Fallout continues from Maria Geryk settlement

  • Amherst School Committee member Vira Douangmany Cage, right, speaks Tuesday beside Anastasia Ordonez after the committee met in an executive session to discuss the terms of departure for School Superintendent Maria Geryk at Amherst Regional High School.

  • Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee Chairwoman Laura Kent, left, speaks as committee member Sarah Dolven looks on Aug. 9 at Amherst Regional High School. Dolven has resigned from the committee. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • JERREY ROBERTSAmherst School Superintendent Maria Geryk speaks during the fourth forum on reconfiguring the Amherst elementary schools Wednesday at Amherst Regional High School. JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Sunday, August 28, 2016

Leverett’s representative to the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee has resigned less than two weeks after its members reached a financial agreement allowing Superintendent Maria Geryk to leave her position.

Sarah Dolven, who at the June 14 regional committee meeting was made vice chairwoman, said in an email Tuesday that she has given up the position, but will remain a member of the Leverett School Committee.

“The Leverett School Committee will discuss the appointment of a new representative (to the regional board) at our September meeting,” said Dolven, who did not elaborate on her decision to depart from the regional board.

Dolven, who served previously as Leverett’s representative to the regional committee during the 2014-15 school year, took on the responsibility again in the spring after Kip Fonsh left the Leverett School Committee.

Legal guidance sought

Meanwhile, a Shutesbury resident concerned with how the decision was reached on the $309,238 agreement with Geryk, and its potential financial burden, is asking members of the Select Board and School Committee to provide legal counsel to Shutesbury’s representative to the regional committee to determine the legality of the severance.

Michael Hootstein, who previously filed an Open Meeting Law complaint against the regional school committee and members Laura Kent and Katherine Appy, on Tuesday sent a letter to town officials about the agreement approved by a joint vote of the regional and Union 26 committees.

“Only in this manner can can the town of Shutesbury competently and diligently protect the legal and financial interests of our town and schools,” Hootstein wrote. “Time is of the essence.”

He contends in his letter that the agreement is unfair for Shutesbury, because it has only one representative to the regional school committee, Stephen Sullivan, who voted against the agreement with Geryk.Leverett also has one representative, Pelham has two and Amherst has five.

With Geryk no longer leading the schools, Assistant Superintendent Michael Morris is serving as acting superintendent, a role he is expected to have for about a month.

The regional and Union 26 committees will name a subcommittee to begin the process of hiring an interim superintendent, which is not expected to be Morris.

Morris, a 16-year-employee of the district, told the school committee if he were appointed interim superintendent for the remainder of the school year, that would reduce the pool of applicants interested in the permanent post.

Morris said an interim superintendent would handle school committee matters and contract negotiations with teacher unions.

The new subcommittee will work with Human Resources Director Kathyrn Mazur to plan for the hiring of an interim superintendent. At some point, the regional and Union 26 committees would have to create a different subcommittee to begin the search for a permanent superintendent.

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