For months, members of the Amherst Regional Public Schools community have been asking for accountability, transparency, and equity. We have asked how we could expect children, parents, paras, teachers, and staff to begin a new school year under leadership that has operated behind a haze of self-protection and silence.
We have waited for a genuine apology and words of personal and professional responsibility that never came. Today’s joint statement from the Union #26 and Regional School Committees and Mike Morris that Morris will be leaving his position as superintendent at the end of this month comes as a relief and a victory, though it sidesteps taking responsibility for the harm that has occurred.
Morris is walking away with 10 months of pay – equivalent to two teacher salaries – along with health and dental insurance and 54 paid vacation days as part of his severance, while we have paras in our district who have difficulty making ends meet and members of the school committee who have labeled the Amherst Pelham Education Association as manipulative and expressed nothing but suspicion and disdain for public concern. These same school committee members have had more apparent interest in guarding the status quo than in protecting LGBTQIA+ children in our district.
Our focus now must remain on electing a Regional School Committee we can trust, one that will operate with transparency, good faith, and a true commitment to creating an atmosphere of mutual trust in our district. We also need to look closely and honestly at how to ensure that similar crises don’t occur in the future, where marginalized children bear the brunt of self-interest and harm goes unheeded.
Finally, the public should be privy to the results of the Title IX investigations when they become available, lest they be shrouded in the same kind of secrecy this administration has fostered.
Jena Schwartz is a writing coach, parent and resident of Amherst.