Michael Morris offers to serve for year as interim Amherst school chief

  • Amherst Assistant School Superintendent Michael Morris, left, speaks earlier this year at a forum about the reconfiguration of Amherst schools. Morris has been serving as acting superintendent since the departure of former superintendent Maria Geryk last month. JERREY ROBERTS

Saturday, October 08, 2016

AMHERST — Acting Superintendent Michael Morris has volunteered to serve in the top school leadership post for the entire year.

Morris expressed his interest in being considered for the interim superintendent position in a Sept. 2 email to the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee. Morris, then the assistant superintendent, was appointed by the Regional and Union 26 committees to the top job on an acting basis in August after the departure of former superintendent Maria Geryk.

“If it is the will of the committee at this time, I would be honored to serve as interim superintendent this year to provide stability and reduce the number of leadership transitions that the district faces in the next 10 months,” Morris wrote. “However, if your consideration of this potential appointment would add conflict or controversy to the committee, I would encourage you to interview external candidates for the interim superintendent position and I will dutifully support the choice of the committee in my role as assistant superintendent.”

Morris wrote that many community members asked him at the district’s welcome-back-to-school event if he was interested in filling the interim role and one school committee member asked about Paul Wiley serving in that role. Wiley and Morris worked together at Crocker Farm School.

Wiley, who retired as principal from Crocker Farm in 2008, is an educational leadership consultant and coach.

According to Morris, Wiley is unable to commit to serve as interim superintendent, though “he would be happy to support the district in any other way that was needed,” his email states. 

Morris continued: “Paul has unique strengths around dispute resolution and new principal/assistant principal coaching, development, and support, and would be willing to work with me this year.”

The regional and Union 26 committees (consisting of three members each from the Amherst and Pelham committees) meet jointly concerning matters regarding the superintendent.

But Union 26 has been unable to meet with a quorum for such discussions following the September resignation of Pelham School Committee representative Darius Modestow and Amherst School Committee representative Laura Kent. Additionally, Pelham representative Tara Luce has recused herself because she is an employee of the district, Morris said in an interview.

The Amherst School Committee and the Select Board will meet jointly to appoint Kent’s successor Oct. 13. Reached by email, Amherst committee Chairwoman Katherine Appy said she expects the Union 26 and regional committees to discuss the interim superintendent position soon after that vacancy is filled.

“I think it would be wonderful if Mike Morris appointed interim superintendent,” she wrote. “His proven leadership, long tenure in our school system, knowledge of the intricacies of running multiple districts and the stability he would provide at this time, are all indispensable.”

Morris, who lives in Amherst, has worked in the district for 16 years as an elementary school teacher, principal and director of evaluation and assessment. He has a doctoral degree from Boston College.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettnet.com.