Educators Stand By Vote Of No Confidence In Amherst Superintendent


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Source: Amherst Pelham Education Association

While the Amherst Pelham Education Association (APEA) supports an impartial and independent investigation into the Title IX complaint around anti-LGBTQIA+ issues at Amherst Regional Middle School, the union is also calling for a separate inquiry into the failures of Superintendent Michael Morris’s leadership, failures that encompass but go beyond the Title IX gender discrimination issues. The investigator should be agreed-upon by both the Regional School Committee and the APEA. 

On May 13, the APEA voted “no confidence” in both Morris and Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham. While Ms. Cunningham has been put on administrative leave, the APEA is dismayed that Morris was allowed to return from medical leave without an investigation into his lack of leadership. The APEA’s no confidence document cited his failure to address actions that harmed students and created toxic work conditions.

○ Failure to properly supervise the district offices and people in his employ, especially the supervision of Cunningham, who is also the district’s Human Resources Director.

○ Failure to promptly deal with complaints of anti-LGBTQIA+ behavior on the part of some staff, which has created an unsafe environment for children, especially those whose identities are marginalized. 

○ Failure to collaborate with staff in planning how to support positive leadership in our schools.

The original no-confidence document can be found here.

Lack Of Leadership
Morris approved the granting of early professional teacher status to two of the counselors who are currently on administrative leave during the Title IX investigation. This status is usually earned after three years of observations and evaluations by administration, and gives an added layer of protection from job dismissal. In addition, as has been documented in articles by  high school students at The Graphic (see here and here), administrators at the Middle School and District level had received complaints from staff, students and families well before Spring 2023.  “It strains credulity that Dr. Morris, as he has publicly claimed, did not know about bullying and intentional misgendering of students by some other students and a few staff,” said Claire Cocco, ARMS teacher and APEA communications chair. “Especially when many other staff were taking the lead and raising red flags with the administration.”

This week, Morris has offered a plan to address LGBTQIA+ issues in the district, with staff training up front. The APEA rejects the implication that anti-LGBTQIA+ activities are systemic within the schools. In fact, the vast majority of staff are proactive and sensitive about teaching queer issues and topics, about giving students room to explore and honor their identities, and even about teaching each other through internal professional development. The systemic issue, the APEA contends, lies with this administration’s lack of responsiveness to concerns about student wellbeing in favor of protecting certain staff. 

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Read additional reporting on the no confidence vote and the school committee’s reaction to it in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

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