Opinion: Mike Morris Failed In His Duties As A Leader And Supervisor


Photo: iowasafeschools.org

I read with some sympathy Lisa Cain’s guest-opinion piece in the 8/22 issue of the Daily Hampshire Gazette.  My children came up through the public schools alongside Lisa’s, and like her I had favorable opinions of Michael Morris for many years.  In a contentious district, we were (mostly) given a time of stability.

I want to answer some of Lisa’s questions, though, as someone who nevertheless came to believe Morris should be removed from office.  I grew up in this town, and I know how bitter and divisive our politics can be, all within a circle of folks who hold the same values and goals in mind.  I don’t take my role as a citizen calling for resignation lightly, and I want the people who know me in this community to know that I’m not “calling for blood” out of some over-active righteousness or “wokeness.”  Rather, it is because those could very well have been my kids, and they could easily have ended up dead.

I do not think Morris is anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, or pro-bullying.  As far as I know, the people organizing to have him removed from office have never made these claims.  What I do think is that Morris failed in his duties as a leader and supervisor, when faced with an employee who was forceful in her approaches. 

Here are the things we know:

  • Morris allowed Cunningham to change the hiring processes in the Middle School, without oversight that would have revealed a process that eliminated faculty and staff collaboration, kept hiring committee members from seeing resumes, and left final decisions entirely up to Ms. Cunningham;
  • Morris allowed Ms. Cunningham to hire almost exclusively from her church and family, and to conflate the staffing of the Middle School with the other companies she owned;
  • When students, families, staff, and faculty began to complain that guidance counselors were practicing “pray the gay away” policies and routinely mis-gendering and mis-naming trans kids, Morris sent the complainants to Ms. Cunningham.  Everyone complaining that we know of was told that the situation would be looked into—but nothing was ever done, at least until the high school newspaper broke the story.
  • When it became known that groups of kids at ARMS were gathering together to bully trans kids, the guidance counselors, Ms. Cunningham, and Mr. Morris looked the other way.

Did he know about all of this?  We know that he knew most of it.  We know that complaints were sent directly to him, and he punted them down to Cunningham.  We know that faculty and staff were desperately unhappy with Cunningham’s control over the hiring and guidance at ARMS.  We know that when the story came out, he lied about what he knew, claiming that he hadn’t heard directly from parents (he had), and that he would need those direct complaints in order to do anything. 

If he didn’t know the extent of the bullying, the corrupt hiring processes, the unhappiness of his faculty and staff, the bullying and subsequent hospitalizations of students, it is because he was willfully turning a blind eye, perhaps afraid that direct intervention would result in public, vitriolic reaction from Cunningham.  This is not the behavior of a competent leader or superintendent. 

No, I don’t think he is anti-trans or pro-bullying.  But I’ve asked enough questions and talked to enough people involved in this situation to believe that he knowingly allowed people who are bigoted to maintain power over children.  Our kids deserve a superintendent who will have their backs.

Sara Eddy is a resident of Amherst

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3 thoughts on “Opinion: Mike Morris Failed In His Duties As A Leader And Supervisor

  1. Sara Eddy has contributed a useful clarifying perspective by separating the administrative issues from the issues of support for gay and trans children at the Middle School. Of course they are not really separate, but by laying it out this way, Sara provides both the Regional School Committee and even Mr. Morris a way forward, since I think most would agree that efforts to contain and control the narrative have made things worse.

    Sara has made a series of specific charges and the RSC should address them specifically and publicly. So should Mr. Morris. I could even see a scenario in which Mr Morris remains as superintendent if he can acknowlege the errors in judgment to which these charges speak, based upon the high opinion in which he was held by many before the current crisis.

    Maybe it is too late. Everyone has lawyers and the RSC seems to be guided by theirs, But greater clarity on the administrative issues might allow us all to focus on the more important issues of student safety and support, on which there seems to be quite widespread agreement.

  2. Michael, last i heard, Mike Morris was already out the door. I think the points you made are very reasoned and useful, but a tad too late. This could have really helped 1 to 2 weeks ago.

    Marcus Smith

  3. This article sounds reasonable.

    Although there is a lot of “we know [something] …” in it, and I wonder if we really do know?

    But then SC members who I really trust and respect were backing Morris, and resigned over this, so it makes it so hard to know what the truth is.

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