even though many of them would prefer to take an additional academic or elective class in that slot, and in 2007-2008, they're going to have to take two study halls, leaving them only 13 choices per year. We've cut library paraprofessional hours again and again, forcing our librarians to focus less on the wonderful integrated teaching they do in the library and more on simply maintaining the collection of materials (although we've cut materials budgets about 75% over the past three years). For more, see Amherst Budget preK-6 and Regional Budget 7-12.

I still have great confidence in our schools; my two boys (now 3rd grade & 7th grade) have had terrific experiences. But it is definitely time to insist on both short-term and long-term strategies to prevent any further losses, and I applaud the families and other community members who lobbied our legislators in 2006, and who continue to search for constructive ways to address all of our children's needs. Many things make Amherst the special community it is, but it is certain that the loss of strong schools will change the nature of our beloved town for years to come. We must not let this happen.

It's important to understand that the loss of state aid to schools, also known as Chapter 70, is one of the biggest drivers in our school budget deficit. Check out the graph below, "Why is there a problem," by my friend Rick Hood.

Why is there a problem.pdf17.7 KB