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Amherst’s Educational Industrial Complex is Perturbed and Fighting to Persist

To the editor:            

       The entrenched educational system in Amherst is fighting for its life and trying to quash the fact-based analyses of the ASD Ways & Means Committee (W&M). Why? Because our body of work represents a real threat to the status quo of education in Amherst. 

What is becoming evident is that our educational system has been rudderless and adrift for at least a decade. And the lack of competent strategic governance and sound educational practice has led to a decline in educational outcomes for our students and a steep rise in taxes for our residents.

       First off, some are incensed that ASD W&M did not simply carry out the age-old myopic role prescribed in Amherst for such committees – just look at year-over-year changes in budget line items. Doing just that ensures that no one ever sees the forest. And that is precisely the desired effect – to preserve the status quo. Thankfully, we worked under the auspices of a moderator who does not subscribe to that narrow approach. W&M is being attacked for daring to go beyond the narrowly prescribed bounds of being a small dependable cog in a well-oiled educational machine. 

       All the other old tropes are being dredged up as well: Your data is wrong (Not so. It’s data our own schools have reported to DOE.) Why don’t you care about our children? (We do, which is why we’re putting up with this onslaught to make things known and better.) You’ve gone way beyond your charter (We’ve gone above, but not beyond.) You can’t compare us to other schools and districts. (Yes, we can. NHDOE has enhanced its databases so that apples-to-apples comparisons can be made across communities. And we’ve done that.)

       The school warrant articles we’ve weighed in on are symptomatic of a failed educational enterprise. These symptoms have become problems in their own right – and we’ve explained why. But, more generally, they reflect what can happen when a once excellent school system loses its way.        The hallmarks of this decline can be seen in several flawed practices. One practice confuses spending more money as a substitute for good governance and educational practice. Both the school boards and administration have been trying to throw dollars at a dearth of governance, planning, management, and sound educational practices.

Unfortunately, money doesn’t substitute for those things. It’s wasted. We need more qualified people on our boards willing to discharge their duties and not abdicate to “the education experts.” We need more people in our school administration who can go beyond conversing in edu-speak to effectively manage complex educational progress in a dynamic landscape. 

       Both need to break with the stultifying tradition of “learning how we do things here” when it has become clear that new ways of running our schools are called for. This is what partly explains how smart, motivated residents ascend to board positions year after year only to have their impact minimized by doing things the way they’re taught to do them. It also explains why some of these people vacate our boards as soon as they realize they aren’t going to be able to effect the positive change they had hoped to.

       Another prevailing practice is to promote “If only.” This practice is used annually to entice taxpayers to pony up more money. This year, it’s if only you pass the budget, we can have two St. Anselm students ensure our kids become literate. Or, if only you vote for a new $103 million mega-school, we’ll create a wonderful tailwind for our students. The ASD warrant articles before us now will increase taxes by millions of dollars and enshrine them as financial obligations for years to come. 

       The bottom line is that Amherst’s prevailing educational machine feels threatened and is fighting to have things persist as before. People entrenched in this system hope like hell that last year’s NO votes were a fluke ­– that the public was just blowing off steam but will settle back down (like Old Faithful) into the status quo. 

       As voters, we have an opportunity to deliver a clear message. A general YES vote will preserve the status quo. A general NO vote will reinforce that the status quo of high taxes and low educational outcomes is not to be tolerated. If that occurs, we will all need to come together – in community – to frame how we regain our standing as an excellent and cost-effective educational enterprise.

Mike Akillian



Traffic Impacts of Distribution Centers

To the editor:            

      You may have recently noticed an increase of 18-wheeler tractor trailer trucks on Route 101A.  That could potentially get considerably worse as Amherst has no Ordinances regulating the size of Distribution Centers in our Town. Consequently, a large out-of-state Developer came in last Spring with a proposal to build a 1.4 million square foot Distribution Center on the vacant land off Bon Terrain.  While the developer ultimately quit the project in June, that land continues to be aggressively marketed out to other developers for the same type of over-sized building.  These relevant Ordinances have not been updated since 1963, while the technology and size of Distribution Centers like Amazon operations continues to grow unchecked all across the country.

      On March 14, Amherst voters should act to put responsible, updated Ordinances in place as other progressive Towns have.  Warrant Articles #49 and #50 provide clear definitions for Warehouses and Distribution Centers- these have been well researched and are in place in other communities that understand the importance of staying current with continued changes in Industrial operations.  Article #51 regulates the size of Distribution Centers to a very reasonable size of 200,000 square feet as these facilities generate much more truck traffic and longer operating hours than traditional Warehouse operations.  Please vote YES for these important Articles.

Al Pollakusky


It’s Time

To the editor:            

      I recently spent time in the basement of the Brick School going through historical documents. I found documents created by scores of residents and Amherst School District employees. 

All of these documents were from 1999 to today- just under 25 years. 

      All of these had a common theme- space needs for Amherst students. I had heard about these projects before, but I had never seen physical copies of report after report, Voter’s Guides year after year referring to the need for permanent space for the enrollment and changing curriculum needs. 

      A document from 2007 presented a two phased approach- Stage 1) renovation of needed systems and ada compliance and Stage 2) a new building for grades four and five. 

      Eighty fourth graders are still in temporary portables at Wilkins. Amherst Middle School is still crowded. The proposed building would bring 4th graders inside a permanent building and would move 5th grade to the elementary school. 

      There were lists of “no holds barred” options; all of which have been analyzed yet again in the last 4 years. This isn’t a new problem for Amherst, and there isn’t a hidden new answer. 

      Will this be the round of Amherst voters who support a permanent structure for all students or will we be looking at another round of temporary portables at Clark Elementary, Wilkins Elementary, and Amherst Middle School? 

      I will be voting YES on Warrant Article 12 and invite you to join me.


Victoria Parisi

Amherst School Board Vice-Chair

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