Amherst School Committee meeting discusses future of school district after 3 members resign

Three Amherst School Committee members, plus the district’s superintendent resigned just weeks before the start of classes.
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 1:29 AM EDT
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AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Three Amherst School Committee members, plus the district’s superintendent resigned just weeks before the start of classes.

With the majority of the school committee members now gone, the town council is stepping in to help the remaining committee members fill those positions as quickly as possible, starting with a town-wide search for candidates.

Along with the town council, remaining school committee members meeting virtually Monday with only one item on their agenda: to decide how the school district moves forward.

“At present, they don’t have a quorum and therefore they cannot be called to order, they cannot meet, and they take action. And right there should give you sense of urgency of our job tonight.”

Three of the five school committee members resigned their positions in the past couple of weeks. The string of resignations started off with former superintendent Dr. Michael Morris, who took a leave of absence earlier this year.

Coming months after controversy in the district which started with a title nine investigation into discrimination claims at the middle school.

Town councilors weighed in on the road ahead for filling the school committee vacancies.

“I think we’re in a place where we can figure it out and do it better.”

And they came up with suggestions on how to improve and edit the process.

“Would this group of people have any thoughts on creating a method for public discussion?”

“Where I would like to advocate specifically for a special public comment, or some other avenue of public engagement is prior to the development of the questions we are going to ask the candidates.”

Since there is an upcoming election later this year, where these candidates may appear on residents’ ballots, some councilors are concerned allowing public comment might interfere with the upcoming election.

“We will consult with the campaign finance department and also our town attorney on the legality around the issue of public comment specifically on the night of the interviews.”

In the end, the group agreed on the timeline for the road ahead:

August 29: A notice of vacancies will be released

September 20: Statements of interest are due

September 26: Candidate interviews

October 5, 8 & 9: Deadlines to fill vacancies

The next step for the committee is to draft and approve a list of interview questions, that discussion will happen during their next meeting on September 11.

According to the timeline, all three school committee vacancies are expected to be filled by early October.