Carl Vigeland: It’s About the Teachers, Not the Buildings

Monday, January 25, 2016

To the editor:

With regard to the recent School Committee vote in Amherst and this newspaper’s frivolous endorsement of same, are we truly to believe that the difference of two votes in a group barely elected by the general populace — and against a clear majority not only of parents but also of teachers — means that a town with what is already one of the highest tax rates in the state is going to spend another $30 million … for what?

As a longtime educator — I have taught at every level, from elementary to university, with a master’s degree in education from UMass — and parent of three children (now adults), all of whom attended Amherst schools (a primary reason why we moved here), I am stunned and bewildered to read the comments of various apparently overpaid administrators who speak about education as if what matters most is the building in which it takes place.

Teachers who truly care about students are the foundation of great education, whether in one-room schoolhouses of yore or purportedly outmoded open classrooms of the present.

In my own experience as a student, from a New York state university campus school to large, diverse public high school to college at Harvard, the only thing I remember today is the impact of certain teachers on my life.

I applaud the impulse here in Amherst to reach children from all economic and social strata, but the way to do that is not with a building we cannot afford. Spend whatever we are able on our dedicated teachers.

Carl Vigeland