May 4, 2010



      Arthur Kinney receives the Breakthrough Award.  He brought to our attention that the kitchen had had a breakthrough: onions added to the green beans!  Then someone else pointed out that (gasp!) some touches of garlic had also been included.  And this after a fine October-day potato/ham heavy, hot soup, which we found quite good, along with rice and chicken marsala. 

      After the feast, President Larry opened the meeting at 12:52 by reading some humorous remarks on the subject of education and then ascertaining that there were no guests present today.  His Announcements were: 1. A meeting to discuss the Club’s participation in the Town Fair this weekend would take place right after lunch, and 2. The regular Board Meeting will be after lunch next Tuesday, 5/11.  Other Announcements were:

      Nancy Brose telling us of a garden show at the Women’s Club on Friday;

      Ruth Miller with three: 1. 7 or 8 members will be volunteering at WFCR on 5/27 beginning at 4PM; 2. Be at the Iron Horse on 6/8 for Marcia (sp?) Ball.  Call for tickets: 586-8686; 3. There will be a group of us at the 7/24 Mohawk Trails Concert—she will announce this via Google Groups.

      Jacquie Price, wearing her Nominating hat, asking for a Webmaster (or even mistress, I suppose.)  Others confirmed that it’s fun and not hard.

      Arthur Kinney, after his culinary announcement, went on to say that the Center will be having a musical event on Saturday which, if I have it right, is called “Stark, Raving Madrigal”.

      Then Harry Brooks introduced our delightful speaker: Maria Geryk, Interim Superintendent of Schools.  At one point she said, “I like people, and I enjoy working with them.”  This was quite obvious in her talk, and I can easily imagine that people enjoy working with her, too.  Harry had called her, “a breath of fresh air”, which indeed she seems to be.  Brought up in Somers, CT, Maria had decided she wanted to be a teacher so followed a friend to Westfield State.  She has a bachelor’s and a master’s and is in a doctorate program.  Her specialty has been intensive special needs, primarily at the middle school level.  She has lived in Amherst on and off for the past 20 years; her husband is Curt (Kurt?), and they have two children in Crocker Farm.  By great coincidence and wonderful happenstance, they were married 16 years ago in Susie Lowenstein’s/Peter Kitchell’s yard with Susie performing the ceremony as a Justice of the Peace and Peter videoing it.  Needless to say, Maria left the podium to come share a big hug with Susie.  Very touching.

      She taught in various districts in the general area but was put into an administrative position at one point and discovered she liked it.  She’s had several positions in Amherst including curriculum development, assistant superintendent, interim superintendent once before for 4 months, and now interim again for a much longer period, enough time to “really make some changes for the better”.  Briefly, she hopes to be able to refocus the district on teaching and learning, strengthening the teacher/student relationship in the process.  Principals should be in the classrooms on a regular basis for teacher support, and classrooms should be open, not secretive.  Maria says she is strong on budgeting as well as staff relations, and she doesn’t shy away from serious heart-to-heart conversations.  She says she realizes that she won’t be able to please everyone all of the time; whatever she does will always in her opinion be what’s best for the children. 

      At the end, Maria fielded a series of questions very well, and we ascertained that she is not in favor of tracking/grouping but instead prefers to focus on each student’s strengths and weaknesses.  A good teacher can do this, and Amherst has many good teachers.   Unfortunately, Massachusetts doesn’t provide incentives for the schools to focus on the gifted as thoroughly as they have to focus on those with special needs.  Regionalization is a fine concept up to a point, but no given community should lose its identity, its autonomy.  The Commonwealth prefers larger/fewer groupings because they are easier to administer.  As a district, we are doing OK at present on the subject of social confidences and in training re how to deal with conflicts.  (Read bullying.)  It’s an on-going process, and has been.  Maria has a warm, engaging, confident personality with a seemingly fine grasp of the job and what’s expected.  Also what’s possible.  I think she left most of us with the feeling that the district is in good hands, but that’s editorializing, which I shouldn’t do. 

      From your Scribe-of-the Week,   Hub Smith