Saturday, January 30, 2016

Supporting Struggling Readers - Upcoming Workshops

Workshop series offered for staff and families by the ARPS District and SEPAC.
for parents/guardians of students of preK through Grade 12

Workshop #1 Nuts and Bolts of Dyslexia
When:  February 1, 2016            Time:  5:30-7:00pm       Where:  Amherst Regional High School, Library
Speakers:  Betsy Dinger, Renee Greenfield, Emily Pritchard, Tammy Sullivan-Daley
The workshop is an opportunity to learn some basic facts about why so many students struggle with reading.  Come learn about steps you can take to support your child/student.

Workshop#2 Movie & Panel Discussion                                               
When:  February 8, 2016            Time:  5:30-7:30pm       Where:  Amherst Regional High School, Library               
Movie:  Dislecksia:  The Movie 
Is your child/student a struggling or reluctant reader? If so, please consider joining us for a unique opportunity to watch an award-winning film about dyslexia and participate in a panel discussion. Our panelists offer a wide range of perspective!  

Workshop#3 Book Club:  Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
When:  February 29, 2016          Time:  5:30-7:00pm       Where:  Amherst Regional High School, Library
Book: This book is a must read for anyone with a child/student who struggles to read. It’s not a sign of intelligence or limitation of one’s potential.  Let’s discuss what we learned and steps we can take to help students with their learning differences. It’s never too late to make sure the proper supports are in place.  Please read the book ahead of time!

Please let us know if you can attend!  Email: or call 413-687-4255

Childcare provided with advanced notice. Please RSVP for childcare as soon as possible.
All workshops are free and open to the public!

Amherst College Day with Crocker Farm

From the Superintendent's weekly newsletter (Jan 29th):
On January 21th, Crocker Farm students in fifth and sixth grade had the opportunity to share the morning with over 100 students, professors, and coaches from Amherst College. The annual Amherst College Day at Crocker Farm focused on “growth mindset” and keynote speaker, Professor C. Rhonda Cobham-Sander (the Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of Black Studies and English at Amherst College) helped inspire the oldest learners in the school. Crocker Farm was fortunate to have a diverse cadre of presenters including representatives from Chemistry, Economics,Math, Football,Women's Ice Hockey, Track and Field, Tennis, Men's Lacrosse, Library and Information Technology, Softball,Men's Soccer,Computer Science, and Baseball. All sessions focused upon the idea of "Yes I can!" and perseverance as students at Crocker Farm work toward attaining individual and team/ school-wide goals. 
Thank you to Amherst College & all the participating staff & students!

Amherst Lions Ski & Skate Sale -- Lions are still seeking more payments from Friday purchases that weren't charged

The Amherst Lions Club is still out quite a bit of money from the Ski & Skate sales at Crocker Farm on Friday, Jan 9th, when the credit card machine malfunctioned & none of the credit or debit card charges went through.

If you or anyone you know was at the sale that night & paid by credit/debit & weren't charged, payments are still grateful being accepted. Checks should be made be out to the Amherst Lions Club, & sent to Denise O'Donovan at the Amherst Regional Middle School, 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, MA 01002

The proceeds from this event is 100% distributed back to ARPS (including Crocker Farm!) & the community. This event was not school-sponsored but we asking for help since the Lions are such strong community partners who support ARPS in many ways.

If you have any questions please contact Amherst Lions Club Ski & Skate Sale coordinator, Todd Cromack, at

Thank you! 

Mike Morris & Katherine Appy commentary in the Amherst Bulletin re: the elementary school reconfiguration

Here's the link to the Bulletin article:

Mike Morris is the Assistant Superintendent of the Amherst Regional Public Schools
Katherine Appy is the chair of the Amherst School Committee

Last week the Amherst School Committee voted 4-1 to reconfigure our schools. The plan is for Crocker Farm to become an early childhood center, pre-kindergarten through first grade, and to construct a new building housing two co-located schools, second through sixth grade. This vote came after much public engagement — including multiple community forums and PGO, school committee and small group meetings — and was based on an educational recommendation made by the superintendent and supported by the assistant superintendent, all three elementary school principals and other educational leaders.

