The following letter was sent to Michael Morris, Superintendent of Schools and the Amherst School Committee on April 28, 2023.
I feel compelled to respond to comments made in both the Superintendent’s letter about the principal search, and to comments made by Peter Demling at the school committee meeting on Tuesday April 25. I suspect the references to a letter written by a parent were a direct comment on a letter I had written to a Google group created to support the Amherst Pelham Education Association’s (APEA) efforts to negotiate a contract. A member of the group forwarded the letter to Superintendent Morris, who then forwarded it to the school committee.
Multiple times, words like mine have been deliberately taken out of context, and used as a weapon against the “parent/guardian community”. As Maura Keene wrote in the recent Amherst Indy article about the concerns at the middle school:
[“Demling]… said he heard that parents were encouraged to write negative letters about her even if they didn’t attend the meetings with her. He asked what the School Committee can do about staff who allegedly sabotage a search by encouraging dissent.”
Mr. Demling didn’t “hear that parents were encouraged to write negative letters about her.” He had the opportunity to read my actual letter, which explicitly focused on transparency in the search, and the fact that more than 20 current Amherst Regional Middle School (ARMS) teachers were asking for the internal candidate to be brought forward. My literal text in the email was the following:
“Please, take a minute of your time, even if you loved the candidate (even if you didn’t watch the candidate) and ask that the search be reopened with a wide-open, nonpartisan, and honest process that doesn’t gaslight us.”
This was a request for transparency, not a suggestion to undermine the process or to write negative letters.
The internal candidate, a credentialed woman of color with years of service to the middle school, was not brought forward as a finalist, despite strong support from teachers.
The fact that Mr. Demling and the Superintendent are focusing on an imagined conspiracy based partially on my letter and other letters from concerned community members, rather than addressing the issues of transparency, tells us everything we need to know about how concerning the process has been. It is anti-democratic to accuse the educators of sabotage. I am grateful that our educators care so much about their students and their school as to get involved in this debate, and would never seek to silence anyone. Why would the School Committee desire to silence educator voices? The School Committee should be seeking to amplify their voices.
The actual, complete text of the letter I wrote is appended below. It has now been weaponized against the teachers and the “parent/guardian community.” Other letters of support for transparency were also forwarded to the School Committee via someone in the APEA google group.
I stand by everything I wrote here, and I am dismayed that the School Committee/administration of our “progressive” community seeks to mischaracterize and silence questions from parents, guardians, and teachers. Mr. Demling called teachers who were simply asking for a fair and open process “sabotaging a search by encouraging dissent”. The staff and educators of the middle school are fundamentally impacted by the principal search. Mr. Demling implies that they should not be involved. He also implies malicious intent where none exists; it is in the teachers’ best interest to have a good principal just as much (one may even argue more so) than the community, parents, and students. Educators have critical knowledge of the qualifications and characteristics needed for the leader of the middle school. Educator voices should be amplified, not quieted, in this process..
Laura Hunter is a parent of a 7th and a 8th grader at ARMS and the spouse of a long-time ARMS educator.
Email from Laura Hunter to the “Support for APEA Educators” google group on March 29 at 12:11 p.m:
The instability in the leadership at ARMS for the last twelve years is really disheartening, and the lack of transparency in this process has been downright dismaying. I asked for the names of the folks on the search committee multiple times, and each time I was told “later.” I still don’t know who was on the committee, and the lack of transparency makes me very suspicious. All the district needs to build trust in the process is to be open about decision makers and decision making.
As you saw, the letter signed by twenty-two middle school teachers (out of about 30) in the INDY asks for the internal candidate to be brought forward. I encourage all of you who support our educators about the APEA contract to support these educators as well. When you complete the form, ask for transparency – ask for the internal candidates to be brought forward and ask for complete honesty about relationships between the candidates and the search committee. There should be no friends on the committee – it should be a neutral, fair, unbiased process. (How many ways can I write fair?!!!????)
Please, take a minute of your time, even if you loved the candidate (even if you didn’t watch the candidate) and ask that the search be reopened with a wide-open, nonpartisan, and honest process that doesn’t gaslight us. We need a middle school principal who will stay more than two years – who understands the value of the educators who have stayed through all the instability to serve and teach our students – and we need one that the educators will support and trust, not one who is forced upon them in a partisan process.
There is too much power held by too few in the district. If there is nothing sinister happening, then there should be nothing to hide. If Ms. Jackson is absolutely the best candidate, then going through an objectively fair process should be of no concern to anyone. Submit your feedback here BEFORE noon on Thursday. It is important that administrators hear from parents as well as educators.