Guest columnist Lisa Cain: Morris deserved benefit of the doubt

By LISA CAIN

Published: 08-22-2023 8:22 PM

Why did Amherst Regional Public Schools (ARPS) have to lose Superintendent Mike Morris?

I don’t claim to understand what happened with Mr. Morris. My children have both been in the Amherst schools since they were in kindergarten. They will both be products of a school system that Morris was a part of for the entire time they attended except for the last nine months, as my son is now a senior at Amherst Regional High School. What is hard to understand is how little his tenure meant to some members of the community, as well as the Amherst Pelham Education Association.

Why didn’t he earn their trust after all of those years of competent leadership on so many issues? Did they actually believe that Morris was anti-trans or pro-bullying? It is entirely possible that he made mistakes with the anti-trans bullying situation, but I don’t think it meant he had to resign. He had seven years of experience at the helm of a very contentious school district but one that is devoted to civil rights in a way that few school districts can claim.

I believe that we all care about bullying and especially for the most vulnerable among us. The articles in the ARHS newspaper, the Graphic, outlining the allegations was important because it showed that even here, in Amherst, we can lose our way. But in a town of academics who promote critical thinking, we should know that there is another side to the story that the Graphic did not include. We can never expect the news media to tell us the whole story on anything. I don’t care if it is The New York Times or Fox News, there is an implicit bias.

Why didn’t we ask more questions instead of immediately blaming the administrators involved? Why couldn’t we wait for the conclusion of the investigation to determine the best course of action? Now, we have two discrimination complaints and no leader for our district. Is that what we really want as a community?

What I want is to shine a light on injustice and do the best we can to fix the situation through mutual respect.

I respect Mike Morris’ service to this community, and he deserved the benefit of the doubt from the APEA as well as the parents who called for his resignation. We could have listened, discussed, disseminated, learned, and helped each other to understand how these injustices happened and then done our best to stop them in the future. Even then, they still happen. Of course, I am not going to stop fighting and neither is anyone else.

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I was expecting the situation to calm down and for Morris to lead us with introspection and procedural work to ensure that we could stop the bullying at Amherst Regional Middle School. Now, I don’t know what is going to happen.

I wish we could come together and create a sense of belonging in this community despite our differences. It is hard for me to believe after all the tax dollars and effort that I have put in personally to ARPS — brownie baking, volunteering, raising money (I could go on) that I am so heartbroken.

Lisa Cain lives in Amherst.

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