Farah Ameen: Support your local School Committee

Monday, September 23, 2019

I’d like to commend our School Committee and superintendent for their efforts on behalf of our children.

I’m particularly thankful for our committee members who, on a volunteer basis, spend hours — often late into the night — to do due diligence and make sound decisions for our schools. This is time they could be spending with their own families.

Disrespecting their hard work by claiming they’re not “woke” enough is just plain wrong. Before we harp on our school committee’s “unwokeness,” perhaps we should recognize the complexity of contracting services provided by prison labor for projects like auditorium seat reupholstering.

In this case, Amherst Regional Public Schools picked the lowest-cost vendor from a state-approved list to accommodate the fiscal year timeframe. The job was part of a prison skills-training program. The wage, $1 an hour, seems awfully low, but it’s the highest pay rate within the system. Paid prison training programs are an important resource for inmates who lack family financial support, not only while incarcerated, but upon their release when a prison savings account may provide essential transitional funds.

That the usual outraged voices in town used this complicated issue as a cudgel to undermine our elected officials is demoralizing, especially since the superintendent and administration quickly responded to public criticism. Our majority-women School Committee, on which we have diverse voices and ethnicities, has been transparent and accountable.

In an ideal world, governing bodies would have unlimited time and resources to deliberate issues. Of course, we could use more people of color from diverse backgrounds among our elected officials. But, as with most such positions, it is hard to get people to commit.

The reality is that not everyone has the time, expertise, energy, or gumption for town government. I, for one, am grateful for those who do, and for the outstanding job our School Committee and superintendent are doing. Those who rely on slogans, like we need “to speak truth to power,” might find more powerful targets than their neighbors.

In our small community most boards serve voluntarily, with the best of intentions. Can we please be respectful toward one another?

Farah Ameen