Laura Kent, chairwoman of Amherst Regional School Committee, resigns from two school boards

  • Amherst School Committee member Trevor Baptiste, left, speaks beside Committee Chair Laura Kent, center, and Sarah Dolven after the committee met in a recent executive session to discuss the terms of departure for School Superintendent Maria Geryk at Amherst Regional High School.

  • Anastasia Ordonez, left, and Laura Kent, right, enjoy their victory after being elected to Amherst School Committee seats during a party at The Pub in March 2015. 


Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

AMHERST — Citing the job’s physical toll, Laura Kent, chairwoman of the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee for the past three months, resigned from the board Wednesday, Sept. 14.

In an email titled “a tough call” sent to her fellow committee members, Kent explained that she had contemplated stepping off the regional committee several times since becoming chairwoman June 14, but “always paused because of my hopes, vision and commitment to our committee and the district.”

“At this time, I have to make the best decision for my family and health by resigning from the duties of chair and my position on the Regional and Amherst School Committees effective immediately,” Kent wrote. “The physical effects have manifested in a way that I can not continue to jeopardize mine and my family’s well-being or health.”

Kent, who is pregnant, also resigned from the Amherst School Committee, to which she won election in March.

Kent was named chairwoman of the regional committee during a reorganization, replacing Pelham representative Trevor Baptiste in that role. Since mid-July, she led the regional committee through a lengthy and controversial process that led to the departure of former superintendent Maria Geryk with a financial settlement of more than $309,000. Geryk’s attorney claimed that Geryk had to endure a hostile work environment caused by School Committee members.

Amherst School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Appy, who is the longest tenured member of the committee, said in an email that she is sad to see Kent depart, but understands her reasons.

“I think she has worked incredibly hard to lead the regional school committee and did so with tremendous integrity and thoughtfulness,” Appy said. “She saw us through a really difficult process negotiating the separation agreement with the former superintendent.” 

Anastasia Ordonez, who was also elected to the Amherst committee in March, said Kent did a fabulous job and thanks her for giving up so much of her personal time toward improving the public schools.

“I appreciate her dedication to our schools and our district,” Ordonez said. 

Kent is the second regional representative to resign in the past month, following Leverett representative Sarah Dolven, who stepped down in August, but continues to serve as chairwoman of the Leverett School Committee.

Kent, who could not immediately be reached for comment, suggested in her email to her fellow committee members that she would remain involved with the schools.

“… the relentless uncertainty and demands impede my best efforts in a way that is too much,” she wrote. “My commitment to our students, staff and vision will continue but in some way that I feel is more fruitful to this bigger picture and appreciative of my efforts.”

A full-time student at the University of Massachusetts pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health, Kent served on the Amherst schools’ Special Education Advisory Council prior to running for elected office.

The vacancy on the five-member Amherst board will be filled sometime this fall by a joint vote of the remaining members of the school committee and the Select Board, with the person chosen to fill the seat until next spring’s town elections.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.