Public Comment: New School Committee Appointees Must Honor The Concerns Of Educators, Staff, Students, And Family Members


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The following public comment was offered at the special joint meeting of the Amherst Town Council and the Amherst School Committee on September 11, 2023.

While I fully realize and appreciate that we are now focused on the future, as a parent and Amherst resident, I would be remiss in not naming my concerns about how bias might emerge in this process of questioning and electing school committee members to fill the current vacancies. 

I want to alert others paying attention to this transition – both constituents like me and council members like yourselves – that some local coverage of this situation continues to center the narratives of former school committee members, something I find inappropriate. 

The last four paragraphs of yesterday’s Gazette article, for example, devote yet more airtime to the voices of those who are effectively calling themselves victims of public concern (though claiming otherwise), rather than shifting the focus to where it belongs – back to the children who were actually victimized in our schools. 

The statement “there was no wrongdoing” in reference to Mike Morris’s resignation is presented in the article as fact rather than part of the carefully crafted separation agreement statement. This might seem unrelated to this evening’s meeting, but it’s not. Reporting like this influences readers, and my guess is that many if not all of you are reading the paper. 

Lastly, the same article also published some of the 14 questions being put forth this evening. One of these is: “What is your understanding of the legal constraints about what school committee members can and can’t do in situations involving Title IX investigation?” 

This is a potentially leading – and thus misleading – question. It signals a reference to something some members of the Regional School Committee, including those who resigned, have continuously used as a shield against ongoing public calls for a more transparent process and more accountability and equity in that process. 

Instead of asking questions that further a story of a Regional School Committee whose “hands are tied” in situations that call for courage and action, how about asking questions that instead ask prospective new school committees how they intend to acknowledge and honor deeply real concerns when they are brought forth by ARPS educators, staff, and family members of students? 

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