In our view, this reconfiguration is the best option to advance educational equity and excellence. Research has consistently shown that an investment in early childhood education has a great impact on closing the achievement gap.
Our own local data tells us that Amherst students who do not attend pre-school are at a great disadvantage when entering our schools that lasts well into their academic careers. For all children to have the best chance to realize their full potential, they must have access to a high-quality pre-school education.

The reconfiguration does exactly that. We would be able to add two additional pre-school classrooms, which would provide an early learning experience for students who cannot now attend pre-school because of cost, space in our pre-school program, transportation or other factors.

Another advantage of the reconfiguration model is that students will no longer be bused away from their neighborhood peers based on their socio-economic status or their special learning needs. Currently, many low income students are bused to other schools to achieve socio-economic balance in all our elementary schools.

Children in specialized special education programs also attend schools outside their enrollment zones. The reconfiguration plan will eliminate the need for these practices.

The new second through sixth grade schools will offer high quality classrooms, thus overcoming the many structural problems plaguing the Fort River and Wildwood schools, which include an open classroom design that poses enormous challenges to effective teaching and learning.

By providing far greater acoustic privacy, the new classrooms will enhance education for all students and make possible the project based, interactive learning that our students deserve. Students with special needs and ELL students will be particularly advantaged by the new design.

We understand that there are some in the community who believe this will be one large school of 750 students. In reality, the new, or newly renovated, school building would house two distinct schools within it, each with around 375 students, which is smaller than the current population at Wildwood.

Each school would have its own principal, teacher teams, and culture. The only shared instructional spaces would be a gymnasium, which would be oversized for an elementary school, allowing for enhanced community use after school hours, and an oversized library, which would allow for a greater selection of books than would typically be available for elementary school students.

The schools would also include a “makerspace” — an indoor science and technology playground designed to promote creative hands-on play and learning.

Cost estimates show that reconfiguration will be roughly $20 million less expensive than renovating or rebuilding Wildwood using Massachusetts School Building Authority funds and renovating Fort River with town funds.

We firmly believe that this reconfiguration model promotes educational equity, provides a superior environment for engaged teaching and learning, will maximize achievement for all students, and gives us the most cost effective plan to resolve the critical structural issues facing two of our elementary schools.

MS & HS Consolidation Updates & the ARPS Administration's Recommendations

The Superintendent's weekly newsletter (Jan 29th) included the administration's recommendations regarding the consolidation of the MS and HS into one building.  One of the main recommendations is that the Regional School Committee's vote regarding consolidation be delayed until Fall 2016, with the consolidation to occur for the fall of 2018 at the earliest. 

The administration's full report is available at this link (MS-HS report)


One year ago, the district launched the 7-12 Consolidation project with an expectation that consolidation could occur by September 2017. The funding gap and ability of the four towns to pay their assessments for the Regional Schools and their municipal departments, including the local elementary schools, is increasingly challenging. Declining enrollment in three of the four towns and significant reliance on choice funding in two of the four towns is putting into question the viability and sustainability of local schools. At the same time,each of our communities highly values the education and the variety of opportunities being provided to our children. Also significant is that the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools are distinguished by having an exceptional teaching staff committed to serving all children and to providing an enriching and vibrant educational experience. The Regional Schools,despite having lost some low enrollment courses over the past several years, remain unique in the depth and breadth of core educational offerings,elective courses,extracurricular and athletic clubs and activities. 

It is not an overstatement to say that consolidation will be an historic change for the district.Our K-12 schools once educated almost 4,000 students. Now there are fewer than 2,700 students in Amherst, Pelham and the Region,with half this number at our Regional middle school and high school. If you remove the Choice students from the K-12 population, there are 180 fewer students. The capacity of the high school is,on paper,more than sufficient to house all of these students. Space and financial savings are important and students and staff could simply be moved; however, maintaining the exceptional quality of an Amherst education must be the lens through which this work is done. Great consideration has been given to the potential expanded opportunities consolidation could mean for our students. The study of potential consolidation considered how to maintain the high quality of education provided to students,stop the annual budget cutting and also more wholly prepare students for the future by providing them with the necessary skills to be successful in the 21st century. As a community,can we both consolidate and take the necessary steps to maintain and enhance how students are educated? What is the shared community vision,what do we value and can we afford it?

