×

Amherst-Pelham school district names Morris superintendent

  • Michael Morris, left, shakes hands with Eric Nakajima after Morris was chosen as the Amherst school superintendent, Tuesday at Amherst Regional High School. Gazette Photo/Jerrey Roberts



For the Recorder
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

AMHERST — Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools now has a permanent superintendent, though he’s by no means new.

In a unanimous vote, the Union 26 and Regional school committees Tuesday evening appointed Michael Morris, who has been serving as interim superintendent since last August. The Union 26 committee — consisting of Amherst and Pelham School Committee members — and the regional committee met jointly concerning matters regarding the superintendent. Leverett and Shutesbury send their middle and high school students to the district.

“I’m incredibly excited to be continuing in this district where I’ve been for 17 years,” Morris said after the vote, which he watched on Amherst Media before joining the school committee for regular business.

Morris has worked in the district since his early 20s, serving as an elementary school teacher, principal, director of evaluation and assessment, and assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. He has a doctoral degree from Boston College.

The committees appointed Morris interim superintendent last fall following the departure of former school chief Maria Geryk, who was paid a $309,238 buyout after a tumultuous end to her tenure.

The district then began a nationwide search for a permanent superintendent, but stopped that search in March after discovering that the Iowa-based firm the district had hired asked candidates questions about their history of arrests and offenses, questions that violated state statutes. At Tuesday’s meeting, the school committees approved an agreement with that firm, Ray and Associates, that will see the district reimbursed $10,000 of the $14,109 it had already paid.

It wasn’t long into Morris’ own term as interim superintendent that a contentious proposal to build two co-located elementary schools at the Wildwood Elementary site failed to garner enough support in a town referendum.

His backers, including members of the School Committee, have praised him for his steady hand during those difficult periods. Some, however, have criticized him for his role in the failed Wildwood project, which they felt divided the town.

“Dr. Morris led the Wildwood Rebuilding Project from its beginning in 2014 and through all four votes, continuing to press the project long after any hope of political possibility,” read a letter to the School Committee from a group of Amherst residents, many of whom previously campaigned against the Wildwood project.

The 32 residents who signed the letter said an open, national search would create a level playing field for underrepresented groups like women and people of color.