New interim Amherst School Committee members chosen

Oct. 3, 2023 | Bill Zito

AMHERST — Three candidates were selected to serve out the remaining terms of those members of the Amherst Regional School Committee who resigned their posts last month.

Roger Wallace, a former Fort River school teacher, University of Massachusetts chemistry professor Gabriela Cornejo Weaver and Katie Lazdowski, a restorative justice professional, were chosen from a field of 11 candidates at the Sept. 26 meeting of the Town Council and the remaining members of the Amherst School Committee.

All will serve until Jan. 1, 2024, as members of the Regional School Committee when those elected or reelected in the November election will assume office.

The three new members will replace Ben Herrington, Peter Demling and Allison McDonald who had resigned following the departure of Superintendent Michael Morris and the installation of Douglas Slaughter as the interim superintendent.

Those changes came about in the wake of allegations forged against staff members at the middle school and a Title IX investigation that followed looking into claims of improper treatment towards members of the student LGBTQIA+ community. Those three staffers were place on administrative leave as was Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham, who is one of two school staff members who have since filed discrimination complaints against the district.

The additions allow for regular processes of the committee to move forward, including the search for a new superintendent.

Wallace, in speaking before the meeting noted his time of being in the trenches.
“My goal as a teacher, my goal as an advocate of education has always been, put the students first,” he said.

Candidates also spoke to relationships with an interim and later a permanent superintendent.

Two candidates, Bridget Hynes and Laura Jane Hunter who are also seeking full-term elected positions on the committee answered questions at the meeting.

In voting by the committee, Wallace received 11 votes, Weaver nine and Lazdowski eight votes, a second vote unanimously adopted the selections.
Committee member Irv Rhodes said he was impressed with the field of candidates for the seats.

“The candidates we chose are stellar candidates,” he said.

Rhodes announced that the next full School Committee meeting took place on Oct. 3.

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