 It is important to remember that the renovation and expansion project on the current high school took place 20 years ago. Regardless of consolidation, there are updates and upgrades that should take place. While working with JCJ architects, it was pointed out that the free standing,handicapped accessible corridor that connects two old portions of the high school building is not actually ADA compliant. Alone, this improvement will cost more than $350,000. Funds must be invested to correct this,but might it also make sense to look at enclosing an adjoining courtyard and expanding that space? Another code requirement will be adding girls?toilets in the locker room area to accommodate the additional females in the building. Converting some office and storage space into classrooms needed in order to consolidate could cost hundreds of thousands more.There are some funds for high school improvements in the capital budget that can be used for this purpose,and an initial investment of $800,000 is needed. 

Combining the middle and high schools is not enough to bridge the financial gap faced by the Region. Our communities need to stop working from a belief that K-12 Regionalization is a dead concept and start considering what is at stake if we do not both regionalize and smartly consolidate.

With any consolidation,we will save well over $700,000 annually in staffing and utility efficiencies. Adding in K-12 Regionalization would realize and additional $300,000 annual savings. It is time for our communities to look seriously at the practical and financial benefits of regionalizing our schools. This is a critical decision for the future of our communities and the education of our students. 

Consolidation seems inevitable if we are to financially sustain the rich opportunities we currently offer our students. What the consolidation looks like and how it is operationalized is crucial,and there are many unanswered questions at this time. These questions include educational and practical concerns such as: 
* finalizing a bell schedule for a consolidated school, 
* clearly identifying the number of staff sharing space, 
* determining how special education and ELL programming will work in a consolidated building and whether these programs can be partially or wholly merged for students in all grade levels,
* determining the number of computer labs needed and whether the district will adopt a 1:1 computer program so that each student has a personal computer device,
* determining what access students in Grades 7 and 8 will have to electives,and
*  carving out space to accommodate storage,meeting rooms,etc. 

Concurrent with considering consolidating, repurposing of the Middle School is a major undertaking,and presently there is no articulated vision for the facility other than the apparent desire and need to sustain the building for present and future educational purposes. This topic is a crucial one which requires significant community input and thoughtful planning. It would be a mistake to rush planning or make hasty decisions in the interest of covering overhead costs,without regard to planning for capital improvements that will surely be needed over time. 

Last, and of equal importance, is the recent Amherst School Committee decision to reconfigure the elementary school structure and build a new school. This is a major project that will continue to require significant public input and support and sustained attention from our town officials,employees and the community at large. It is our belief that some period of time should pass before asking our community to formally engage in decisions about 7-12 consolidation. 

For these reasons, it is the recommendation of administration that a decision by the Regional School Committee concerning 7 through 12 consolidation at the Regional High School be held until Fall 2016,with consolidation not to occur before September 2018-- one year later than originally planned. In order to fund the gap anticipated for FY18, the district will continue to effect reductions through appropriate district-level and building-based cuts and, potentially, the one-time use of funds from the Excess and Deficiency and/or School Choice accounts. In the interim, the following groups will be established in order to address outstanding consolidation questions: 
* Operational Working Group 
* Educational Working Group for 7-12 Schedule and Curriculum 
* Vocational Programming Group
* Middle School Repurposing Group 

Community members with interest and expertise in the above areas are invited to join the discussion and help articulate the educational vision for our district moving forward.

UMass Babysitter Meet & Greet

Babysitters, are you looking for a job?
Families, do you need a babysitter?

Come to the Babysitter Meet & Greet
When: Thursday, February 04, 2016

Time: 5:30PM - 7:30PM
Where: Cape Cod Lounge
320 Student Union (lobby level), UMass

Light Refreshments served!

Interested? Visit to
access the Eventbrite page

(not a school or PGO-sponsored event)

Bridge Family Resource Center on University Drive

The new Bridge Family Resource Center 
* serves youth and their families ages 0-18 (although we won't turn anyone away).
* has a variety of programs from toddler/baby playgroups to parent/youth support groups.

