Carol Sharick: Amherst educators can only do so much. The rest is up to us.

Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2014
AMHERST — I attended the Amherst Regional School Committee retreat this month and was pleasantly surprised at the civility and productivity shown by the group. Given what I’ve read in the paper in recent months, one would think the committee was in complete disarray.

The retreat facilitator even closed his part of the meeting by saying he felt the committee was a highly functioning group. Elections were held and Trevor Baptiste and Kathleen Traphagen will fill the roles of chair and co-chair. Congratulations to them, and good luck!

Running these meetings, which seems to be the primary role of the chair, is challenging in “Amherst, where only the ‘h’ is silent.” Now, perhaps, they can get back to the business of running the district.

We’ve discovered that we’ve got work to do in terms of the educational experience we are providing for our lower-income students of color. This is an issue of socioeconomics, not just race.

We have students of color who graduate and go to Harvard, Tufts, UMass and many other great schools. The district has and continues to move forward with initiatives to work on closing the achievement gap.

But our teachers don’t go home with their students at night to make sure they are doing their homework, or to help when they have a question, because their parent isn’t able to help.

Our administrators can’t force parents to attend Family Center programs where they can learn to provide a more learning-conducive atmosphere for their children. Our principals cannot keep drugs and violence out of the neighborhoods and homes where many of these kids live. Our guidance counselors cannot keep a child’s family from becoming homeless.

Our schools cannot be held responsible for fixing all of the things outside school that can keep these kids from being successful in school. At this point, our educators are also social workers, health-care (and mental-health care) providers, safe-havens, security guards and more.

What more can we ask of them? And all the while we complain about how much they get paid. They can’t be parents to every student, and they can’t cure the ills of our broken economic and social support systems. Let’s not hold them accountable for that, too. That’s on the rest of us.

Carol Sharick lives in Amherst.