Jennifer Shiao’s School Committee Blog
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.
Happy Monday! Let’s get right to it.
First of all, the August 22 meeting has to be postponed one day to August 23. As of this writing, the meeting has not been changed on Boarddocs (the online platform for School Committee meetings and info), but it should be changed/posted today.
The reason the meeting had to be pushed one day is due to Open Meeting Law requirements when posting meetings. Because this is a meeting of the Union 26 Committee, in addition to the Regional School Committee, it has to be posted on the town websites of Amherst and Pelham (Union 26) 48 hours prior to the meeting date (not counting weekends). Unfortunately, due to human error it was not posted in time, so it needs to be pushed one day so that it can be posted today and have the required 48 hours’ notice.
It will be a virtual meeting. Check the Boarddocs website to confirm the start time (probably 5:30) and get the meeting link (click on the Video button).
Secondly, Ben Herrington has announced that he is resigning from his position on the Amherst School Committee (and thus also from the Regional School Committee*) as of today, Monday August 21. In an email to the School Committees sent this morning, he said:
“Recently, it has occurred to me that I no longer have the passion I once did for the work we do on the school committee. Impact on learning has been less of a focus than political rancor and that is not something I find to be fulfilling at all. There are other ways that I have found to be impactful in the lives of young folks and so I have chosen to explore other avenues and leave this work to you all.”
What happens next?
First, the Regional School Committee will need to elect a new RSC chair, which presumably will happen at the August 23 meeting (the agenda includes “RSC reorganization,” which is what it’s called when roles are determined.) The committee elects a chair by majority vote of members.
Second, the town of Amherst will need to vill the vacancy on the School Committee. The Amherst home rule charter states that when there is a vacancy on the School Committee, the position will be filled by vote of the Town Council and the remaining members of the School Committee. The last time this process was used, when Heather Lord was appointed in 2020, the process was something like this:
- Interested persons are asked to submit a letter of interest.
- Candidates are invited to a joint meeting of the Town Council and the School Committee at which they have the opportunity to speak and answer questions.
- The committees vote, and the winning candidate is the person who receives a majority of the votes on both committees.
Per the Amherst charter, this meeting at which the candidates speak and the Town Council and School Committee votes, must be called within 45 days of the vacancy. So, look for the meeting to take place before October 5. Also, the vacancy must be posted 21 days prior to the meeting, so look for that information by September 11.
This topic is on the agenda of today’s (August 21) Town Council meeting under “Topics Not Reasonably Anticipated by the Chair 48 Hours in Advance of the Meeting.” The Town Council will determine on the process and timeline for filling the vacancy (in accordance with the Amherst charter).
It bears mentioning that there will be an Amherst town election on November 7. The person appointed to fill the vacancy will serve in the role until December 31, 2023, NOT until election day. In Amherst, School Committee terms run for two calendar years. It is also worth mentioning that if the person who is appointed is also on the ballot for the election, they will not be listed as an incumbent, per the Amherst charter.
I’ll plan to post info about the process and timeline once it is determined.
*See my blog post Amherst has two School Committees? for an explanation on the multiple School Committees.
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 email@example.com.