All programs are free.  

Programs include:
* Dad's Support Group:  Thursdays, 5:30-7:00 pm
* Parent Self-Care Club: Thursdays, 5:30-7:00 pm
* Grandparent Support Group:  Mondays, 4-5:30 pm
* Infant & Toddler Play Group, Fridays, 10-11:30 am

Click on the images to enlarge them



(not a school or PGO-sponsored event)

Upcoming Elections & Registration Deadlines

Information from the Amherst Town Clerk

Presidential Primary - March 1, 2016
February 10, 2016 - Last day to register to vote and change party enrollment for Presidential Primary
Specimen Ballots: Democratic | Republican | Green-Rainbow United Independent Party

Annual Town Election - March 29, 2016
Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - Last day to file nomination papers with the Board of Registrars
Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - Last day to register to vote in 2016 Annual Town Election
Complete Election Calendar

On Election Days, the polls are open 7 am to 8 pm.  

If you have a question about where to vote or if you are registered to do so, please contact the Town Clerk.
Town Clerk's Office: Amherst Town Hall, 4 Boltwood Ave., Amherst, MA 01002
Ph: 413-259-3035, email:
  Mon-Wed & Fri:  8 a.m. 4:30 p.m.; Thu:  Noon - 4:30 p.m.

Massachusetts now accepts online voter registration.   The above registration deadlines apply.
Link and more info available here:

Jones Library - showing of "42", Thurs, Feb 11th

Jones Library
Film Screening & Discussion
the movie "42" 
Join us on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 6:30 pm in the Woodbury Room for the next event in a film & discussion series which began in the fall of 2014 and continues to look at issues of race.  A facilitated discussion will be held after the screening.

This month’s film tells the story of Jackie Robinson in this feature film from 2013. Robinson paved a new road for minorities by being the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball since the racial barrier was put in place in the late 1800s.  This film is rated PG-13.

Free and open to the public.  For more information, please contact Janet Ryan at 413/259-3223

This film series is co-sponsored by the Jones Library and The Coming Together Project.  More information about The Coming Together Project can be found at


(not a school or PGO-sponsored event)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Amherst Winter Hats for sale -- Get yours before they are gone!

At tonight's concert, the 6th grade will be selling their popular Amherst winter hats.

You can also buy them through Angela Mills in the Crocker Farm office. 

They are warm, comfortable, and one size fits all. At  just $10, they are a GREAT bargain. Plus, this is a fundraiser for a GREAT cause, the Crocker Farm 6th grade end-of-year field trip. 

For more info, please contact Angela at or Stacey at

Band & Orchestra Concert Tonight 6:30 pm. No School on Friday.

Thurs: Crocker Farm Band & Orchestra Concert, 6:30 pm, Cafeteria

Fri:  No School for students (Teacher work day)
Enjoy the long weekend! 

Proposed Consolidation of the MS & HS delayed

At Tuesday's Regional School Committee meeting,it was decided to postpone the vote on the MS and HS consolidation from this spring until the fall.    At the meeting, administrators Kathy Mazur (Human Resource Director), Sean Mangano (Finance Director) and the HS Assistant Principals Miki Gromacki & Ericka Alschuler, presented the district's report regarding consolidation. 

A copy of that report is available at this link.

and here is a link to a Daily Hampshire Gazette article on the meeting.  

Before the School Committee votes on the consolidation, the district has said there will be a parent/community survey, public forums, and other opportunities for family and community feedback.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Regional School Committee Mtg, Tues, Jan 26th

The agenda for tonight's Regional School Committee meeting (6 pm, in the ARHS Library) includes:
- a presentation & discussion about the proposed Middle School & High School consolidation
-  discussion of the the progress being made this year on the Superintendent's Goals and goals & actions described in this year's District Improvement Plan

The Regional School Committee is set to vote regarding the proposed MS & HS consolidation in March 2016.

The full agenda & packet of materials for tonight's meeting are available at this link:

The packet includes the district's 180-page report on 7-12 consolidation, & the District Improvement Plan & Superintendent's Goals, with mid-year updates & the progress made so far.

