Darcy was a talented Holyoke Public School teacher who put students and the school first in all she did. She is a leader and big picture thinker who had the knowledge, skills, and persistence to get grants for programs that brought our school and the broader community together. I know she’ll serve the people of Amherst with the same dedication with which she served the Lawrence School.
Hilary Russell, Retired Lawrence School Principal and Amherst Resident
Excellence and Equity
High-quality schools are one of the hallmarks of Amherst. I am committed to ensuring that we have schools that are characterized by both excellence and equity. This means that every student, regardless of background, is both challenged and supported and that all our students are prepared to be responsible participants in our diverse society.
My Priorities for Supporting Our Schools
- more time on learning and less time on high-stakes testing
- adequate funding for educational programs
- safe, well-conceived school buildings financed through multiple sources
- ongoing dialogue with the School Committees about policies and plans
Constituent Engagement Around Schools
I will reach out to constituents regarding new plans for our elementary schools. There are groups studying the school building needs, and I’m looking forward to seeing their reports, which I will share and discuss with constituents when they become available. I’m committed to finding a solution that will bring our community together, after being so deeply divided over the school building proposal two years ago.
My Statement on Amherst Elementary Schools
Having been an educator for about 20 years, I am committed to high-quality schools that provide excellent, equitable education. In Amherst, we also need do something promptly about our inadequate elementary school buildings. I fully support the planning process currently in place – aimed at finding solutions to replace or significantly remodel Fort River and Wildwood Elementary Schools – as one of my top priorities.
I understand and respect the nearly 7000 Amherst residents who, two years ago, voted in favor of the proposed elementary school building project for the many reasons they had. Likewise, I understand and respect the nearly 7000 Amherst residents who voted against it for the many reasons they had. And I have not spoken to anyone who thinks that the Fort River and Wildwood buildings do not have significant problems that need to be addressed.
Since those votes, there have been several developments around our elementary schools that are very encouraging. At the request of our Superintendent and School Committee, the Fort River School Building Committee was formed and funded to produce a range of building options.
The Committee has engaged an architectural firm that is studying the site and current building and over the next several months will provide the Town with a variety of approaches to rebuild or replace this school. Both Wildwood and Fort River have undergone reassuring air quality assessments. The School Committee is committed to pursuing a dual language (Spanish-English) program, something that our community has long sought. A Regional School District Planning Board has formed to investigate the possible merger of the Amherst and Pelham School Districts. As part of a larger study on the middle and high schools, the possibility of incorporating 6th grade into the middle school (page 170) is being studied. In addition to all these possible changes in our educational system, the recent overwhelming passage of our Zero Energy building bylaw (pages 10-13) and Resolution in support of renewable energy will mean that when we do address the infrastructure needs of not only our schools but all our capital projects, we will do so in a way that will sustain our people and our environment.
Personally, I have a preference for community-based K-6 (or K-5) schools, but if elected, I will be listening to and representing the residents of District 5 with regard to all Amherst issues, including the schools. I have had conversations with folks all over District 5 and those who have pointed to the schools as their top issue have been interested to hear about the new developments and plans.
It is notable that my campaign team consists of folks who voted both for and against the school project. I am very committed to moving beyond the divisiveness that has plagued our politics in the past and to looking toward our future, building bridges and bringing people together to pursue our common goals. I hope you will join me.