Opinion: Jennifer Shiao’s School Committee Blog. We Need To Talk


Amherst Regional School Committee Meeting of June 20, 2023. Photo: You Tube

Editor’s note: . Jennifer Shiao is a member of the Amherst School Committee. Her original posts can be found here.  An archive of her blog posts in The Indy can be found here.

Jennifer Shiao

Superintendent Mike Morris returned from medical leave to his job on Thursday, July 13. As far as I have been able to piece together, here is a brief timeline of his return:

July 12 

– The Regional School Committee (RSC) held a meeting at which we voted to approve the APEA (Amherst-Pelham Educators Association) contract. The meeting ended around 6:30PM.

– At 8:01PM I received an email from Debbie Westmoreland (ARPS director of communications and operations) informing me that Mike intended to announce his immediate return the following morning, along with the text of the email that would be sent to families. I was bcc’ed on this email, and I don’t know who else received it. In the email, I was asked to keep this information confidential until it was released publicly the following day.

July 13

– At 4:59AM, the Daily Hampshire Gazette published an article about Mike’s return, quoting the email announcement.

– At 8:00AM ARPS families received Mike’s email announcement about his return to work that day.

We have heard from many members of the community who are deeply hurt and disappointed in Mike. We have also heard from community members who unequivocally support Mike. Below are some excerpts from emails that the Regional School Committee has received (all emails sent to the RSC are public documents and subject-able to a public records request, with proper redaction of confidential or private information).

  • “I urge you to convene a meeting of the committee to take a vote to place Superintendent Morris on administrative leave until the conclusion of the current investigations into the grievous harm done to our LGBTQIA middle school students and their families. It is your job to hire and supervise the Superintendent. It is the Superintendent’s job, above all, to keep our children safe. Children have not been kept safe. The Superintendent is significantly implicated in the harm done to students over a period of many months – by either knowing and not taking action – or inexplicably, not knowing that children were being so grievously harmed.”
  • “I am writing to ask that you schedule an emergency RSC meeting immediately, with the sole purpose of voting to place Mike Morris on administrative leave. Once again, I need to remind you that the APEA union, which some members of the RSC seem to scorn or diminish, voted No Confidence in Morris.  A vote of no confidence is not taken to be lightly – it is a serious, enormous undertaking, and to ignore it is to dismiss the most valuable folks in the schools – the staff and faculty. By allowing Morris to return of his own accord, you are explicitly holding him to a different standard than Ms. Cunningham, a woman of color. You are also explicitly ignoring the multiple complaints of discrimination, transphobia, bullying, and harm done to students – all of which had been regularly ignored by Morris.”
  • “I am writing to ask that you schedule an emergency RSC meeting, with the sole purpose of holding a vote to place Mike Morris on administrative leave immediately. That Morris is able to waltz back into work is egregious. The double standard in treatment for Morris and Cunningham is egregious and blatantly racist.” 
  • “The public’s trust in Mr. Morris is at an all time low, and an overwhelming majority of APEA members voted that they have no confidence in his leadership. He simply cannot return to the leadership role unscathed and without consequences.”
  • “I know Mike Morris, having had the distinct pleasure of working with him in a variety of capacities while I was a district administrator in the regional school district. I have had some opportunities to collaborate with him since my retirement, due to my volunteer work in the community … Surely Dr. Morris’s distinguished work and dedication to the education, health and welfare of all students should be considered before any decision is made about his status. Indeed, I firmly believe that the students of our community would be best served if Dr. Morris continued as our district leader.”
  • “I remain convinced that any decisions regarding these issues made by Dr. Morris in his role as Superintendent were made with the best of intentions…He is a man who has repeatedly demonstrated his dedication to our district over a career of service. I ask you to remain committed to supporting and guiding him through the serious issues he now faces both in his personal and professional life. To do anything less would go against all that we profess to support in the Amherst Regional Public School System.”

There are a lot of strong feelings and opinions on all sides right now. That is why the Regional School Committee needs to meet, as soon as possible, long before our next scheduled meeting of August 22. We need to talk to each other about our superintendent. 

As a public body, the RSC only meets when called to a meeting by the chair. I have clearly stated to RSC Chair Ben Herrington that I feel strongly that the RSC should meet, as soon as possible, to discuss the superintendent.

This blog reflects my own views about the Amherst and Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committees – it does not represent the view of the committees, the district, or the superintendent. This blog complies with Open Meeting Law, as long as a quorum of School Committee members do not engage in deliberations in the comments. Comments are welcome. I may respond to comments, but I will not respond to all comments. Sign up here using the “follow blog via email” form to be notified when I post a new entry.  You can email me at jennifer@jenniferamherst.org.

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1 thought on “Opinion: Jennifer Shiao’s School Committee Blog. We Need To Talk

  1. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to transparency and forward movement. I could not agree more: “We need to talk to each other about our superintendent.”

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