Special Education Basic Rights Workshop in Spanish, Wed, Jan 27th - Derechos Basicos en Educación Especial, Presentado en espanol, miercoles, 27 de enero

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Annual Jump Rope for Heart event

Fun, healthy activity for kids
Fundraiser for the American Heart Association

All students will have the chance to participate, & they are welcome to collect donations if they would like. 

From Mr. James
Hello Parents/ Guardians,
    In the month of February, the students at Crocker Farm elementary school will have the opportunity to participate in our annual Jump Rope for Heart event. Students in grade K-6 will be able to come down to the gym three times before school starts between January 25th and March 4th.  Classroom teachers will have a schedule of when their students’ jump day is. We are proud to support the American Heart Association in the effort to spread the word about the importance of exercise and having a healthy heart.
    Students will have the opportunity to collect donations for this wonderful program if they choose. Eighty percent of these funds will go immediately to educating the public, promoting public programs, and helping those in need continue to live in a healthy way.  As we raise money together as a school, we also have the chance to earn new equipment for our physical education classroom.
    Students will receive a donation envelope which includes the procedure for gathering donations.  The envelope also includes prizes that our students who raise money can earn. The more money raised the more prizes they can earn. A list of possible prizes is also provided on the envelope. Students may return envelopes with donations to school if they choose.  In no way are students required to donate or ask for donations to participate in our Jump Rope Event.  However we recommend and encourage all students come to the gym and jump on their jump days, as well as color and fill out the hearts they will be given in P.E. to show their support for Jump Rope for Heart.  They may also register and collect donations online by doing the following:
  1. Type in the name of your school (Crocker Farm) and state (MA) and Join our team..
  2. Create your own webpage to set up the fastest way raise money

If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact me at 
Thank you,
Dustin James

Jones Library - Food for Fines, ends Jan 31st

 last week!  

Food for Fines at the Jones Library & Branches
Amherst, MA – The Jones Library and branches will be offering a “food for fines” amnesty period from January 2 – 31, 2016.    Library patrons who bring a non-perishable, non-expired food donation or make a monetary contribution to the Amherst Survival Center when they return overdue library materials during this time will have the fines on those materials forgiven. 

“This is a great opportunity for patrons with long-overdue library materials to get those items back to the library without having to pay the fines that are accumulating,” says Amy Anaya, Head of Borrower Services at the Jones Library.  It’s important to note that the amnesty applies only to items that are being returned during this time, and not to existing overdue fines on items that have already been returned or for billed or lost items.

Holding a Food for Fines drive is a long-standing annual tradition at the Jones Library.  The food and funds collected will support the work of the Amherst Survival Center, the local service agency that assists many in our community in meeting their basic needs.

For further information about Food for Fines, please contact Amy Anaya at 413/259-3132 or

Amherst Cinema - Saturday Movies for Kids

amherstcinema • 28 amity st. amherst, ma
Saturdays at 10am •$5 admission!

Automorphosis, Sat January 23
Best Of The Fest 2015 - Kid Flix 2, Sat February 13
Moon Man, Sat February 6
Wolf Children, Sat January 30
The Princess Bride - Sun February 14

(not a school or PGO-sponsored event)

Habitat for Humanity - Home Ownership Opportunities in Amherst

Information Session 
Jones Library, Amherst
Sun, January 24th, 3 pm

Deadline for Submitting Housing Application:  February 1st

For 2 Affordable Homeownership Opportunities in Amherst

Applications are available at the Jones Library, Amherst Town Hall & the Pioneer Valley Habitat office.


Two unit condominium: each unit has 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms
Homes are priced up to $135,000 with the final price and mortgage term set to ensure the selected family’s housing costs do not exceed 28% of their total income. Monthly payments may range from $650-$1,000 which include mortgage principal, taxes and homeowner association fees. Monthly payments will vary depending on the length of the mortgage, final sale price of the home and property taxes charged by the town.

Classes at the Center Dance Studio & Perch, a playspace for families

click to enlarge

(Not a school or PGO-sponsored event)