AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – After a long hiatus, the Amherst-Pelham Regional Committees and Union 26 School Committees returned back to Wednesday night’s virtual public meeting.

For more than two hours, tensions were high, as dozens of residents waited for members to approve minutes and return to the forum. “School Committee members’ apathy towards the heartbreaking testimony of parents of targeted children is nightmarish, especially after dozens of people waited hours to be heard during the prolonged executive session. The School Committee’s negligence and inaction enabled staff and administrators to stand idly by at best and abuse children at worst,” said Kairo Serna, Democratic State Committee, Director of Political Affairs, CDMA. “And yet, even after repeatedly avoiding their constituents, the same members who previously dismissed victims and slowed protective measures for students could not even muster enough respect to show their faces to the community in a virtual meeting. Their refusal to engage with the public can only be described as moral cowardice, and is not the type of behavior we should accept from our town officials.”

Once the two committees returned to the executive session, they listened to a list of concerns parents had. Many in the chat were unhappy about the rights of transgender students, Title 9 issues, and the recent departure of Dr. Michael Morris. Below are some of the public comments the committees posted to Wednesday’s agenda:

“I want to express my concern about whether all our students can feel safe under the
current District leadership of Dr. Morris. While the Title IX investigation is still pending, it seems
there are concerns raised by students, parents and educators alike about Dr. Morris’ knowledge
of events prior to the April meeting in which he stated there had been no formal complaints. The
concerns laid out by APEA in the vote of no confidence have not been addressed, and this will
create an unstable work environment as we head back into the school year. Quite frankly I don’t
understand how a leader can be effective knowing those he leads have no faith in him. And I
believe there will continue to be safety concerns for students who don’t believe the
administration has taken their pain seriously, and has neglected its legal obligation as mandated
reporter. I believe Dr. Morris should be placed on administrative leave, similarly to Ms. Cunningham, unless and until the investigation clears him from any wrongdoing.”

Allegra Clark

“With vacancies in key positions in the ARPS central office administration; with the need to
replace positions in the Middle School; and with the implementation of numerous initiatives to
address issues of transphobia and homophobia at ARMS; it does not make sense to search for
a new Superintendent with the school year starting in two weeks.
I urge the School Committee to consider an Interim Superintendent who already has the trust of
the school community. If Doug Slaughter is available, he would be an excellent choice as
Interim, and would be a calm, effective leader to step in during this transition period and help
restore stability to the District.”

Mary McCarthy

See the rest of the comments that have been made here:

Along with Halley Kelly of Amherst, sharing their statement with 22News below:

Slated for discussion Wednesday night was the superintendent’s status and future transition. A list of potential interim superintendent candidates or plans will be made for the committees to approve before September 1st. This is to be presented in their next meeting, which is still yet to be announced.

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Kayleigh Thomas is a digital reporter who has been a part of the 22News team since 2022. Follow Kayleigh on Twitter @kayleighcthomas and view her bio to see more of her work.