Published in the Amherst Bulletin, November 4, 2016
Question 5 offers us a business plan for our schools, but it’s a bad plan. Luckily, there are other alternatives, as described by the Finance Committee analysis of Oct. 21. I’m voting no on 5.
Why? Because with a school consolidation plan that ignores educational best practices, the Amherst school administration has prioritized economics over academics.
Maria Geryk’s plan gives us “operational savings” and a robotic vision of “equity,” while abandoning educational best practices and ignoring families’ wishes. This plan may help us more efficiently manage a student population, but it’s not a plan to improve education.
In fact, this entire scheme–erecting an enormous glitzy building with little attention to the research and human cost–is more reminiscent of Trump Towers than the warm, close-knit schools that people move to Amherst to enjoy.
Willful mediocrity is not the answer to the difficult challenges of balancing the books, managing decaying buildings, and helping all children. By ignoring educational quality, the ARPS administration is leading Amherst to repeat the same mistakes we made in the 1970s: Ignore teachers’ advice and educational research in favor of administrative efficiency and a fancy new building.
But buildings don’t teach kids. Small schools in old buildings have waiting lists to choice — because kids thrive in small close knit environments. The Chinese immersion school, housed in a frankly ugly former gym, has a waiting list — because kids thrive with educational challenge. Paraphrasing from the first Clinton campaign: It’s the education, stupid.
We can prioritize over producing the minimum viable product, but first we must say no to Question 5.