Letter: A Call To Action. Demand Accountability In Amherst Public Schools


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As you may have seen, the ARPS School Committee plans to hold an executive (private) session on Monday 5/15 at 7:30 at the Middle School. This meeting comes in advance of the previously scheduled May 16 School Committee meeting. Presumably, the committee will discuss questions related to appointing an interim Superintendent in light of Mike Morris’s announcement of going on leave. 

The lack of transparency in this situation is unacceptable, and the possibility that Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham could be appointed to this role is beyond troubling. Unfortunately, it also seems to be consistent with a pattern of protecting those in positions of power rather than prioritizing integrity and the best interests of staff, teachers, students, and families.

Today, the Amherst Pelham Educators Association released a detailed Letter of No Confidence, stating: “We call for the immediate resignation of Ms. Doreen Cunningham. In addition, we call for an investigation into the leadership of Dr. Mike Morris. To aid in this investigation, you should know that all of these assertions are verifiable; each one has someone willing to come forward and attest to their veracity.“ 

All questions or conversations related to the appointment of an interim superintendent need to be made completely transparent to the public, even more so considering what we have learned in the last week about the myriad ways the district has failed to be transparent and appropriately responsive to repeated complaints and ongoing abuses of power. The risk of perpetuating harm and protecting those who need to be held accountable is simply too great. 

The students, staff, teachers, families, and community members of the Amherst Regional Public School District deserve both to have a voice in this appointment and assurances that Doreen Cunningham will not serve as interim superintendent. Given the accusations of nepotism, corruption, and neglect currently in need of the highest level of investigation, it would be a travesty for her to serve in this role. On the contrary, Cunningham’s unethical and harmful abuses of her role warrant her immediate resignation. 

As parents and community members, we must demand transparency and accountability in the appointing of an interim superintendent who will bring fresh eyes and help us address the harm that has gone unchecked for years in this district. 

I plan to attend the Monday meeting, though I don’t know if there will be an opportunity for public comment since the meeting was announced as a “closed door executive session” in the May 13 email from the School Committee Chairs.

Folks need to turn out for the Tuesday, May 16 School Committee meeting. But it would also be powerful and send an important message if as many people as possible also showed up outside of ARMS tomorrow, Monday, May 15, before that evening’s meeting, to express our collective dismay and demands for accountability and transparency.  

According to article 10B of Chapter 30A of Title III of Part I of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “A public body may meet in closed session for 1 or more of the purposes enumerated in subsection (a)…” 

I am no lawyer. But after reading these purposes carefully, I am not seeing anything that warrants going into executive session for the school committee tomorrow to discuss this temporary transition in leadership. How is the School Committee justifying this executive session? 

Finally, in his May 12 email, Mike Morris wrote – and the School Committee Chairs reiterated the following day – that our focus should be on making sure the “end of this school year is a time of healing, celebration, and joy.” While of course I agree with this, I think the School Committee’s primary focus must be making the end of this school year a time of reckoning, accountability, and repair. 

Community Call To Action
Please consider showing up outside the Amherst Regional Middle School on Monday, May 15 by 7 p.m. and at ARHS Tuesday, May 16 by 6:00 p.m. with signs. 

Here are a few suggestions:








Jena Schwartz

Jena Schwartz is a writing coach, editor, and author of three books. Her poetry and essays have been widely published, and she has served as Poet in Residence at the Jewish Community of Amherst in Amherst, MA.

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2 thoughts on “Letter: A Call To Action. Demand Accountability In Amherst Public Schools

  1. YES to all of this. Let’s not forget – the TEACHERS NEED A CONTRACT!!! Give the educators what they are asking for!

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