AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The Amherst School Committee Vice Chair and one other member remain on the board following another resignation Friday.
Amherst School Committee member Peter Demling has resigned and has released his resignation letter to the public. Amherst-Pelham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Morris announced on August 18th that he would be leaving. Regional School Committee Chair Ben Herrington resigned on Monday, and then on Thursday, another staff member, Allison McDonald announced her resignation.
These resignations come just weeks before the start of the new school year, and following some recent controversy over the treatment of transgender students at the middle school.
“I’ve long planned to leave School Committee when my current term ends in December, but I’ve decided to leave now and step away from public life. I want to explain why, share what I see as the main problem with Amherst civic life and suggest an approach for meeting the challenge,” Demling started off in his resignation statement.
He continues to state, “Constant bullying, harassment and intimidation of public figures (both elected and not) is by far the biggest problem with Amherst civic life. The reason why isn’t hard to understand: people don’t want to expose themselves to personal attacks.”
Halley Kelly, who serves on the governing body of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, as the minority representative for gender non-conforming people provided 22News with the following statement:
“My thoughts reading Peter Demling’s resignation letter today are the same I had yesterday reading Allison Mcdonald’s letter. After neglecting to meaningfully embrace the criticisms brought by the LGBTQ community, they now want to treat queer people as “bullies”. I know Peter Demling views himself as an LGBTQ ally, but real allies don’t do that.”
Parents concerned, as the new school year is just around the corner. “My hope is that the focus is on the students, as it should be, and that they are going to have a great start of the year and that they will have support,” says Amherst parent, Megan Mcara.
Vice chair of the Amherst School Committee, taking to social media to ease parents’ worries, saying in part, “The schools will open as scheduled, the busses will run, children will be on those busses, teachers and administrators will be in their buildings and classrooms to receive our children.”
22News received a statement from Sarahbess Kenney, vice chair of the Amherst Pelham Regional School Commitee, who told 22News where the committee currently stands. She says there are still two Pelham representatives, one from Leverett, another from Shutesbury, and two that represent Amherst.
She goes on to say that, “In the meantime, the RSC maintains quorum so we will be able to continue our work preparing for the upcoming school year.”
According to Jennifer Shiao, there are only two remaining Amherst school committee members, “Irv Rhodes and I are the remaining two members of the Amherst School Committee. With only two members of a five-member body, the School Committee does not have quorum and therefore can not meet or take any votes. I talked to staff in the central office today to make sure payments (including payroll) can still be made, without a committee meeting to approve warrants. After consulting with the school district’s attorney, it was established that either Rhodes or I can sign warrants, and they would need to be approved at the next meeting with quorum. So, payments and payroll will not be held up.”
The school committees are made up of three boards, the Amherst School Committee, the Pelham School Committee, and the Regional School Committee. The following names are listed on the school committee’s website:
Amherst School Committee Members:
Anna Heard(unconfirmed) Ben Herrington
- Irv Rhodes – Vice Chair
- Jennifer Shiao
Peter Demling Allison McDonald – Chair
Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee Members:
Anna Heard(unconfirmed) Ben Herrington – Chair
- Irv Rhodes
- Jennifer Shiao
- Margaret Stancer
- Sarahbess Kenney – Vice Chair
- Tilman Wolf
Pelham School Committee Members:
- Brenda Barlow
- Margaret Stancer – Vice Chair
- Sarahbess Kenney
- Tom Fanning – Secretary
- Sarah Hall – Chair
Amherst Pelham Regional Schools start on Wednesday, August 30th for students in grades 1-12. Pre-K and Kindergarten students start on Tuesday, September 5th.
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