Amherst revises, extends school superintendent’s contract

  • Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools Superintendent Michael Morris is seen outside the district office late last month. STFF PHOTO/KEVING GUTTING

Staff Writer
Monday, April 05, 2021

AMHERST — Making sure Superintendent Michael Morris remains as the head of the Amherst, Pelham, and Amherst Regional schools, school committees members unanimously revised his contract last week so he can stay in the district through June 2024.

The Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee, made up of representatives from Amherst, Pelham, Shutesbury and Leverett, and the Union 26 School Committee, composed of Amherst and Pelham representatives, approved the contract for Morris at a joint meeting Tuesday.

The contract keeps his compensation identical to the $163,140 agreed to when the contract was last revised in late 2019, with the same provision that his salary will increase to $170,207 on July 1.

Though it’s uncertain whether Morris has been interested in seeking work elsewhere, Regional School Committee Chairwoman Allison McDonald said committee members didn’t want to take a chance that he might depart.

Peter Demling of Amherst, who chairs the Union 26 committee, said the revised contract is strengthening the commitment and working relationship between Morris and the committees.

Only two changes were made to the existing contract. One requires a two-thirds vote by the committee to remove Morris from the position, rather than a simple majority. The second increases from six months to one year the time needed to give him notice of termination. The contract otherwise automatically renews.

Morris thanked the committee for its support and gave recognition to the administrative team.

“I appreciate all the support. It’s humbling,” Morris said.

Morris, previously an assistant superintendent and principal, was first named superintendent on an interim basis in August 2016 and became the permanent superintendent in October 2017.

The contract was approved in an 8-0 vote by the regional school committee, with Shutesbury representative Stephen Sullivan abstaining, and a 5-0 vote by the Union 26 committee.

“I hope he never leaves the superintendency,” said Ronald Mannino, a Pelham representative to the Union 26 committee.

Regional representative Kerry Spitzer of Amherst said that Morris is thoughtful and compassionate, and has deep roots in the community.

Leverett representative Bethany Seeger and Amherst representative Heather Lord both credited Morris with always answering questions and being responsive.

His handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic also impressed committee members.

Regional representative Margaret Stancer of Pelham said Morris demonstrated collaboration with the committee. “An absolutely steady hand through all that time,” Stancer said.

“The fact you haven’t wavered says a lot,” said regional representative Ben Herringon of Amherst, adding that he likes the way Morris puts faith in the staff.