Brian Yellen: School Board has provided no data & no community input

Brian Yellen
Amherst Bulletin, Nov. 4, 2016

I am writing to express concern for grade reconfiguration in Amherst elementary schools. The school board and administration have made a really good case for restructuring — especially that it would remove stigma from students who must attend school outside their district.

But it also seems that experts have made the decision without community input and now they’re going to convince us to swallow the medicine. The last time experts reconfigured the town’s elementary schools, two identical and deeply-flawed “open classroom” buildings were constructed. Is grade reconfiguration the only option, or merely the one that the experts chose?

I would like to see the school board and administration make a real effort to educate the community about the problem and potential solutions. For instance, how severe and urgent are the problems at the older schools? Are absentee rates due to illness higher at these older schools? Do students achieve at lower rates? Can town school district lines be redrawn to organically achieve demographic similarity at all three schools? I can’t find these data in any document provided by Amherst or the school board. While I know from testimonial that these schools need replacing, without numbers, it is tough to know how urgently.

Let’s involve the community and provide sufficient information before we rush to a decision that will last for another 50 years. I plan to vote no on Question 5. If there are compelling data to support urgent action, I will switch my vote for the January revote.

I don’t think that another top-down revolutionary plan for the town’s elementary schools is prudent right now without a sincere effort to gather community input and present a real alternative to the proposed restructuring.

Brian Yellen
Amherst

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