School Superintendent Michael Morris announced today (7/20) in an email to the Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS) community, his intention to ensure that every ARPS student has “a safe, positive environment in which they can learn and thrive as their authentic selves”. He acknowledged that it had been a difficult spring for the ARPS community. He said that he could not comment on specific allegations that have been made because they are still being investigated. And he announced changes that would be implemented in the fall in response to the turmoil of the spring. These include:
- The addition of a Mental Health and Behavioral Administrator position.. That position will be filled by long time Amherst Regional High School Adjustment Counselor Maureen Fleming
- Expanding training for faculty and staff with regard to gender, identity, sexuality, and justice for LGBTQIA+ students across the district.
- A review of reporting systems across the district to ensure that there are multiple ways in which concerns can be shared with the district office.
Morris returned from a self-imposed mental health leave of absence last week. He began his leave just as the crisis at the Amherst Regional Middle School (see also here and here) was coming to a head. This email was Morris’ first public acknowledgement of the spring crisis since his return.
The full text of Morris’ email follows.
Dear ARPS Community:
Since returning from medical leave last week, I have had the opportunity to meet with district- and school-based administrators and have heard from many staff members and families regarding their experiences at the end of the school year and, for some, more long-term. I know that it was a very difficult spring for the ARPS community. As both an educator and parent, I care deeply about every student, staff member, and family in our schools. I also have a deep commitment to ensuring that every child has a safe, positive environment in which they can learn and thrive as their authentic selves. I am truly sorry that has not been the experience for some students, and I am committed to changing that.
The Title IX investigation that was launched in April is ongoing at this time, which means I still cannot comment on the specific allegations being investigated. Regardless of the investigation’s outcome; however, it is clear that we must expand our training for faculty and staff and our learning opportunities for students with regard to gender identity, sexuality, and understanding of the need for justice for members of the LGBTQIA# community. We must simultaneously expand our supports for LGBTQIA# students districtwide. Some of this work has already begun, including adding a Mental Health and Behavioral Administrator position to enhance and expand services to students across the District. We are very pleased that Maureen Fleming, longtime ARHS School Adjustment Counselor, has accepted this position, and I am happy to share this message from her to the community.
Much of our administrative team’s work for the remainder of the summer break will focus on planning for professional development and student-centered learning. Additionally, we will be reviewing our reporting systems to ensure they are clear, easily accessible, and provide multiple ways in which concerns can be officially shared with schools and the district offices. This work will be informed by input and suggestions we have already received from ARPS stakeholders, and I encourage continuing feedback from the community as we move forward together. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org for those who want to contact me directly to share input, or you can contact Debbie Westmoreland, Director of Communication and Operations, at email@example.com.
Dr. Michael Morris
Superintendent of Schools